Pretty off-the-highway town on Australia's east coast clapping to the rhythm of bellicose sharks…
What’s it feel like to be sitting in an early evening lineup, alone, pretty three-foot waves, and you get hit from below in a classic Great White ambush attack?
Chris Little, forty, from Bondi in Sydney, was on the last day of a vacay at a pretty little off-the-highway joint on Australia’s east coast near Forster, an area filled with photogenic waves that dominated surf mags worldwide for a decade.
It’s spring. Longer days, warmer nights.
It also means an increase in Great White fever as migrating whales swing on home from mating season in the tropical north. Locals know to keep a wide berth at sunrise and sunset, maybe even avoid high tide when the Whites swim close to the rocks.
Let’s place the scene. It’s six-fifteen pm, south Boomerang Beach, right there in the corner. It’s daylight saving so it’s still an hour-and-a-half before dark. One guy sitting by himself.
As Chris paddles out he passes the guy riding a wave in. The guy waves, smiles.
A set, bigger than anything that’s comes through all day, appears.
“I’ve nailed it,” thinks Chris.
Then, as he paddles out to pick off his choice of waves, Chris feels a sharp tug on his legrope. Thinks the clown he saw on the way out has paddled back to the lineup and is making a funny prank.
“I quickly realised it wasn’t him,” says Chris. “I felt like I was hooked up to a ski boat. I immediately realised it was legit.”
He keeps saying to himself, “I know, I know, I know.”
The last time Chris did that, a realisation that his world was about to come to an end, was when he was a grommet in his car with his girl and he hit some water and flew off an embankment on the Bruce Highway, near Brisbane. He grabbed her hand and said,
“I know, I know, I know.”
In the water, Chris feels as if it’s a reverse wipeout. His legrope gets pulled so hard the board disappears underneath him.
Then he gets pulled under.
He tries to peel off his ankle strap. Can’t reach.
“I’m getting manhandled, dragged,” says Chris.”It was power on tap, like getting in a good car. I have a thirty-two litre board (six-two DHD DX1) and I’m almost ninety kilos.”
The leash stretches until he feels it break. The board flies fifteen feet in the hair. Later, he’ll discover it’s covered in micro-cracks, these weird little breaks in the glass.,
“It was like a fucking missile from a submarine and I was left fucking sitting in the brine like a tea bag. And, I thought, this thing is going to double back and fuck me up.”
“I obviously freaked it out. So I swam like Ian Thorpe, like Alexander Popov, the fastest man in the water, jumped on my board, bellied it to the beach and threw my board on the sand.
The girlfriend of the guy who’d waved to him on the way in says she saw the hit.
Tells him: “I was wondering why there was some learner out the back flailing by themselves.”
The guy sees him and and asks what happened.
“I just had a run-in with god-knows-what out there, it bit through my legrope and dragged me underwater.”
“I came in ‘cause it felt suss out there,” he says.
Chris laughs. “You gave me a smile on the way in! You fully gave me a wave.”
In the carpark, as Chris tells his wife what happened, the guy drives past and throws him a can of VB.
A local strolls by and says, “Heard you had an incident out there.”
He adds a pal of his was knocked off his board at the north on the previous Friday.
Three weeks before that, a surfer was belted by a ten-foot Great White, knocked off his board and so on, at Lighthouse Beach, near Seal Rocks, a few clicks south.
“The sheer power of the thing, it felt like I was getting hit by a bus,” Mike Bruton told a local tabloid.
Chris says the hit has ’t rattled him, per se, but he’s had a few dreams, one where he’s at a beach that’s a mix between Noosa and Bryon, and the same thing happens. In the dream it’s the same feeling, the same sensation.
He keeps the legroom in his bathroom, which he examines whoever’s he’s on the shitter.
A reminder of his mortality?
“It’s my only justification, the only proof,” he says. “Friends ask me, Who saw it? No one. Any mates? No. But I’ve got a legrope.”