To kill or not to kill.

Longtom on the ethics of executing Great White involved in fatal attack on surfer: “We accept our place in the food chain, celebrate it even, but we don’t let the killer escape back into a highly populated surf zone”

If the cops had the kill order and they were so close they could reach out and touch its dorsal fin why was it not carried out? 

Sixty-year-old Rob Pedretti was just doing what is, was, a regular winter ritual for Queensland surfers yesterday: a little cross-border raid to try and pick up a little extra juice on the miles of undistinguished beachbreak that stretches south from the QLD border to Cape Byron.

We all know what happened next.

Poor bastard had his leg ripped off in the jaws off a fired up White. He did not survive the attack.

Soft, wintery day. You get a lot of them around here this time of year.

Warm sun, high cloud drifting in. Clean babyfood with little cats paws of wind ruffle on it. A fit wiry sixty year old would think of nothing but enjoying a little shred.

A hundred miles south I was feeling a little edgy.

Almost a year to the day since a juvey White buzzed me with a little too much intent. Out on the back bank with my boyo and gal.

I don’t like surfing out the back banks, with deep channels between me and the land. Too much opportunity for cruising Whites to get a bead on you. I rarely do it these days but my son wanted a piece of it and helicopter parenting ain’t my bag. If a kid wants a piece of it, my reaction is almost always: sure, go get it.

My boy was lollygagging in the water. “Get back on your board,” I ordered.

He must have sensed something in my voice.

“Why?” he replied. 

I didn’t respond. Just scanned the water. There was bait, birds and dolphins feeding. Nothing unusual there, thats typical. Especially for this time of year.  

A short timeline and context follows, for the record.

Twenty-three days ago, my pal the shark drum line contractor for the smart drum-line array off Ballina/Lennox  was complaining about the endless run of swell.

The surf was pumping but he was agitated; he’d dragged a fat twelve-foot White off the drum-line two days before and he wanted to get back work. The big swell  was preventing him from baiting and checking the gear.

He, like me, believes the drum-lines are keeping surfers safer in the area which has become a White shark attack hotspot. Ain’t too many whites can swim past a 22/0 circle hook with a stingray flap as bait.

They get dragged a mile out to sea and released with a tag inside them. 

So we all knew it was that time of year again.

But we forgot, in the midst of very fine run of late autumn swell. Crowds were high, there was safety in numbers. 

Day before the attack was a dreamy day. Head-high sets rifling down the bank. Moderate crowd. The water was stacked with bait. Slivers of cut glass in the morning sun. A yellowtail kingfish the size of a small pony swam straight past me. Crystal clear water.

There’s no safety in that. We’ve learnt the published guidelines on avoiding White shark attacks are straight up BS. They like clear water, sunshine, small surf. The mistaken identity theory was the first casualty. White sharks, we learnt, are curious to aggressive.

What makes a looker, into a circler, into a bumper then a biter we don’t know.

Neither will Rob Pedretti or his buddies that tried to drag him in after the attack. The attack happened around ten am. Paramedics were there by 10.40. The police cat scrambled from Tweed Heads, went out the bar, turned south, went past Fingal headland, then Kingscliff creek and the rocky reefy corner of the coast before it got to the open stretch of beach in front of a series of resorts and a new suburb called Casuarina.

That took just under an hour.

Rob was already gone by then.

Under a blue sheet on the beach, soul hopefully transporting to a more peaceful place.

The cops on the cat found a lifesaver on a ski engaged in a game of cat and mouse with a highly agitated predator. The shark had no intention of leaving the scene of the attack. Article 37 of the Fisheries Act was invoked which enabled the police to execute a kill order on the shark. 

The footage of the incident makes this kill order seem confounding. At one stage in the vision a cop on the bow of the vessel is leaning over, almost close enough to the shark to stroke its dorsal fin. He has what appears to be a camera in hand. 

I rang Inspector Kehoe from Byron-Ballina Area Command and asked him what the hell happened. If you had the kill order and you were so close why was it not carried out? 

“It wasn’t safe to do so,” he assured me.

The shark was too deep to safely put away with a firearm, which is the method used.

I didn’t ask him the deeper moral question of should it have?

In this instance, I think yes.

A defining characteristic of living things, from amoeba to blue whales, is the defence of itself from predation. To abnegate that fundamental natural law is to cloak existence in a sickly coat of misguided anthromorphism. We accept our place in the food chain, celebrate it even, but we don’t let the killer escape back into a highly populated surf zone.

It put the guy away, attacked his mates as they tried to rescue him total nightmare scenario, then hung around for four hours afterwards. 

A defining characteristic of living things, from amoeba to blue whales, is the defence of itself from predation. To abnegate that fundamental natural law is to cloak existence in a sickly coat of misguided anthromorphism. We accept our place in the food chain, celebrate it even, but we don’t let the killer escape back into a highly populated surf zone. At the least, not without a tag and a free trip out of the area.

Can anything be done now?

My pal George Greenough has had many encounters with Whites and written about them in detail.

Awareness is his primary tool. You got to turn on the primitive senses, the old lizard brain, that kept us safe on the savannah. If you feel something, check it out. Investigate movement.

It’s amazing how close that big animal can get to you without you knowing about it.

But if you can, if you can get your legs out of the road, even a micro-seconds notice can save your life.

As for his pals who dragged him across the gutter, whilst a ramped up White rammed them and circled them. That’s so gnarly. So, so heavy.

People say they hate their fellow surfers. I love my fellow sistren and brethren surfers and I love them even more when I think of what these guys did for their pal.

I hope they’re OK.

If you know them, keep an eye out.

They won’t be sleeping well for a long time.

Listen: Kelly Slater talks psychedelic drugs and lists his famous pals on podcast with controversial Aussie chef Pete Evans: “I’m good friends with Lewis Hamilton…he says surfing is the greatest sport in the world and if he could he’d quit everything, including Formula one, to be a surfer he would!”

A fascinating journey into worlds hitherto unknown…

If you’ve got an hour up your sleeve, there’s worse places to park your time than this swinging little convo ‘tween Peter Evans, the Australian chef turned spruiker of alternative therapies like a $15,000 light machine he says can treat “Wuhan coronavirus”, and Kelly Slater, the eleven-time surfing champ and noted enemy of the flat-earther community.

Pete, who is a surprisingly good surfer given his genesis in Melbourne and middle life lived in Bondi’s dirty closeouts, talks to Kelly about myriad topics including ageing, fear and the therapeutic benefits of hallucinogenic plant-based drugs, something close to Kelly’s heart.

Two-and-a-half years ago, the universe was revealed to Kelly at the Rythmia resort in Costa Rica, “an all-inclusive luxury resort” where “93.26% of our guests report a life-changing miracle during their stay.

Among the usual eco-resort activities, yoga, massage, hose-in-the-ass-enemas (hydrocolonic cleanses), Rythmia offers ceremonies with the psychoactive brew Ayahuasca.

“I got a miracle of information,” reported Kelly. “It opened up some sort of doorway in my future. It was otherworldly.”

In the convo with Pete, Kelly says he knows a girl who was suicidal her whole life until she “did a few sessions with plant medicines and was basically healed from it.”

It gets good when Kelly lists his famous pals, which include Jonah Hill (“I got a message from Jonah Hill and he told me he’d started surfing and that it changed this life”) and Lewis Hamilton (“I’ve become quite good friends with Lewis Hamilton and Lewis is in Bali right now surfing with Rizal. He says surfing is the greatest sport in the world and if could quit everything he does, including Formula One, and be a surfer he would do that!”)


Get listening. 



A terrible scene. | Photo: 7News

The new reality: If you live around Byron Bay, Margaret River, Santa Cruz and other Great White shark attack hotspots, carry a tourniquet and know how to use it: “It’s the new CPR”

Carry a tourniquet, learn how to use it, maybe save a life.

When Gold Coast surfer Robin Pedretti was hit and killed by a Great White yesterday, even after his buddies belted the shark and got him to the beach conscious, it brought into relief the new reality that if you wanna surf certain joints, carry a tourniquet.

Last night I spoke to Jon Cohen, an ER doctor who repurposes military tourniquets for use in the surf and who has made it his mission to use his expertise the solve the problem of preventable shark attack deaths.

He knows that most Great White hits are a bite-and-release taste test so once the shark leaves, if you’re quick a life can be saved.

Cohen, a Canadian who learned to surf in Hawaii, works around Australia in various emergency departments, including Esperance, a sudden hotspot in Great White attack fatalities.

He says he hasn’t analysed yesterday’s attack, so he’s speaking generally, but if you can get a tourniquet above the wound site, your buddy has a good chance of living.

There’s an exception here.

If the shark takes off an entire leg or arm and there’s no stump, well, even a combat medic can’t stop the bleeding.

But if there’s a stump, there’s a chance, a good chance.

If you act fast.

You carrying a tourniquet in your wetsuit? Or on the beach?

Before anything, before calling anyone, get it on, tight, a couple of inches above the joint.

That’s it.

No tourniquet or it’s in the car?

Get a towel. Apply as much pressure as you can where the blood is coming out. All that matters is stopping the blood.

A catastrophic attack and your buddy is going to lose consciousness in three minutes; after five minutes the outcomes are poor, says Cohen.

“Once someone goes into hypovolemic shock a cascade of bad things happen in your body. It decreases your chance of survival,” says Cohen. “In all of the tactical combat critical care, in military areas, wherever there’s mass casualties, big shootings, bombs, massive car crashes, the only thing that’s indicated to do before anything else is to get on the tourniquet.”

Right now, Cohen is working with an ocean safety group in Esperance, a pretty Western Australian town that’s been hit by three Great White attacks in the last six years. Two dead, including a teenage girl, and a man left without an arm and hand. (See Gary Johnson, killed Jan, 2020, teen surfer Laeticia Brouwer in 2017, and Sean Pollard, 2014.)

At a recent seminar teaching Shark Bite Management in Esperance, eighty people turned up.

People carry custom kits in their cars with a sticker on the back that says “Tourniquet Trained”.

I ask Cohen, if being trained in the use of tourniquets is the new CPR.

“There’s still going to be a lot more people during of heart attacks, and that’s true in the surf,” he says, “But if you’re surfing with your family, your kids, some group of buddies, getting the crew together to make sure they know what to do, giving it thought, having a strategy of what to do is part of your risk assessment when surfing sharky spots.”

Click here to check out Cohen’s range of tourniquets, including one built-into a leash for sixty Australian dollars. 

A pretty confronting scene. Bodybag blurred out on beach. Photo: CH7news | Photo: @ch7news

Surfer killed by suspected twelve-to-fifteen-foot Great White shark near Byron Bay; other surfers fought off shark; all nearby beaches closed.

Outrageous acts of bravery fail to save surfer hit by shark…

A sixty-year-old Queensland surfer has died after being attacked by a ten-foot shark at Salt Beach, in front of popular holiday resorts Peppers Salt Resort and Spa and Mantra on Salt, and forty miles north of shark-attack hotspot Byron Bay.

NSW police confirmed the death after it was reported a 10-foot shark had hit the surfer on the leg.

Great Whites and a Bull shark had recently been spotted in the area.

The surfer died on the beach at 10:40am.

Witnesses report two other surfers fought off the shark before dragging the injured man to the beach where paramedics fought, unsuccessfully, to save his life.

A shark filmed in the area via news chopper. Photo: 9News

“Those two males had to fight off the shark and we’ll certainly be recognising their actions at a later stage for their heroic nature,” said Tweed-Byron police inspector Matt Kehoe. “It was a catastrophic injury and was deceased when he was brought to shore, despite the efforts of those two gentlemen. They did everything they could to save him.

Jetski swings by Great White near site of fatal attack. Photo: 7News

All beaches between Kingscliff and Cabarita have been cleared of swimmers and surfers and will remain closed for 24 hours.

Given shark attacks on surfers are the new normal, it makes a helluva lot of sense, particularly in areas where hits have become common, Byron Bay, WA, Santa Cruz, South Africa, to carry purpose-built tourniquets.

As reported six months ago, a shark attack, even by a monster White, doesn’t necessarily mean a death sentence.

Once you’ve stopped the blood flow using a tourniquet you’ve got four hours before the leg, or arm, is choked off and dies. It means if you’re at a remote beach with no phone redemption, you can tourniquet the wound and take off for an ambulance or chopper without your buddy dying.

Surf Doc Jon Cohen runs classes on how to treat shark attack wounds and sells repurposed military tourniquets on his site for thirty bucks apiece or sixty if you want a version built into a legrope.

“All it takes is one person to squeeze the leg in the right spot,” says Cohen. “You only die from bleeding to death. Stop the bleeding, you stop the death. It’s the same as what soldiers in Iraq do. Their buddy gets shot in the leg, they put a tourniquet above the bleeding point, and they live.”

It ain’t complicated.

“You just have to step up and act,” he says.

South African police refuse to enforce country’s “ham-fisted, schizophrenic” no surfing laws; help surfers zip up their wetsuits!

"It was a wondrous sight."

The police sure are taking one on the chin right now what with protests roiling New York, Los Angeles, Sydney, Paris. Rage. Pure rage boiling over from years, decades, of largely unchecked, brutal behavior. Systemic abuse of vulnerable minority communities, complete lack of accountability, a heretofore impenetrable blue wall of silence.

But change, maybe, real change floats on the fresh summer/autumn breeze with talk of defunding forces getting real traction and/or police being punished, actually punished, for acting inhumanely.

And in South Africa, police acting beautifully all by themselves. Oh, let us hurry to the Cape of Good Hope where “hundreds, if not thousands, of South African surfers went surfing in the bright blue on Monday, 1 June 2020, it remained wrapped in a grey area, a ham-fisted land of schizophrenic interpretation and mind-numbingly incongruous application of Level 3 laws.”

The floodgates opened as more and more surfers paddled out in clean 2-4 lines with perfect light offshore and deep blue skies. You sensed that the police were increasingly reluctant to clash with people brimming with joy. I overhead one jovial law enforcement officer amicably tell a small clump of onlookers that access to the beaches was not allowed, but surfing was. “You do what you have to do. I have to do what I am told.”

A surfer walked up to him and asked the cop to zip up his wetsuit. He obliged without hesitation, then politely watched the surfer walk across the forbidden sands to paddle out. It was a wondrous sight. I felt like going up to him and giving him a hug. Oh wait. Covid-19. What a screwed up world this pandemic has brought.

Wondrous indeed.

Change, maybe real change.