Candid: How about we start icing Great Whites ?

Influential Australian newspaper calls for a re-think of the Great White's protected status… 

On Saturday morning, and three days before Mick Fanning’s shark theatre at J-Bay, Australia’s only national newspaper (The Australian) ran a sharp, and brave, piece calling for a re-think of the Great White’s protected status.

No one of any sane form goes into bat against an animal that’s been protected since 1998 and has been turned into a cause celebre, an animal with superior rights to, say, the wonderful swordfish or the awe-inspiring tuna.

But Fred Pawle, The Australian‘s surf writer, ain’t afraid of opinion or of a difficult story.

Years back I commissioned Fred to write a piece on Matt Branson, surfing’s first openly gay pro. That story was a finalist in Australia’s most prestigious journalism awards, the Walkleys.

He followed that up with a piece I asked him to write on the once-great Australian surf photographer Paul Sargeant who fell from the heavens when he performed what Fred described as an “unsolicited sexual act” on the writer, Goons of Doom frontman and occasional surf commentator Adam Blakey (Ronnie Blakey is his brother). That piece shook the pro surfing tree.

So, yeah, Fred’ll have a swing.

And on Saturday, he wrote a story that, morsel by morsel, fact by fact, mounts a compelling case for better management of sharks. Fred argues that in the 17 years since the Great White was protected in Australia the number of human casualties have increased dramatically.

Fifteen fatals in Australia since 2010, and 51 bites since 2012 or triple the 50-year average.

“Have great whites — and, for that matter, tigers and bulls, which make up some of the other fatal attackers — reached numbers that may require more diligent management?” Pawle wrote.

Pawle spoke to two leading researches who weren’t exactly thrilled by his angle. One, Barry Bruce of the CSIRO, didn’t reply to his emails. The other, Ryan Kempster, a shark biologist and founder of Support Our Sharks, replied, if cautiously.

Pawle writes: “He (Kempster) said there was ‘no documented evidence that these species (tigers, bulls and whites) are increasing in abundance’. Anecdotally, surfers and fishermen across the country have been reporting that the size and abundance of large sharks are ­noticeably higher than they’ve been, in some places, for 30 years.”

Pawle spoke to the chairman of the Newcastle Westpac Rescue Helicopter service Cliff Marsh who told him that in January there’d be an ‘explosion’ of Great Whites in the area.

“So why don’t researchers have documented evidence of this?” asks Pawle. “I ask Kempster, but he declines to reply. A scan of the SOS website suggests why. The group is predominantly concerned with protecting the shark’s environment from people. ‘Almost all shark experts feel that the danger presented by sharks has been exaggerated,” the website says.

“The CSIRO’s website is even more sympathetic. When Newcastle beaches were closed for 10 days in January, the CSIRO’s website described the media’s ­response as a ‘frenzy’.”

Three weeks later, and just a one hour’s flight north, a Japanese surfer was attacked and killed by a Great White.

Pawle writes: “Has admiration of large sharks gone too far? Yes, they play a role in maintaining ecological ‘balance’ in the ocean. But these days we see them commonly described as beautiful, mysterious and ­majestic. Two arguments are routinely put forward whenever a person is killed or injured by a large shark: first, the victim entered the shark’s territory; second, the statistics of an attack are almost invisibly low compared with, say, a fatal attack by a malaria-bearing mosquito, which kills more than a million people a year. These two responses are more connected than they seem. Large sharks are described as ‘apex predators’, a jargonistic term that means they sit at the top of the food chain.

“This was not ­always true. Until a mere 2.6 million years ago, 20m-long megalodons ate Great Whites for breakfast. Neither is it true today. Since the demise of the megalodon, another species has developed tools that significantly reduce the odds in its favour. These tools are available at most fishing and diving shops.

“…People who wish to manage their own environment — even for recreational purposes such as swimming, surfing and diving — are not automatically on the wrong side. If you oppose culling, that’s fine. Knock yourself out. Go swimming with them if you like. But spare me the faux sympathy next time someone is killed. These deaths are not necessary.”

Julian Wilson and Mick Fanning pose with shark after incident. "Not a scratch on me," says Mick.
Julian Wilson and Mick Fanning pose with shark after incident. "Not a scratch on me," says Mick.

Petition(s): Did the WSL Screw Mick and Julian ?

And should the WSL add shark fighting to the contest criteria?

With yesterday’s shark-fest in the rear view the healthy glow of excitement and admiration has worn off and it’s time to start second guessing.

Can you believe the WSL only gave Mick and Julian 8000 points each toward their title campaign?  After they fought off like a million sharks with their bare hands? What an injustice!

Or so feels the brain trust behind the newest pointless petition up on

Click here.

“WSL has decided that both Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson are to share 2nd place points in the J-Bay open final. Awarding them both 8000 points. That is not how you split points. The points of first and second should be collectively split. 18000 points on offer = 9000 each. Furthermore, Adriano was going to lose the ratings lead irrespective of who won the final. Making this decision within an hour of the incident was the wrong call. World Surf League, this is a shameful outcome considering the dramatic events that took place. Step up and do the right thing and award a fair distribution of points. Sign this petition to have the total points on offer split between both surfers!”

Far be it from me to miss an opportunity to take a shot at pro surfing’s owners, but I’m having a tough time swallowing the petition’s argument.

Despite the weighty math-based reasoning employed I can’t help but suspect that at least a few people started spouting ideas online without taking the time to check the WSL rule book.

(Click here to read)

If they had, they might have found this intriguing bit of information:

142.03 If a prize money round is not completed: (a) Advancing Surfers shall receive points applicable to the last non advancing place in the uncompleted round.

Pretty clear cut, that. The WSL got it right, as per the book.

We can argue all day long about whether it’s a good rule, or a fair one, or whether it should be altered next year, but that wouldn’t change the fact that it’s there, it’s clear, and it’s how the situation should be handled. Sports have rules, and we can’t just run around changing them willy-nilly to fit whatever fleeting emotional response we’re currently enjoying.

Personally, I think it makes perfect sense.

Yes, the prize money gets split evenly. That’s because the WSL promises a certain amount for each event, and the further a competitor advances the larger the share they receive.

But world tour points are not pooled and split, they are determined by how you place. And neither Mick nor Julian took first, they tied for second. Though, if I had to choose who won, I’d give it to Julian. He was the only one to catch a wave and shark fighting has yet to be added to the scoring criteria.

But shark fighting should be added to the judging criteria, which is why I’m asking you all to sign my petition, Add shark fighting to the WSL scoring criteria 

Click here! Sign!

Together we can change the world!

“He’ll hop on the sled and reset…”

Joe Turpel becomes a legend.

Accolades are still pouring in from yesterday’s best day ever in the history of professional surfing. Mick Fanning’s bravery, Julian Wilson’s selflessness, the WSL’s overall handling, the shark’s kindness, etc.

All deservedly. It was an exceptional moment but there is one name I have not heard mentioned. Joltin’ Joe Turpel. I mistakenly credited him with saying, “Holy shit! Excuse me…” but that was Pottz. No, Turpel, sitting behind the microphone after watching Mick Fanning get pulled underwater by a giant dorsal fin reported the facts, cooly and calmly:

“Looks like Fanning needing……Fanning needing some assistance. He’s swimming in to the beach as we sound the horn to stop the final. Fanning still swimming on his own right to the assistance of the jet ski. He’ll hop on the sled and reset…”

And amazing. Turpel totally unfazed by the surreality. Turpel giving the people at home what they needed to know without becoming hysterical or overly-emotional. And also without speculating. At that early point what did anyone know? Nothing at all beyond sheer conjecture.

“He’ll hop on the sled and reset” should enter the English vernacular alongside Edward R. Murrow’s “Good night and good luck.”

Bravo, Joe Turpel. Bravo.

Tech: Print your next surfboard!

With much power comes much responsibility.

A company out of Bondi, Australia wants to change how you get your next surfboard Disrupt. was founded:

…on the simple idea of creating a board with a specific surfer in mind. Not the average Joe, but you. We help you custom make your own surfboard. From the dimensions , to the construct and even the artistic design, we are able to give you expert advice and guidance on the path to creating your dream board. And once you’ve come up with your custom board… That’s when the magic happens. We use 3D printing design technology to make a digital set up of your board and then shape, glass and spray it by precision computer. Once the dream vessel is made, we ship it to your doorstep and you’re out ripping on your new 100% personalised board.

Wow! A surfboard that comes out of a computer printer! It is like we live in Back to the Future II!

Aside from being crazy tech, I don’t know if it is a good surfboard or not. On the company website there is a live chat feature and “Chris” kept asking if he could help me but never responded to my questions so I could not ask if it is a good surfboard. Their tagline is: RIDE THE BOARD YOU DESERVE

Except I don’t want the board I deserve. I want the board that quiet genius Dane Hantz from Vulcan surfboards thinks I don’t deserve but shapes for me anyhow. I have a step-up pintail that is so delicate yet so brave. It was meant for a professional for sure but I ride it and it makes me surf slightly overhead waves with reckless abandon.  You should order one too.

“Dear Julian, Mick and the WSL…I’m sorry!”

Real men cry. And punch sharks. And get 90000000000000 views.

As fucked up as a near miss shark attack is, the truth is that everyone is walking away from this one a smelling like roses.

Pro surfing is world news, the WSL should be able to grab a nice viewer bump for Teahupo’o Giant barrels, razor sharp reef, people could be eaten by sharks! It’s going to sell really well. Some people will surely stick around in the long term.

Mick’s tears during the dry land interview? Pretty cool, very humanizing. And in no way, shape, or form indicative of cowardice. An adrenaline dump like that will leave anyone shaking. His nonchalant reaction in the water was so manly I’m going to go buy something with his name on it.

And Julian came out shining. Sprinting to help rather than running for safety. Brave stuff, real courage.

Funny thing about courage, you don’t really know if you’ve got it until the moment you need it. Sure, if I saw someone being attacked by a shark I like to think I’d hurry to help. That’s easy to say. But, really, running toward danger is an unnatural thing to do. We’re all alive because our ancient ancestors were good at peace-ing the fuck out.

We end up with much of who we are determined by our unthinking reactions rather than our planned responses. In a crisis moment you’ve rarely time to think, to consider consequences. Your lizard brain takes over and you’re stuck nitpicking through the 20/20 lens of hindsight.

But Mick and Julian acted with aplomb. No one squealed in fear (though it does look like Fanning emitted a manly bellow), it was square jawed chisel chested John Wayne shit all the way. And in front of a camera so everyone can see how damn awesome they are.

To the WSL, I’m sorry for saying the J-Bay event is boring. It ended up being anything but. To Mick Fanning, I’m sorry for saying your style is uninspiring. And to Julian Wilson, I am sorry I recently said you look like a transgender Miss Piggy.