Shark lurks below unsuspecting surfers in South Africa

Anthony Pancia
Swellnet Dispatch

A 14-year-old drone pilot says he feared for the worse as he filmed a "huge" white pointer swim underneath surfers in South Africa's Western Cape region.

Zach Berman, an aspiring wildlife drone photographer, said he was monitoring shark activity with his father at Plettenberg Bay when the shark drifted into view.

"At first, I was struggling to comprehend what I was seeing," he said. "It began to make its way towards the surfers and I feared for the worse; I really didn't know what was going to happen."

Other observers attempted to alert the surfers to the shark's presence but it was initially unseen as it drifted just beneath the surface.

The shark swam below surfers for several minutes before being spotted (Supplied: Zachary Berman)

While steadying his drone above the shark, Zach said he felt a sense of relief when the surfers — aided and alerted by a paddler on a jet ski — became aware of it and beat a hasty retreat towards shore.

"When everyone was safely on the beach, I showed them the footage and they just could not believe what they were seeing," he said. "One guy in particular was in shock. The shark was directly in front of him yet he did not even know it was there."

Zachary said to his surprise, "one or two" surfers returned to the water shortly after the incident, a situation he put down to the frequency in which white sharks were spotted at Plettenberg Bay.

"We get a lot of sharks along this beach as there is a seal colony not far away," Zach said. "Given drones are really only a new addition to wildlife photography, this type of activity could have been happening for years."

// ANTHONY PANCIA
© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

POSTSCRIPT: The day after the above footage was filmed, Zac again flew his drone, and again captured a close encounter.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Zach B (@crazy__nature2.0) on

Comments

Bnkref's picture
Bnkref's picture
Bnkref commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 10:27am

That's a whopper. 4 or so metres long?

Rabbits68's picture
Rabbits68's picture
Rabbits68 commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 10:33am

Amazing. Interestingly in both those clips that even with the paddling commotion right near those sharks that they didn't really change their behaviour, just maintained cruising mode. Freaky.....

Pristine

Bnkref's picture
Bnkref's picture
Bnkref commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 10:43am

Very courageous from that goat boater.

Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 11:33am

Juvenile - just looking for friends? Curious?
Something to note in serious situations: a) don't panic (b) don't leave one person alone out the back -stay in a group!

adamwolf's picture
adamwolf's picture
adamwolf commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 11:36am

The video doesn't show it "lurking" but rather just swimming below the surfers...

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 12:27pm

I think swimming is not a very comprehensive description of it's behaviour.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 11:39am

just cruising, though the way it came up behind that kid who had his back turned to it was spooky.

shallow, clear water.

incredible how close it was and they couldn;t see it.

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 12:18pm

Yeah cannot believe it was unseen. A great example of a surfer / shark interaction that ends peacefully.

Pops's picture
Pops's picture
Pops commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 11:44am

FR, was it you a while ago who mentioned that the whites up your way seemed to hide in the sun/glare? Reckon this one was doing that?

He who hesitates is lost

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan commented Monday, 29 Jun 2020 at 6:11pm

I know Greenough reckons that. Years ago there was a great article of him just recounting his close encounters with sharks and how they interacted. I've always turned to face the glare of the sun when I get that sharky vibe ever since I read that.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 12:27pm

hard to say Pops.

vladalotovodka's picture
vladalotovodka's picture
vladalotovodka commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 12:45pm

Shark much cruisy is most of life. No job, no house, no garden, no babushka, no TV, no talk with friend, no sleep, no cook or wash up after meal. Much is time for happy explore and hang out look at weed and crazy surfer shape and think of life meaning leave us be between dinner.

bipola's picture
bipola's picture
bipola commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 1:49pm

they won lotto that day, he must have already eaten.

donweather's picture
donweather's picture
donweather commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 1:54pm

Still can't believe the guy in blue didn't see it. Only reason goat boater probably saw it was because he's higher up out/above the water hence can see through the water easier.

Shark certainly didn't appear in angry mode.

The MIDdleman.'s picture
The MIDdleman.'s picture
The MIDdleman. commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 1:55pm

You can the the moment the boater sees it.
Must,ve looked massive from a metre away.
Wouldn't have caught that roller on most attempts but you can imagine the motivation.

Signature.

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 2:10pm

In my experience, people who haven't spent much time in the ocean don't even think about sharks, let alone scan for them - they've never seen them or are so focussed on just being able to surf it takes all their concentration. None of those people really looked like they had a lot of water time under their belt, so not that surprising. Even when the boater made the call they all frothed and caused a full commotion which is a Shark 101 no-no.

Similar to the footage of the blokes at Southside a month or two back - they paddled back in the deep, others were off their boards, others ignored it. Nobody seemed to have any idea about the basics.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 2:19pm

it is amazing though, few years back I watched a 10-12ft white swim right along the bank at Lennox Point.
15-20 surfers out and this shark, which was in the glare, swam within 1-2m of all of them and not one guy saw it.

it was cruising too.

I didn't yell, doubt anyone would have heard me.

But my heart did skip a beat when it angled towards the last guy out, as he paddled into a set wave, who happened to be my oldest and closest friend. swam right under him as he paddled into it.

he didn't see it either.

I was up high with polarised sunnies on, it was like watching TV.

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 2:25pm

"Shark much cruisy is most of life. No job, no house, no garden, no babushka, no TV, no talk with friend, no sleep, no cook or wash up after meal. Much is time for happy explore and hang out look at weed and crazy surfer shape and think of life meaning leave us be between dinner."

that's poetry, vlad.
looks like ttb has a russian pen pal.

vladalotovodka's picture
vladalotovodka's picture
vladalotovodka commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 7:43pm

Vlad study TBB is much is when learn improve english.

kang's picture
kang's picture
kang commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 2:38pm

Reminds me of an old wise tale.
"For every shark you seen, 6 have seen you"

rj1611's picture
rj1611's picture
rj1611 commented Saturday, 27 Jun 2020 at 9:21am

I reckon it's more like 50, or 100, or 500. I have been surfing in Tassie on and off for 30 years - often in remote areas, in deep water and river mouths. I've had one scare and still not sure what was swimming back and forth underneath. I can't imagine that I haven't been in close range to a Whitey without realising more times than I would like to know.

waxyfeet's picture
waxyfeet's picture
waxyfeet commented Thursday, 2 Jul 2020 at 8:31am

Anecdotal I know, but nah, I surfed Jbay all my young life and never seen one out there.

My ratio alone would throw those stats out @kang :)

bluediamond's picture
bluediamond's picture
bluediamond commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 2:45pm

watched this last night. Had a baby shark of a friendly looking variety swim under me this morning....regardless of the fact it was smaller than my board, it made me jump out of my skin with this still fresh in mind!!!!

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 2:55pm

i recon it was interested in old mate until the goat boat distracted it..........hard to believe in water that shallow and clear they couldn't see it........

simba

drodders's picture
drodders's picture
drodders commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 4:34pm

I think they cruise under us regularly, I have posted previously that a very large shark swam under me, I watched it with my face stuck in the water, until it swam out of sight. It didn’t deviate from its course like this one did. Unfortunately we are at times on the menu, most of the time we are not...otherwise these highly evolved creatures would take us at will.

Toe Bone's picture
Toe Bone's picture
Toe Bone commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 5:26pm

I was surfing the Alley around Xmas great swell and super clear water and doing the rounds of catch a wave on the point then ride through to Palm Beach, paddle across the creek walk back to the point and repeat. On one of the rounds paddling across the creek I had a 2.5m Bull shark heading straight for me in cruise mode so elbows on the board and feet up and he just passed under my board and headed out through the line up. I told a life guard sitting on his jet ski less than a minute later and he said it would be best to just let it cruise out and not cause a panic. He said it was most likely a dolphin anyway. I grew up surfing and diving in South Australia and know what a shark looks like.

SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 11:08pm

Kang " for every shark that you have seen, 6 have seen you"
I disagree mate I only have 2 confirmed sightings in the water in my 29 years of surfing. A white at waitpinga and a bull that popped it's head out to say gday at front beach kingy. I can guarantee you that more than 12 sharks have checked me out. Stealth, u can feel em but not see em, generally u don't don't paddle in unless surfing solo in remote places and u get that feeling

kang's picture
kang's picture
kang commented Monday, 29 Jun 2020 at 10:13am

I don't doubt that either, I've maybe seen 2 in 20yrs.

It's just a saying, the actual number isn't important but it rolls of the tongue a bit better than "dont be scared shitless if you see a shark, because there is a lot more times that sharks have been there that you didn't know about".

SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog commented Friday, 26 Jun 2020 at 11:28pm

Shit drodders that's heavy, where are you? That would have been scary. I totally agree they could pick us off like picking grapes if they wanted but they don't! Why? Effed if I know. Are they that smart that they know if they pick off too many humans we will bite back? Am I just a simpleton that has had too many great northerns?

Yendor's picture
Yendor's picture
Yendor commented Saturday, 27 Jun 2020 at 8:57am

I think the theory is that mostly they don't like us after taking a bite. Not fatty enough and too many bones. We are not the high energy treat of most blubbery marine mammals. Most shark attack victims are not eaten. I'm sure sometimes we're an easy if not great meal when you're hungry,

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog commented Saturday, 27 Jun 2020 at 10:08am

Of the sharks that attack, quite a few scenarios would play out:
- bites and gets a fin or chunk of fibreglass in their mouth - shark thinks WTF - not so keen next time
- tries attack and surfer fights back in a big way (poke eye or tear gills) - sharks thinks WTF - very wary next time or never again
- small exploratory bite of wetsuit plus flesh and blood - thinks mmm sort of tasty but sort of weird - might try again
- full meal of part or most of surfer plus eats wetsuit as well - shark thinks mmm sort of tasty but big gut ache later - thinks not again unless very hungry
- exploratory bite surfer catches wave and escapes - thinks mmm tricky buggers but might try again
- exploratory bite and other surfers come to help and save and fight off shark - thinks mmm that is odd - bit like pesky pods of dolphins who protect each other - might try again but wary next time.
- bites off leg - thinks tasty but boney - okay if hungry next time
- clean bite and kill with no wetsuit eaten - thinks yum that was easy and tasty - might do that again
So fat content of humans would be a minor part of any decision making.
Enough of the scenarios weigh up of the discouragement side to work in our favour. But a small proportion of attacks would likely encourage the shark to go again.

Frogg

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Saturday, 27 Jun 2020 at 10:15am

thats all possible.

I wonder how many investigations, circlings, or other pre-attack gestures might precede a bite?

We now know those whites are very curious, sometimes aggressive and not at all shy.
Even in clear, shallow water.

What makes them take the next step?

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Saturday, 27 Jun 2020 at 11:11am

Fr76 do you think it could be as simple as they just aren’t hungry when they come across humans most of the time?

I’m not sure how often they eat but could it just be when their hungry and in the vicinity of humans then they’ll try to get a meal?

I don’t really buy the opinion that they can look at us and determine that we don’t have enough nutritional value so they leave us alone the vast majority of the time.

I reckon if they don’t feel like eating they’ll keep cruising and if they need to eat they’ll have a go. But who knows, they are fascinating animals that we know bugger all about

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Saturday, 27 Jun 2020 at 1:53pm

yeah, it could be that simple.

groundswell85's picture
groundswell85's picture
groundswell85 commented Monday, 29 Jun 2020 at 11:12pm

Lots of theories out there, not a whole lot of science. In the majority of the more serious attacks in NNSW, where other surfers have been able to get the victim to shore, the attacking white has hung around the attack site for hours afterwards in some instances with boats, skis and helicopters buzzing the shark. What role does this data have on the mistaken identity theory or test bite?
Free ride also touched on our fat content ratio not being terribly different to Australian salmon, which scientists have found to be prevalent in the stomachs of the netted white sharks caught in NSW.. from memory that was in the beachgrit comments. There’s been fatals in WA and SA where the attacking white has been over 5 metres and no body has been recovered. The Perth attack at wedge island springs to mind. It’s a sombering story. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-25/coroner-finds-surfer-likely-attac...

savanova's picture
savanova's picture
savanova commented Saturday, 27 Jun 2020 at 12:07pm

Sharks don't have hands, they feel with their mouths like most creatures hence the shit they find in their bellies. I've had em mouth both my boat and idling motor to find out if it is edable.

Dan K's picture
Dan K's picture
Dan K commented Saturday, 27 Jun 2020 at 10:14pm

I find the locations of these juvenile nurseries to be the most intriguing. Down here in Forster there's half a dozen beaches within 15-20min drive and 90% of the time they are exclusively at Tuncurry Beach in waist deep water. I've got a drone for photography work and last week there were 4 whites, all around the 2-2.5m mark 15m off the breakwall where, if it had been only 2 feet of swell would have had 20 guys on it. The fascinating thing to me is Tuncurry Beach is fucking long, no reef (until right up the other end) and predominantly clear water. Aside from a couple months of the mullet run and the odd salmon ball it's barron, and I think it's kind of Russian Roulette being a surfer. If you're on a reef break/point there's generally fish and many more options than a beach that's miles long and so the likelihood on Tuncurry Beach is a shark interaction due to fuck all between you and a shark coming along the shoreline. There's a tonne of footage coming out down here of unknowing interactions where the sharks just turn around and avoid surfers all the time. I don't think they know what we are but I think they know what we're not. For me it's going to be a duck dive at the wrong time, kicking through some disturbed wash from a wave etc that will provoke the next inquiry.

sbsb's picture
sbsb's picture
sbsb commented Sunday, 28 Jun 2020 at 1:26am

Technology is allowing us to notice things that have always happened without us being aware. Anyone who has ever been in the water with a great white knows that if they wanted to eat us no-one would ever go surfing or swimming in the ocean - they'd mop us up along the city beaches like they are playing pacman - amazingly fast and powerful animals. To me they are scary in the same way someone hassling you on the street at night is scary - the likelihood is that nothing comes of it but your mind is always ready for the worst case scenario. Life gets pretty grim when fear determines everything, so it would be good if the science got more prominence in the media. This BBC article is the best recent attempt I've seen to discuss the current scientific knowledge: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190808-why-do-sharks-attack-humans

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Sunday, 28 Jun 2020 at 8:51am

All due respect but that BBC article was hardly scientific, mostly speculation.

And some basic factual errors.

It had no idea about why sharks attack humans.

mugofsunshine's picture
mugofsunshine's picture
mugofsunshine commented Sunday, 28 Jun 2020 at 9:19am

It makes sense that they're opportunistic/curious. As sbsb alludes to, if we were on their go to menu wave pool manufacturers would be the new Bezos. Nevertheless, it would be nice to know what piques their interest.

matt59's picture
matt59's picture
matt59 commented Sunday, 28 Jun 2020 at 9:43am

Mick Fanning didn't see his shark. Wouldn't know about if it didn't get caught in his leg rope.

kang's picture
kang's picture
kang commented Monday, 29 Jun 2020 at 10:16am

I've been diving with great white off Cape Town. I'll tell you one thing, if you're in the water and one of those massive beasts wants a chunk of you, ya don't stand a chance. They are so fast, so agile and come seemingly out of no where. The experience really made me respect them more so.

Note: I than shat bricks the entire time in the water surfing J-Bay 2 days later.

Distracted's picture
Distracted's picture
Distracted commented Monday, 29 Jun 2020 at 4:23pm

@DanK, the number of GWS at Tuncurry is crazy, makes me wonder if the DPI population estimates are correct.
I think one of the reasons they are there all season though is that the juveniles also eat a lot of sting rays which they catch on the beach. While they are that 2.5 length they could probably take a chunk out of someone if they wanted to but we are probably too big for their conditioned food source. The problem is when those 2.5m ones become 3m or 3.5m and are then starting to take an interest in larger objects/mammals as a food source. Maybe the bigger ones aren’t there all year but are there now, coinciding with the whales.