26 C
Byron Shire
March 8, 2021

Close encounter with shark at Sharpes Beach, Ballina

Latest News

Seapeace: the late Tony Maxwell’s wetland legacy

Many curious minds have pondered the purpose of the rice paddy-like waterbodies that scallop the contour lines out into the Ewingsdale coastal plain that can be viewed from St Helena Road.

Other News

Helping Our Kids, help our kids

The Lismore Samson Fitness Challenge kicks off tonight in Lismore with the express aim of raising much-needed funds for the Our Kids charity.

Rapey Liberal culture is their undoing

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins’ steel-eyed testimony around rape allegations saw spiders crawl from under rocks and spread in all directions last week. 

New Greens team

Matthew O’Reilly President of CABS and a proud member of the NEW Byron Greens team It seems that some readers have...

Entertainment in the Byron Shire and beyond for the week beginning 3 March, 2021

Entertainment in the Byron Shire and beyond for the week beginning 3 March, 2021

Koala groups lobby Tweed MP Geoff Provest for action

Local koala groups have been taking action to protect NSW koalas by meeting with Tweed State Member of Parliament, Geoff Provest seeking his support for action on koala protections and asking him not to support the koala killing legislation his government are putting forward.

Heritage Bruns?

David Kolb, Brunswick Head When Mathew O’Reilly spoke to Council regarding heritage listing for parts of Brunswick Heads he was quoted...

A 1.5m white shark approached, then veered away from professional surfer Matt Wilkinson at a Ballina beach yesterday. Photo NSW Surf Life Saving.

Aslan Shand

The footage of a 1.5m white shark that approaches and then veers away from pro surfer Matt Wilkinson at a Ballina beach yesterday as he paddled back to shore is a reminder that humans are not usually a target for sharks.

Wilkinson was warned via a speaker on a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle otherwise known as a drone), operated by Surf Life Saving NSW on behalf of the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) that he had a shark in his vicinity.

‘I was surfing out the back at Sharpes Beach and just cruising on my own and I heard a splash and a noise and looked around and couldn’t see anything,’ Wilkinson told Surf Life Saving NSW.

‘Then the drone came down and told me that there was a dangerous shark in the area, return to the beach. I got to the shore feeling a bit weird and the lifeguards showed me the footage and I realised how close it came without knowing it was there. It looks like it’s going for my leg and it’s changed its mind.’

Sharks discerning hunters

A recent report by Wendy Zukerman on the podcast Science Vs took a look at sharks and their interactions with humans.

‘Scientists in Australia and South Africa have observed great white sharks and bull sharks swimming near hundreds of people and they just don’t go after them,’ says Ms Zukerman.

This is supported by shark scientist Taylor Chapple who talked about his experience of tagging great whites near an island called Año Nuevo in California.

‘About half a mile from where I work is a surf spot. So I’ll have a day where there will be 6, 7, 8 up to 15 sharks swimming around my boat at one time and I can see a half mile away the guys in the line up surfing,’ said Mr Chapple.

‘And no one has ever been attacked at that spot. So, if those sharks wanted to eat us there would be very few surfers left in the water.

Zukerman and Chapple go on to highlight new research that is demonstrating that sharks aren’t the mindless killing machines they have been made out to be, but are quite discerning about what they eat.

Referring to footage that Chapple caught when he strapped a camera to the back of a great white he recounts that, ‘You see a silhouette at [the] surface…  you see the shark go from a couple of miles an hour, burst speed up to 20 some odd miles an hour [32km/h]… at the last second right before it gets to that unassuming silhouette at the surface, it bails. And it turns out that the silhouette at the surface was a bird, and not a seal.’

‘So it looks like when the shark got close, it realised this dinky bird wasn’t worth it,’ says Zuckerman. ‘And newer research in tiger sharks is showing basically the same thing.

‘Most of the time… sharks don’t go around chomping everything they see at every opportunity. They’re making some sort of calculation about what’s worth the effort… and it seems that in the vast, vast, vast majority of cases… humans – you and me – aren’t worth it for them.’

Grateful shark didn’t have a go

Nonetheless Wilkinson said that he felt ‘grateful and pretty weird at the same time but happy it decided not to go me.

‘It’s nice to know the drones go up and down the beach and can see what we can’t and it makes you feel more comfortable. It makes other people aware that there are sharks out there but usually with no intention. It’s nice to know if there’s a big one around you can just come in and let them go by,’ he said.

‘I’ve been surfing with sharks my whole life and I understand they’re there and know enough about them to know they have not too much interest in humans. I’m just glad today the shark reconsidered at the last second,’ said Wilkinson.

The drone operator, Beau Monks from the Australian UAV Service, said he’d just launched his seventh flight for the day when he spotted the shark near the surfer.

‘It sort of came out of nowhere, then went right up to Matt. It moved pretty fast. I was tracking it and notified the lifeguards and used the speaker on the drone to get everyone out of the water. Within 10 seconds it was at the surfer and five seconds later it was gone,’ said Beau Monks.

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. Tell that to the family of the bloke who was killed at Coolangatta last month.
    Unfortunately there are very few drone patrols around surfers. Matt was very lucky the shark decided not to bite.

    • Yes Matt was lucky but the drone didn’t protect him and Joachim’s original comment still stands and reflects the facts of the article if you actually read it.
      Like most fatal attacks, the Cooly attack was a random single bite on a vulnerable area severing the femoral artery. It didn’t eat him, nor did sharks eat the hundreds of thousands of other surfers who surfed this year, nor the other random attacks on swimmers and surfers this year. It is equivalent to describing large domestic dogs man eating terror machines.
      There are very few shark-monitoring drones on the Gold Coast as they have put their faith in nets and baited drum lines.

      • But that’s Queensland, it is criminal what happens here too, but nobody has ever accused any of these people of possessing intelligence or understanding, just mindless panic but like that Manning or Fanning or whatever who had a shark surface near him in South Africa. Although he fell off his board and shit himself, he managed to portray it as some heroic occurrence. Perhaps Matt could capitalise on his valiant tussle with this reluctant monster who was obviously hoping for a fish dinner, but with all the industrial scale trawling there’s precious little left.
        Cheers G”)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Caravan park to pay $2.3mil plus to consumers

The NSW Court of Appeal has upheld the Supreme Court’s decision arising from the sale of the movable dwellings located on waterfront sites along the Tweed River.

Government modelling fails to reflect women’s interrupted careers

New research to be released this week analyses two decades of Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey to estimate the actual labour force experience of women over their life and accounts for working when super is not paid.

Ballina cleans up!

Clean Up Australia Day was a great success in Ballina, with the beach clean up event organised by Ballina Coastcare yesterday attracting twenty volunteers.

Lismore future councillor information sessions

With the delayed Local Government elections being held in September, several councils, including Lismore City Council, are holding information sessions for community members who are thinking about running for Council.