The WSL plays it cool as surfers get edgy about sharks
"You can't script this!"
When the WSL marketeers drafted that tag line shark attacks weren't part of the random happenings. Sneaker sets and Toledo throwing dual oops at J'Bay? Yes. Toothy predators rising from the deep?...erm, no.
But that's what happened yesterday just up the coast from the main comp site, and not once but twice. The second attack, which happened about five hours after the first, tilted the story away from an indiscriminate attack towards rogue shark theory.
Following the first atack, the WSL rightfully put the contest on hold then continued under extra surveillance. The second attack moves the whole operation into unknown territory. Even J'Bay 2015 happened during the Final so the competitors didn't have to hit the water again.
This morning the WSL released the following message:
"WSL continues to assess the current situation at the Margaret River Pro where there have been two confirmed shark incidents near Gracetown in the last 24 hours. We have actioned our well established safety protocols and are gathering all the latest information to determine next steps. We will continue to liaise with all involved, most importantly the surfers, their safety remains paramount. Today's competition (Tuesday in Western Australia) has already been called off and all surfers have been advised not to surf in the area. We are constantly evaluating the situation, and will update as soon as possible."
Last year the organisers of the Margaret River Pro used Shark Shild devices on the bottom of rescue PWCs though that's not the case this year.
With Tourism WA a major sponsor the WSL is walking a tight line with their messaging, however some surfers have already voiced their feelings via Instagram:
Italo Ferreira: "Two shark attacks in less than 24 hours here in Australia, detail, just a few miles from where the event is being held. Very dangerous do you not think? even so, they keep insisting on doing steps where the risk of having this type of accident is 90%, so I ask: is not the safety of athletes a priority? We already had several alerts. Life goes beyond that! I hope it does not happen to any of us. I do not feel comfortable training and competing in places like this!"
From Italo's IG account
Gabriel Medina: "Today they had two shark attacks on a beach close to where we're competing. I do not feel safe training and competing in this kind of place, anytime anything can happen to one of us. Hope not. Leaving my opinion before it's too late!"
Fortunately for the WSL the southwest is about to cop two days of onshore wind. That means two laydays are locked in, and it also gives them two days in which emotions can subside and surfers can return to the real script.