J-Bay local says: “The best crowd repellant ever!”

Last year's J-Bay wildcard Dylan Lightfoot on the effectiveness of the Great White deterrent… 

I’ve never, ever, wanted to wet a rail at J-Bay, in a country where Great Whites have been protected since 1991.

Sharks? Who needs ’em?

I’ve also struck the south-west corner of Australia and anywhere from Ballina to Byron Bay off my list of places to surf. Visit, sure. I like to surf but I also like to breathe air and walk on two lil legs.

But, on that final day of the J-Bay Open, with fast runners hitting the reef just so, backing off enough to strike a lip or get theatrical with an open-face cutdown, I started thinking, maybe the shark thing ain’t so bad there. I could always crawl onto the rocks if I saw a fin too close.

And, then, Mick.

And it reminded me of the fatal attack there in 2013 when 74-year-old swimmer Burgert Van De Westhuizen, who’d swum the same lineup, same route for the previous 20 years, was hit by a White so big it looked it was two of ’em and dragged out into deep water. A local surfer was in a sea kayak and belted the shark over and over with his paddle but it wouldn’t release the body.

And it reminded me of the time the local surfer, Warren Dean, who used to beat Andy Irons at J-Bay every year, was bumped by a Great White in the same way as Mick (but no cameras).

And when Taj Burrow was terrorised by a metre-high fin during the event there in 2003.

And I wondered, how does it affect a surfer, a very good surfer, someone who’s made surfing their job, who actually lives in Jeffreys Bay? Do they just hang up the spurs?

I called last year’s J-Bay Open wildcard and WSQ surfer, Dylan Lightfoot, for his angle.

BeachGrit: Where were you when the shark hit Mick? 

Dylan: I’d got on a flight the day before the final and I saw it for the first time the next day. It was wild. But, to be honest, the shark didn’t show any intent to bite him. It just came to check him out, got caught in his leash, and took off. If it was going to bite him, it would’ve just taken him.

BeachGrit: How does it affect you, as a local there? 

Dylan: There’s sharks there all the time. I couldn’t be bothered.

BeachGrit: What are your experiences with sharks there? 

Dylan: I’ve seen a shark cruise the Supers lineup, not even five metres away from me, just cruising, taking it easy. What was scary was when the swimmer was taken and properly eaten two years ago and the shark wouldn’t let go of the corpse. Ya. That was scary. They’re out there and you have to be on the lookout, for sure.

BeachGrit: Y’still going to hit the lineup for earlies?

Dylan: I don’t think it will. Both shark incidents we’ve had in Jefreys Bay have both been around lunch time or towards the evening. I feel those late evening surfs are the most sketchy for sharks.

BeachGrit: And, therefore, no more lates?

Dylan: Definitely. Especially if something does happen and it’s getting dark and no one will be able to help you out.

BeachGrit: What’s the mood like among your pals and the rest of the locals? 

Dylan: A lot of people were very shaken up. My Dad is neurotic about sharks so for him to see that he was pretty disturbed. I still don’t think it’ll stop us from surfing at Supers. My mates and I joke that it was the best way to deter crowds from coming to J-Bay.

BeachGrit: When I interviewed you last year, you spoke about the White cruising the lineup a couple of months before the event and how everyone at Supers climbed up onto the rocks. And you got circled in Durban, too. What happened in that instance?

Dylan: Ha ha ha! Yeah! That was the last time I saw a shark out there. I’ve been circled up the west coast, about two hours past Cape Town. I was surfing a beachie with my mate and my brother, water was not deeper than head height, it was murky and it was a dark cloudy day. This was also in the evening. My mate had just caught a wave and my brother was hanging on the inside so I was out the back alone. And this shark, not big, about two metres, came from the right, shooting past me and it turned around and came from the opposite side and started to circle me in a fast and aggressive way. Luckily, a wave popped up and I caught it in.

BeachGrit: How do you deal with the real possibility of getting hit one day?

Dylan: I don’t think about it. You have to be vigilant and hope that nothing happens. But, I suppose, if you had to be bitten, at least you were doing something that you loved. So it’s worth the risk in the end.

#tournotes: The one you want!

Peter King talks about "the day."

The entire world is trying to get the story we’ve known Peter King’s had the whole time! This edition of #tournotes is going to be the series’ most viewed, and fuck, if it ain’t a little gem.

“I said shit online,” says Pottz. “Because it was legit. It was, like, a five-foot fin, dude. That thing was huge.”

But more than Pottz and others’ words, Mick’s silence – that’s the whole fucking story right there.



Shark seen in water hours before attack!

"I got an email from a friend tonight who said he clearly saw a shark figure during quarter-finals..." says Kelly Slater.

The days after an extraordinary event are the most wonderful, no? The adrenalized buzz has worn off, a touch, and conspiracists and the delusional and normal folk too are allowed to sift through the pieces, filling out a larger narrative.

Many have already suggested the shark was a WSL plant. CEO Paul Speaker had promised surfing would be bigger than the National Football League and for one glorious day it was! But just think of the work involved having a man in a shark suit down there for some hours and popping up and grabbing Mick and everyone playing along….It is why I never believe conspiracy theories. Too many moving parts! Too much work!

The Sydney Morning Herald has something a little less crazy and a lot more insidious though.

Kelly Slater says his friend “clearly” saw a shark in the water four hours before Mick Fanning was attacked, as footage emerges of what appears to be a shark metres from where the Australian was surfing earlier in the championship event in South Africa overnight. 

During Fanning’s heat at the J-Bay Open, television cameras were able to pick up a dark shadow and what could be the dorsal fin of a shark a little further out from where Fanning was paddling four hours before he punched a three-metre shark.

Oooo-ee! Danger danger! CEO Paul Speaker himself said, according to the paper, that sharks had been seen in the area days earlier. Should the WSL have called the heat off or, at least, postponed? I think no because then we would not have had the extraordinary day in the first place but what do you think?

Read the whole story here!

“The boogie is one of the greatest inventions ever!”

Tom Curren is a progressive.

I’d heard rumors of Tom Curren surfing fully clothed in Mexico, standing up on a boogie board, generally getting weird. It sounded glorious—the star most any style-minded surfer steers by, soggy in plainclothes, a platypus bill, getting slotted in some right hand Mexican sand bank barrels on a boogie board!

Curren’s always been a fairly aimless experimenter. Remember that section of 5’5” 19 1/4” where he and Greenough shape that odd hatchet-finned thruster? I used to love that part—Curren rocking an awful Mohawk, pushing that duck-billed shortboard through sloppy Aussie windswell, making it look so fucking easy.

Well, Curren got stuck on a boat in the Maldives recently, on board the decadent Guruhali, where LUEX charters cornered him and got him to open up on what’s been tickling his feathers as of late:

On where his head’s at: Well right now I’m really excited about the whole finless movement. It’s really exciting! I think there’s a lot going on there, and I think there’s going to be a lot of progression in the board designs. A lot of people are really enjoying riding finless boards, you know, it’s not the same: they won’t out-perform regular boards, I guess, for now, but maybe some day it’ll be a kinda shift in board design.

On boredom: I think the key there for me is that either you try a different board or something that you’re not usually used to, or body surfing or something, and just to be in the water is enough. It doesn’t have to be… The surf doesn’t have to be incredible to enjoy it.

On boogie boards: “The boogie board is, I think, one of the greatest inventions ever… its just an amazing piece of equipment: so small, so simple right, and it has the flex, and you know it just works amazing and people are doing great things with the boogie board.”

On Skimboards: I was surfing with Brad Domke in Mexico, and just kinda watching what he’s doing, trying to figure out how he does it, because he’s really surfing the wave with the board like a surfboard. The key is the edge is really hard, so it stays in the wave face and you don’t need fins as much with that really hard edge; it holds in so the fun thing about it is you can go really fast, but the hard part is that, y’know its obviously very hard to paddle. I use a soft board to catch the waves and stuff, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s hard too, so I like the challenge I guess.

On boat trips: Where I live is actually really good for boat trips, you know. Santa Barbara is kinda ideal to have a boat, ‘cos especially in the summer there’s a lot of waves on the islands, but the islands are in front of the town and so I haven’t had a chance to do much of going out on a boat trip at home.

On family life: Had a really good trip to the Ivory Coast with my daughter – one of the best trips I’ve been on. We had a great time. Surfing and travelling is obviously really extra special when you can do it with your family…. we all love the same thing: we all love music and surfing.

Our pals over at The Surfer’s Village have the full interview, here.

Save Your Breath from Matt Pagan on Vimeo.

I went down to mainland Mexico a couple months back and spent a few days down there filming with my brother, Mike. We saw some swell on the forecast, called up Las Palmeras and jumped on a plane.
We got some super fun waves and even saw Tom Curren down there covered head to toe in clothes (to avoid getting burnt) riding a boogie board. He was ripping to say the least…


Save the Whales!

Cinematography: Mike Pagan (@mike_pagan)
Creative Influence: Kevin Jansen (@robotsfrom)
Edit: Matt Pagan

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.”