23 April 2012
Nobody really thought about sharks while surfing Supetubes, the Point and Magna’s in the 1980’s.
In Jeffreys Bay, we all thought there were only raggies in our waters and our fishermen mates who told stories of big gebe’s in the water were laughed off and were not taken seriously during a night out playing pool at the Beach Hotel.
That all changed when Koffie Jacobs got bumped at Supers on 7 July 1989. His surfboard was hit from below by an estimated 3 m Great White and he got tossed up into the air.
“At first I thought a dolphin must have gone mad and swam into me as we didn’t really think there were sharks in those days. I was pretty shaken and paddled in after the incident. There was a bite mark on the surfboard that needed to be repaired. It was Paul Jeggels who first said it was a shark bite and that was the end of getting that board fixed” said Jacobs.
The surfboard is hanging up in Core Surf Shop in St Croix Street, Jeffreys Bay nowadays. While you there, you may as well find out if Koffie, who owns Core Surf is around to tell the story first hand. Don’t leave without checking out the cool deals on wetsuits that Core Surf offers all its customers as well.
The surf community of Jeffreys Bay were still digesting the fact that there was Great White sharks in our waters when the first real shark incident occurred on 20 July 1989.
A visiting surfer Edward Razzano, was bitten on the torso by a 2.5 m Great White and managed to get to the beach. There was a doctor surfing at the time that tended to him on the beach.
Some Australian surfers were at the Dolphin View look out and saw the shark cruising up to Point. Realising it was swimming towards Supers, they jumped in their car and raced to Supers to try raise the warning. By the time they arrived it was too late and the shark had already made its move.
According to surfers in the water that day, the shark was only spotted by the time it has reached the top take off spot at Supers. It then lazily circled and started swimming back down the point.
There was a set at the car park section and the shark seemed to sense the movement as the surfers started paddling for the wave. It disappeared from sight and the attack occurred seconds later.
Fishermen who have been around since the 1970’s will tell you that the big Great Whites have always been here and there are some scary stories about Whites longer than 6 m fishing boats being spotted at Seal Point, and other big sharks following boats all the way into Main Beach.
Are there more Great Whites around nowadays?
This is a controversial question as nobody can really answer it with any certainty.
One argument is that there has to be more Great Whites around since they become a protected species in South Africa in the early 1990’s.
Another viewpoint is that there are more Whites inshore foraging for food as the deeper water fishing stocks become depleted.
Some argue that there may even be fewer sharks around as the Asian demand for shark fin soup rises insatiably. And while there is money to be made, sharks will be hunted.
The controversy raging in Cape Town at present over the Shark Men chumming water to film a documentary close to where 20 year old bodyboarder, David Lilienfeld was attacked and killed by a 4 m Great White shark at Kogel Bay last week has added a new twist to the tale.
Is chumming responsible for the increase of Great White activity?
An Australian study found that Great Whites became conditioned to appear at a site where chumming was taking place at the same time as the boat appeared. The sharks would leave when the boat left, only to return again the following day at the same time.
Common sense would dictate that just as feeding of baboons led to increased human/baboon interaction in Cape Point Nature Reserve, so will Great Whites start to associate boats and even humans with food.
In Addo Elephant Park, citrus is still banned due to the adverse behaviour of the elephants in the days when oranges were brought into the park as food for the elephants several decades ago.
South Africans still need answers.
Research into why there is an increase in human/shark interaction must be conducted by reputable scientists to help us better understand the Great White Shark.