Fear and Stoking on the NSW North Coast

Dan Dobbin picture
Dan Dobbin (dandob)
The Depth Test

Grey, grey, grey.

Grey water, grey sky, grey disposition.

We all have those flat days. No spark, no motivation, no chutzpah.

I’m surfing an inside shorey bank metres from the beach, hoping the little waves will jump-start my grey disposition, but instead I’m jumping at shadows.

Terns flit up and down on the water's surface. Dolphins leisurely cruise the back of the break. Out wide, Humpbacks and Right Whales head south on their migration back to the cooler Antarctica waters for summer.

Straight up Attenborough shit in the Rainbow Region, AKA the NSW North Coast.

So why the hesitancy?

Well, the spectre of fear stalks my consciousness.

It’s grey too.

It lurks in the inside gutters. It approaches from my left, always the left, as I sit and wait for sets. It hurtles at me out of the deep.

That’s what the little voice in my head whispers anyway.

Days earlier I’d sat on the outer reaches of a rockshelf, looking into the maw of the region's pre-eminent rivermouth.

Tuna busting up. Dolphins tail slap the surface stunning bait fish. Hell, even one of the great levithians chasing krill tight in against the headland, inside of where I was surfing. The predator/prey dynamic was in full bloom, prime conditions for what is now disingenuously termed a shark interaction.

If I was ever going to receive a Ballina Hickey from a Great White you’d think it would be now. However, the spectre doesn’t haunt me that day. Hunting slabby barrels occupied the mind instead and I surfed without a care.

Surfing is as much a psychological as a physical challenge these days on the North Coast. Headspace and fear management is often as much of a factor as conditions in defining enjoyment in the water.

It used to feel like there were rules for avoiding an attack: Don’t surf at dawn or dusk, not after rain or when the water was murky. Now, the apparent sheer randomness of where and when an attack might occur is what is so disconcerting.

For all the promised drone surveillance, smart drum lines, eyes painted on boards and stripey wetsuits, it all still seems to come down to wrong place, wrong time, but the number of wrong places and wrong times seems to be expanding.

Prior to last years attack cluster, the spectre of fear had never stalked me. My modus operandi when chasing aquatic stoke was finding the most isolated peak in an area still rich with opportunity’s for solitude. Bobbing alone without anyone in sight was nirvana.

I buried my head in the sand for as long as I could and tried to rationalise why each attack meant I didn’t have to change my behaviour:

“There must be something peculiar about the Byron region”

”Port Macquarie is a long way from here”

“Statistically someone was bound by get hit at the Superbank“

However, at some point the reality of the “new normal” had to be acknowledged. With the attack dial turned up from 'improbable' to 'possible', surfing now involves a lot of extra mental calculation.

I catch myself staring at the line up, weighing the scales of risk vs reward, the pull of aquatic addiction against the possibility of disaster. Scan the surface for ripples from bait balls, interrogate the inshore gutters for shadows, observe the birds for signs and meanings, stitching it all together like an oceanic conspiracy theorist trying to discern the unknowable truth of what’s happening under the surface. What may or may not be lurking there.

I’ve taken to dodging the kids before I go coastal. “Just going out for a run up the beach,” I lie. The thought of them being in the line up triples the anxiety. Triples the chance of potential disaster.

On land, the North Coast is experiencing another population surge as the cashed up and COVID-weary flee the cities chasing the utopia mythology popularised by the free love 60’s hippies and drop out surfers. A place to take your shoes off, leave all your troubles behind and live the carefree lifestyle.

In the water, it’s never felt more intimidating. The news of a shark attack, particularly between April to September, has shifted from shocking to expected. “How many this year?” now a common refrain.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the probably future outcomes when a burgeoning human population on land increasingly interacts with a growing population of potential predators in the water.

On a micro level, the continuous psychological warfare between the lifetime pull of surf stoke against the lurking spectre of fear continues to play out. The rules of the game have changed, so those still wanting to play will have to as well.

What is certain is that surfing isn’t as much fun anymore.

// DAN DOBBIN

Comments

brownie48's picture
brownie48's picture
brownie48 Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 5:35pm

Well written and for me, even though I am well south of your area I am doing exactly what you are doing with looking for all signs of activity and very strongly trusting my gut instincts if it doesn't feel right and bail

I still love the solitude and look for the most uncrowded or desolate banks but the uneasiness is there

Cant believe the millions those muppets the clubbies get for flying drones which are ineffective in strong winds and those grey days you explained really well

extradry's picture
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extradry Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 5:48pm

I live & surf mostly on the tweed. Its been very mellow (sharkwise) this winter compared to last.
Record whale sightings last year and an anomaly of attacks.
This winter seemed a bit more back to usual.Apparently a lot of whales swam further out this year in the East coast current.
Coincidence ?

blindboy's picture
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blindboy Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 5:51pm

The purpose of the drones is probably more related to preserving the illusion of safety for the tourist market than protecting surfers. Great to see such a thoughtful piece on such a sensitive and difficult issue. Like brownie I am further south and often surfing by myself on isolated beaches. I am very watchful but you have to accept that there is still a risk. Not sure I would be in the water much in the Byron/Ballina area.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 5:54pm

found a peel off bank today, no one out.

watched it for 15 and a big bait ball hovered back and forth and all over the bank.

Thought, no way I'm sitting in that bait ball by myself.

went home.

Haven't surfed a back bank beachie for a couple of years.

dandob's picture
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dandob Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 6:09pm

Yer Steve, your insights and words of advice I've picked up reading your stuff and in comments definitely factor into my calculations. Rocky reefs now feel " safer" than open beachies. Crazy.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 6:18pm

That sense of security is a bit misplaced. Reefs are the cities of the ocean. The beaches are barren deserts in comparison with reefs. A reef which juts substantially above the surrounding zone and is located in or close to current is as sure a place of locating big fish as you’d find.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 7:31pm

White sharks are cruisers, especially just behind the surf zone or in the gutters on open beaches.

If you are the sole object of interest on that cruise path, far more likely to be investigated.

Rock reefs and close to shore Points have the advantage of easy exits and better vantage.

tubeshooter's picture
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tubeshooter Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 8:10pm

As far as juvenile whites go reef fish don't appear as popular as things like salmon or bottom dwellers.
One Oz study.
The study found that based on abundance, the sharks’ diet relied mostly on:

Pelagic, or mid-water ocean swimming fish, such as Australian salmon: 32.2%
Bottom-dwelling fish, such as stargazers, sole or flathead: 17.4%
Reef fish, such as eastern blue gropers: 5.0%
Batoid fish, such as stingrays: 14.9%
The remainder was unidentified fish or less abundant prey. Mr Grainger said that marine mammals, other sharks and cephalopods (squid and cuttlefish) were eaten less frequently.

“The hunting of bigger prey, including other sharks and marine mammals such as dolphin, is not likely to happen until the sharks reach about 2.2 metres in length,” Mr Grainger said.
https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2020/06/15/great-white-shark...

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 8:42pm

they do seem to love a drive-by of the local inshore snapper reefs.

tubeshooter's picture
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tubeshooter Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 9:05pm

yeah , they no doubt hit the reefs up , I certainly wouldn't suggest they don't. I was actually just curious as to how much stuff they hunt away from any sort of structure when I looked that up. Some of the pelagics they hunt can be found around inshore reefy areas as well , and there's a % of unidentified fish in that study that too,, so I'm not suggesting your safer either way.

simba's picture
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simba Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 9:10pm

The problem with that report is that they were only dealing with juvis so once they reach 8ft plus probably be looking for more substantial food as in dolphins etc.....a flathead isn't going to cut it.....theres a lot of muscle to feed to keep them swimming.

garyg1412's picture
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garyg1412 Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 11:39am

I reckon the security misplacement is a case of what you can't see won't worry you. In a crystal clear beach breaks my eyes tend to scan the bottom constantly, whereas on a reef it's only the stuff that breaks the surface like kelp and dolphins that tend to get the jitters up.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 6:16pm

3 mt GW tagged at Lennox yesterday.

Smorto's picture
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Smorto Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 6:20pm

How do you post screenshots or a JPEG in the comments?

If anyone has Nearmaps go about 2.5km north of the Tuncurry Breakwall on 24 July 2019 and there's a decent sized Great White cruising probably 50m offshore in crystal clear conditions very similar to the first image in this story. Looks like the middle of the day too.

Surfing lonely beachies in the middle of the day during winter just doesn't have the same feel to it anymore. I used to think that there's no chance of whites being close to shore in those conditions, how wrong I was.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 6:24pm

https://imgbb.com/

Download your photo ( screenshot) and select BBcode fully linked then paste it on here.

Smorto's picture
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Smorto Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 2:05pm

Thanks, the link to the image is below, what looks to be a white cruising 60-70m offshore

https://i.ibb.co/gdc0VG7/Tuncurry-Shark.jpg

I'm sure I could find more but every 'tile' you look at eats into your monthly data allowance, and Nearmaps isn't cheap!

Blowin's picture
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Blowin Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 7:07pm

That first pic is a whale. Looks like it’s motoring too. Check how far back the boil from its footprint is. Nice photo.

Ray Shirlaw's picture
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Ray Shirlaw Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 7:06pm

Ffark me . Why couldn't it have been the coast off Darwin or inaccessible SW Tassy. Faaaaaark

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 7:20pm

yes its a new game now and as Dan said above the rules have also changed .
but to what? At the moment the rules are favouring the other side and i cant see that changing in the near future........

Solitude's picture
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Solitude Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 8:47pm

The rules are hardly favouring the other side (nature). We have been fucking things up for so long many of us can’t see forest for the trees.

Much more prevalent is publicly broadcasted opinion and fear mongering that seems to get ‘our side’ into a giant froth of anxiety and neurosis.

It’s sad surfing isn’t as fun for you anymore Dan and others of the same opinion.

I still think being out there is one of the biggest privileges a person can experience.

bluediamond's picture
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bluediamond Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 10:54pm

Great well written piece Dan. Could definitely relate to alot of what you wrote.
It's incredible how fast it's all changed up there.
If you guys get stuck for bait for the drumlines, i think i found a candidate. One born every minute.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-12/wa-man-charged-over-great-white-s...

Remigogo's picture
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Remigogo Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 11:28pm

.. false news..

Thought it was only the Seppos.

bluediamond's picture
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bluediamond Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 1:14am

Is it false news? Thought it was credible on ABC, unless i'm misunderstanding your comment...apologies if so. Yep the drizzle can take a hike!

Remigogo's picture
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Remigogo Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 8:48am

Tongue in cheek. Certainly appears true.

Remigogo's picture
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Remigogo Tuesday, 12 Oct 2021 at 11:29pm

All that and add drizzle... fkn drizzle...

Thegrowingtrend.com's picture
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Thegrowingtrend.com Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 8:04am

what rules? We are nature, enjoying nature, un-till we do not anymore. More chance of being hit by a car walking to the beach?

Although I do know the feeling of surfing alone at a back beach very well? keeps you on your toes..

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 8:09am

Before you surf just read these quotes (found through a 5 minute web search) over and over and, as you sit on that outside bank on the north coast, bask in the scientifically accurate reassurance they provide:

There is no scientific evidence of an increase in the Eastern Australasia (Australia’s east coast and New Zealand) population of White Sharks.

There is also no evidence of a significant increase in shark numbers ...

there is no evidence to suggest the numbers of white sharks have increased significantly despite....

No evidence of an increase in the eastern adult population...

there is no scientific evidence that indicates a substantial increase in the numbers for those species...

citing evidence that shark attacks had increased not because of an increase in shark numbers,...

There is no scientific evidence that supports the use of shark nets as a shark bite prevention method...

there is no increase in the numbers of shark...

no evidence of an increase in the number of great white sharks...

Tooold2bakook's picture
Tooold2bakook's picture
Tooold2bakook Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 9:26pm

Having looked at it myself, I agree there's no scientific evidence shark attack risk has increased.

But people seldom make science backed decisions, especially when it comes to this issue.

blindboy's picture
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blindboy Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 8:10am

frog it helps if you supply links.

simba's picture
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simba Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 8:42am

After all the whooha about the latest Sharksmart program im still confused as to where the smart drum lines are around Coffs ...anyone know ? and it seems from what i can tell from watching the Dorsal sight that they havent caught a white since being reinstalled........question is have they been reinstalled or is it all b.s?
https://www.sharksmart.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/1327323/NS...

https://www.sharksmart.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/1327323/NS...

old data from a couple years ago....

https://www.sharksmart.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/1237016/sm...

Hutchy 19's picture
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Hutchy 19 Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 9:01am

Frog - reading BS would NOT help any sensible person .

wallpaper's picture
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wallpaper Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 9:48am

writing bullshit doesn't help anyone at all.

savanova's picture
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savanova Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 9:13am

Had a large Oceanic White Tip cruise past me not long ago. Felt blessed and scared at the same time.

plops's picture
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plops Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 9:23am

I’ve come up to Crescent head from Victoria the last two June/July school holidays and every time I get back to the sand down in the Goolawah I say a little “you made it” to myself.
Like Steve has said in previous articles you have to listen to your gut and spider senses.
Personally I like to pick up plastic off the beach and try not to eat fish and chips to ease my mind and get some ocean karma points.

savanova's picture
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savanova Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 11:59am

Might need to start tagging chips too.

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 9:37am

BB - just highlighting the oft repeated meme scattered across the media not presenting a case.
Hutchy - tongue in cheek.... used to surf Fingal Head and south of there a bit, often alone for a short while early in the morning and felt pretty comfortable doing so. Not now.

Drones showing how much GWs cruise the surf zone, the logical outcomes of 20 years of protection, plus the steadily increasing drum beat of anecdotal stories will suffice for evidence of an increase in GW numbers and risks for me as I await the definitive research paper on GW population trends due around 2032.

Most decisions in life, risk management, business and world affairs have to be made with incomplete evidence. That is normal.

rj-davey's picture
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rj-davey Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 11:46am

well said

dawnperiscope's picture
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dawnperiscope Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 10:07am

On the topic of evidence, does anyone know a link to a database of recent GWS attacks in NSW that includes prevailing conditions? Swell particulars would be an interesting one too but can't imagine that being recorded.

udo's picture
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udo Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 12:03pm
dawnperiscope's picture
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dawnperiscope Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 1:56pm

thanks

SurferSam's picture
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SurferSam Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 10:11am

What I find strange is WA went through a number of fatal attacks in a row , everyone was freaking out , but now it seems to have calmed down. Have the sharks moved on or is it just by chance there has been less interactions?

blindboy's picture
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blindboy Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 10:26am

Great point frog. This is 18 months old but not a bad summary of what we know. The problem as you point out, seems to be that what we don't know is more important.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/04/fatal-shark-attacks-...

Hot stuff's picture
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Hot stuff Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 10:31am

If you chant the krsna constantly you'll never be attacked, at least not by a shark

OHV500's picture
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OHV500 Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 10:31am

Surfing on my own in TAS and VIC, you do get the yips sometimes, I always just paddle in, as its never a pleasant surf after the mind starts thinking like that. I'm wondering if talking about it brings it top of mind? Maybe sticking your head in the sand is a better option?
I'm not surfing QLD or NSW regularly, maybe I would be more worried.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 10:31am

Really poor article (BB).

Repeats common misconceptions, poor logic and argues very much contrary to the evidence.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 10:52am

Exactly. It’s also disingenuous in the way it describes the “ puzzling” fact that there’s not more attacks than there used to be but there is more fatalities. This fails to address the reason for this is that there’s more attacks by pointers than there used to be and that pointer attacks are far more often fatal than attacks by other sharks.

This uses the old conflationary tactic of rendering all sharks into a single group rather than separating the attacks into appropriate species.

It’s the equivalent of throwing someone into a shed full of whip snakes vs throwing them into a room full of taipans and then claiming to be puzzled when there was no increase in snake bites but an increase in fatalities.

The scientists are obviously not objective which renders their word untrustworthy.

blindboy's picture
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blindboy Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 10:38am

The article is based on the work of:
Charlie Huveneers, an associate professor at Adelaide’s Flinders University specialising in shark ecology.
Culum Brown, a professor at Sydney’s Macquarie University specialising in fish behaviour.
Christopher Pepin-Neff, a public policy lecturer at the University of Sydney

Who are all highly credible in their fields.

If you have additional evidence I am very happy to look at it.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 10:57am

I'll go through all the misconceptions, poor logic and argument not backed up by evidence in a while.

Just to start though.

"People are venturing further into the ocean or to more secluded spots and that means there are more opportunities for encountering sharks. And if you’re bitten on the torso or upper thigh while at a remote location, your chances of surviving start looking slim.

Even if the high fatality count can be chalked up to the bad luck of being caught too far from aid",

Is completely at odds with the majority of fatal attacks on the East Coast.

ie Tadashi, Rob Sanguinetti, Nick Slater, Tim Thompson etc etc.

all either at Town beaches or had rescue chopper and paramedics there within 10 minutes.

So using that as a theory to explain the high fatality rate is directly contradicted by the evidence.

Thats Fallacy 1 in the article.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 11:07am

It's going to take a long time because there are so many egregious errors.

Another one.

"Over the years, Meeuwig has made countless calls to broadcasters and papers complaining about sensationalist words like “stalking” (“sharks don’t stalk, they’re not ambush predators”) and, her worst, “mauling”."

There is ample scientific evidence of white sharks being ambush predators.
From the University of Miami paper on White Shark Predatory Behaviour.
https://sharkresearch.rsmas.miami.edu/research/projects/great-white-pred...

"Stealth and ambush are key elements in the white shark’s predatory strategy. Further, recognizable individual white sharks display distinct predatory strategies and some enjoy a predatory success rate of roughly 80%"

batfink's picture
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batfink Thursday, 14 Oct 2021 at 3:24pm

Can’t actually find any of those quotes in the story. Has it been edited since your comments?

It seemed an entirely reasonable personal take by the time I read it.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Thursday, 14 Oct 2021 at 4:38pm

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/04/fatal-shark-attacks-...

That the article you are reading?

Still there when I read it.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 11:08am

There's probably a dozen more like that, which I doubt I will get too this morning.

blindboy's picture
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blindboy Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 11:10am

I think that is a misreading of the article. They dismiss the theory that the fatality rate is associated with distance by saying "Even if..." and go on to point out that the total number of bites has increased.
No worries about waiting.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 11:13am

"Brown says: “999 times out of 1,000 there’s no interaction whatsoever.” Indeed, there’s an oft-quoted statistic that you’re more likely to be killed from a lightning strike or a coconut thwacking you on the head than by a shark attack."

Immediate fail using that old chestnut.

Obviously a surfer in Ballina where there are no coconuts has a higher risk of being bitten by a white shark.

Also this "999 times out of 1,000 there’s no interaction whatsoever" is pure speculation and not backed up by the drone footage we have, which shows almost always white sharks will cruise in closely and investigate surfers in the line-up, usually circling behaviours.

ozracer's picture
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ozracer Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 11:16am

Why was the white shark put on as a protected species as, unlike whales, were they ever fished commercially? It's hard to accept that the numbers haven't increased over the past few decades under the protection status but who makes the decision on when the protection order has done its job or does it stay in place indefinitely. Is the intention to allow gw numbers in coastal waters to increase like croc's in the top end! Hopefully not.

mpeachy's picture
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mpeachy Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 11:47am

Has it ever been considered whether the shark likes the look of the person or the surfboard? Constantly see crazy people swimming way out to sea but it seems to be always the surfers that get attacked

drodders's picture
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drodders Thursday, 14 Oct 2021 at 7:55am

Hi mpeachy think there are a lot more surfers in the water for a longer period of time than the swimmers. I believe a swimmer was taken in 2014 by a shark at Tathra on the Nsw south coast while ocean swimming

blindboy's picture
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blindboy Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 11:58am

The 999 out of 1000 stat refers to encounters with all types of sharks in all types of situations so not necessarily applicable to great whites and surfers or even to surfing generally. That said, I will go anecdotal here and report that ar least a dozen times over my surfing life I have had a large shark close enough to have taken a bite out of me. None did. So how many others could say the same before you encountered one who had been bitten? Get to more than 85 and the guesstimate becomes an underestimate.

More to the point is the broad conclusion to be drawn from the article; attacks are increasing and we don't know why. If the science is missing something, more funding for carefully targeted research is the way forward.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 12:58pm

True.

That article reads as pure advocacy to me.

Full of nonsense.

blindboy's picture
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blindboy Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 1:26pm

So what do you suggest is the way forward? I sympathise with the exprreience of having local surfers die in that manner and that the natural reaction is to call for a cull, but the available evidence doesn't support it and, regardless of what we might think or what our anecdotal evidence suggests, the decisions will be made on the science.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 1:57pm

I've already stated many times that I think the NSW approach of Smart Drum Lines is the best way forwards where it can be done.
Based on the current science.

Non-lethal, gives us incredible amounts of real-time data, and seems to lower the risk profile of the coastal stretches where it is employed.

Smart Drum Lines are giving us scientifically verifiable hard data that supports the hypothesis that we are seeing attacks increase due to the presence of increasing numbers of white sharks.

Whether those increases are merely temporal and spatial or more structural increases in biological stock will become clear over time.

But there is now zero doubt that there are more white sharks inshore on the Mid North Coast to North Coast.

Even the Shark Scientist Paul Bucher from the DPI has publicly stated as much.

blindboy's picture
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blindboy Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 2:01pm

Sorry I must have missed those posts.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 2:06pm

No drama.

Here is the response to Smart Drum lines and the minuscule amount of money being spent on them in the Guardian Article.

"Are responses to shark attacks a political play that’s pure theatre? “I would say 75% of the time,” he answers.

In mid-2020 New South Wales announced it was spending AU$8m (£4.45m) on mitigation measures, including drones and “smart” drum lines in which sharks are baited, tagged and led offshore. To Brown this is evidence that shark policies are emotional, not rational. “If you did a rational risk analysis of the things you’d spend money on, sharks wouldn’t make the top 100. So that’s the fear factor.” It’s a bit like immigration policy, he says, in that “there’s a bunch of politicians who play the ‘fear of the unknown’ card. I suspect that’s because they know there’s votes in it.”

Can we now agree that that is pure advocacy and opinion and not a rational, reasonable assessment?

blindboy's picture
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blindboy Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 3:41pm

Difficult to determine if that is rational policy. The basic calculation on issues like this is how many lives a project saves. It is all very cold blooded, but if you are not familiar with this process, the document below explains the core concept. My own view is that arguing on the basis of lives saved might be difficult. Given that money talks you would probably be better arguing on the basis of the damage to the tourist trade the fear of shark attack causes, which I suspect is the reason drumlines are funded at all.

https://obpr.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-09/value-of-statistical...

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John Snow Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 12:18pm
batfink's picture
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batfink Thursday, 14 Oct 2021 at 3:54pm

You know nothing John Snow!

Sorry, been re-watching Game of Thrones and only recently got to this episode. :-)

Sawty, that’s bad news, was hoping to head up that way again in the near future.

greg-n.williams's picture
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greg-n.williams Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 1:44pm

GR8 article & can totally relate to your mojo of being aware & on your guard rather than just surfing & enjoying the waves! Got both my sons into surfing @ an early age & they both love it however the game has totally changed now with the obvious increase in fatalities along both Aussie coastlines. I still have a love of surfing as do my sons but I am much more aware of where, when & how long I spend out there enjoying the ocean. Recent fatalities on the mid & nth coasts, as well as numerous sightings of 2.5m & up GWS in the last few years have impacted upon the local surfing community to the point where some breaks are virtually empty due to the increased danger associated in surfing there. Obviously at the end of the day it is a personal choice to surf & take your chances in the surf zone however the old addage "only a surfer knows the feeling" has definately changed forever!

Sprout's picture
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Sprout Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 2:07pm

I guess the payoff for not worrying about sharks here is the 10 months a year of shit surf.

frog's picture
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frog Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 3:38pm

The lack of attacks in Victoria where big sharks hang out near seal colonies and surfers (e.g. Phillip Island) compared to NSW is always intriguing. The high number of juveniles in NSW has been noted quite few times in forums as the reason. Here is some research that explains why:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090621195618.htm

South Africa:
"The researchers found that spatial patterns of shark predation at this site were non-random and that smaller sharks had more dispersed prey search patterns and lower kill success rates than larger sharks.

This could mean that white sharks refine their search patterns with experience, and learn to concentrate hunting efforts in locations with the highest probability of successful prey capture. It might also suggest that larger sharks competitively exclude smaller sharks from the prime hunting areas."

"Sharks appear to possess a well-defined search base or anchor point, located 100m seaward of the seal's primary island entry–exit point. "

Northern California:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227288082_The_hunting_strategy_...

"Shark W6 spent a majority (55.2%) of the 24-h period searching for prey near shore in the high-predation risk zone. The shark repeatedly swam back and forth 200±300 m from shore along a north-south axis, where it was ideally positioned to intercept seals and sea lions departing and returning to the pinniped rookeries (Fig. 12a)."

The experienced adult whites hanging off Philip Island, for example, have their feeding strategies pretty well worked out and probably have quite small favourite zones to patrol back and forth when hungry and tried and tested tactics they use.

If surfers are well away from these zones (perhaps even just half a km away) they are not in the zone, nor are they familiar prey.

Whereas in the widespread areas the young adults patrol along NSW, the increasing population of young adults are experimenting more with prey types, checking out anything floating out of curiosity and more opportunistic rather than having a set strategy.

Interesting and logical but not re-assuring for the north coast surfers or tourists or surf schools or nippers or swimmers or hipsters with no legropes.

As with Grizzly bears the truism is that if you meet a big one at random outside its normal territory on its migration, watch out. They are probably hungry and in opportunistic mode - e.g. some WA attacks.

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blindboy Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 5:51pm

Thanks frog. It is certainly the most logical analysis I have seen.

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Craig Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 7:26pm

Thanks for that Frog, makes a lot of sense.

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vicbloke Thursday, 14 Oct 2021 at 11:01am

Cheers Frog. This is interesting. Been surfing the Surf Coast for nearly 40 years and yet to see one. Just blessed i think but there have been times when I have got nervy.

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freeride76 Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 3:27pm

That certainly fits what we are seeing Frog.

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Blowin Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 3:37pm

Certainly lends a bit of gravity when you think of the few crew who tried to swim to shore when escaping from Alcatraz back in the day.

Imagine how you’d feel that first few hundred metres away from the island.

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Smorto Thursday, 14 Oct 2021 at 11:33am

Agreed, and this video proves they are definitely there around the island and you might not even make it a few hundred metres!

simba's picture
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simba Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 5:06pm
savanova's picture
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savanova Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 5:36pm

Got a pro fishing mate who suppliments his wage by helping out on a pro shark boat and says they catch as many sharks as baits they put in and its not uncommon to pull up an 8 footer bitten clean in half. And thats within a couple of k's from the boat ramp.
With that said he's still as keen as a grommet when it comes to surfing and will happily share recent catch stories inbetween sets.
I guess like most things its risk vs reward.

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goofyfoot Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 6:19pm

Where?

savanova's picture
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savanova Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021 at 6:51pm

South coast NSW

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batfink Thursday, 14 Oct 2021 at 4:30pm

Reminds of a recent surf up central coast way. Grey arvo, wind turned west and I took my chance to find some sweet little fast running head high lefts and rights.

Was only in there half hour or so, a couple of boogers out about 75 metres away, and started to get an eerie felling. Spidey senses tingling. I tend to trust those feelings, you don’t know how far back in the evolutionary chain they may go. Looked around me and thought ‘why is the water below me darker than 30 metres away in any direction?’. Couldn’t spot any individual fish but it just looked like a dark blob underneath.

Started to think I should get the next one in and a fish jumps up beside me around 15” - 18” long, think it was a trevally. It had that look like it was being chased rather than being the chaser. F*#k that. Lay on my board, feet up and negotiating a hard breaking sand bank but got out of there.

Chatted with a guy who was watching it all and he thought it was a good call to come in, confirmed the big school of fish, probably larger salmon or mullet school, not small bait fish. Been a lot of them around lately.

Hate paddling around in a big school of salmon or mullet. Get me out of there.

P.S. had a shower and got changed and went back and had a look. Had cleaned up even more, no dark shadows in the water and a few older guys and a young fellow tearing up some really nice lefts and rights. D’oh!

Hate that too.

simba's picture
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simba Thursday, 14 Oct 2021 at 5:48pm

A couple weeks ago....very near miss at central coast

https://coastcommunitynews.com.au/central-coast/news/2021/09/amees-great...

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dandob Thursday, 14 Oct 2021 at 9:28pm

Just taught the kids how to apply a tourniquet and dressings from the Calm As shark kit mob. Fun evening activity :)

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Distracted Saturday, 16 Oct 2021 at 10:10am

I’m often pretty nervous in the water thinking about sharks but haven’t given them a thought in the last month. When you’re sitting shoulder to shoulder with about 100 of your new lock down mates Im thinking a shark is going to struggle to find its way through all the legs. Waves have been good but it is unbelievable how busy it’s been, dreading what it will be like when it opens up to Sydney.