World championship tour surfer Matt Wilkinson has had a close encounter with a shark while surfing at at Ballina in Australia.
The arrival of a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) overhead alerted Matt via a warning over the speaker, at the same time a 1.5m great white shark surfaced just behind him.
The amazing vision captured by the UAV stunned the operator with the speed at which the shark appeared on his screen during a routine surveillance flight.
The former pro surfer said he was aware the drone was overhead and heard the warning, but was still shocked to encounter the shark at such close range.
Today’s event was another lucky escape for Wilkinson, who competed in the heat just before Mick Fanning experienced his encounter with a large white shark at JBay in South Africa in 2015.
“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,” said Wilkinson. “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.
“I feel grateful and pretty weird at the same time but happy it decided not to go me. When I saw the footage I saw the similarities, like I had a yellow leg rope on and Mick’s board was yellow is what I was thinking about when I came in.
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.
“I’d spotted a large baitball and some whales and dolphins earlier in the day and had alerted the lifeguards to that.”