If you can't ride on a Great White's back, what useful purpose does it serve humanity?

Australia’s Great White Crisis and the case for selective culling of aggressive sharks: “It is an abomination to value nature at the expense of humanity”

"Most reasonable people would agree that the only way to significantly reduce the rate of shark attacks is by killing the most dangerous sharks."

There is talk of a promising new solution to Australia’s Great White crisis.

Using technology developed for commercial fishing, standard drum lines would target the most aggressive sharks, by surrounding the bait with an electric field that deters less aggressive sharks.

Each species of ‘dangerous’ shark includes many individuals that are probably not all that dangerous. This might explain the occasional video of a placid ‘man-eater’ swimming perilously close to surfers.

It might also explain the statistical insignificance of shark attacks compared to other public health risks. After all, the number of sharks biting people cannot exceed the number of shark attack victims.

Clearly, most ‘man-eaters’ are not interested in attacking people.

So, the problem is not the species of shark, but the few aberrant individuals that give the species a bad name.

French shark scientist, Eric Clua suggests that; “Selective removal of problem individuals following shark bite incidents would be consistent with current management practices for terrestrial predators, and would be more effective and more environmentally responsible than current mass-culling programs.”

But, why not get rid of the problem individuals before they attack?

Besides, the complete removal of dangerous individuals would have the glorious effect of altering the gene pool and thus taming the species forever. Then, all the shark nets could be removed, to allow whales, dolphins and sea turtles to travel freely, without getting tangled in a net and drowning.

Some environmentalists will abhor the new method of preventing shark attacks, because they impulsively dismiss any attempt to control nature. But, they will disguise their hatred of humanity, with a plausible explanation for how the ecosystem depends on these few ‘alpha-predators’ to stabilise the ecosystem; like claiming that the occasional shark attack is a small price to pay for controlling the population of the Humboldt squid, a potentially more terrifying creature.

One way or another, humans will be sacrificed for nothing but the symbolic value of giving nature free rein. Our predicament is a potent element of their belief system.

In the meantime, we need to address the problem of shark attacks.

Luckily, there is a solution, and it is a surprisingly simple one. The problem is that politics nowadays is governed by emotional outbursts. As a result, we suffer from an overly emotional attachment to nature. This seems appropriate to the Western mind nurtured on a religious diet of environmentalism.

But, compassion is, first and foremost, an emotion felt for people. It is an abomination to value nature at the expense of humanity.

It can be frustrating when people nonchalantly disregard the horror, with flippant remarks that essentially blame victims for being attacked.

But, it is hardly worth worrying about.

People generally don’t think things through. It is the easy answer to a contentious issue. What is worrying, is when people in positions of authority, who are paid to serve the public on this very issue, fail to appreciate the gravity of the situation.

New South Wales’ Department of Primary Industries (DPI) refuses to accept the many flaws in their approach, having just received eight-million dollars to continue a program that offers next to no benefit to the surfing community.

They claim, for example, that tagging sharks helps to reduce the risk of attack, because sharks tend to avoid the coast for many weeks after the traumatic experience of being tagged.

On the face of it, this seems like a reasonable assumption, until you realise how unlikely it would have been for any of these sharks to have attacked someone, had they not been diverted out to sea. The temporary removal of an occasional shark is hardly worth mentioning.

I am not against tagging for sake of research.

Ultimately, I think the program could help to reduce the rate of shark attacks.

But, we would need many more listening stations, maybe ten times as many. However, the purpose of the listening stations should not be to inform the public every time a shark has been detected. The odd shark swimming within range of a listening station just isn’t noteworthy.

What the public needs to know is if the rate of shark detections has increased to a level that indicates a possible trend and thus greater risk of shark attack.

Dr Moltschaniwskyj explained that the rationale is moreso to remind the public that sharks are part of the ocean. So, we agree that the actual presence of the shark does not represent an imminent threat to be avoided.

Even in the Lennox to Ballina stretch, where we have the highest concentration of listening stations, these random detections would be a small fraction of the number of sharks in similar proximity to surfers at any time. My guess is that most surfers don’t bother with the service, since most of the sharks passing through the area go undetected.

If that is true, then the alerts only serve to torment people who rarely enter the water anyway, including mothers who worry about their kids every time a shark detection gets circulated on the net.

The new drone technology is impressive. But, it will only ever be deployed at a small fraction of surf spots, and for a small fraction of the time people surf. So, I do not believe that drones will reduce the rate of shark attacks.

Our most recent fatality, fifteen-year-old Mani Hart-Deville, was surfing at a remote location that is probably too remote to justify the funding of drone surveillance. There is also the problem of murky water affecting visibility.

But, on those classic crystal clear days, it is probably appreciated by parents taking their kids to the beach.

I suggested to Dr Moltschaniwskyj that the DPI might consider surveying the surfing community to find out how many people were actually using the service that notifies users whenever a shark has been detected.

I thought I was talking their language. But, there was no response.

I don’t blame her; because, in some sense, not replying speaks volumes. I probably wouldn’t reply either, if my livelihood depended on toeing the line.

Who knows what people really think these days. We are all hemmed in, one way or another. I have copped a lot of flak for speaking up. So, I generally avoid the topic. But, it is very concerning that two reasonable people are unable to communicate freely about such a significant public concern.

Apart from drawing attention to possible limitations in their approach, I also suggested that they focus on developing a model that predicts the risk of encountering a shark. It is not good enough to randomly remind surfers that sharks are a potential menace. All this does is transfer responsibility to the eventual victims: “I told you there were sharks out there!”

Besides, surfable conditions are rare. The surfing lifestyle requires taking advantage of every opportunity. So, the perceived risk only becomes relevant for a few sorry weeks after an attack.

One attack makes you wary.

Two attacks make you nervous.

It’s not very sophisticated.

A scientifically informed model would assess the risk, based on environmental factors, like ocean temperature, rainfall, proximity to river mouths, whale migration, time of day, and trends in tagged shark movements. Shark scientists have alluded to the potential for such a formula.

Ideally, all known risk factors would be condensed into a simple format that could be read at a glance: i.e. Low, Medium, High, etc. Although costly, physical signage would be more effective than an app, despite the apparent convenience of smartphones. You can’t expect everyone to be fastidious in their monitoring of the shark situation.

I think most reasonable people would agree that the only way to significantly reduce the rate of shark attacks is by killing the most dangerous sharks. Theoretically, this could be achieved with almost clinical precision using an extensive array of electrified drum lines targeting only the most aggressive individuals.

Policy makers can fret over how many sharks the electorate will tolerate being dispatched each year. But, at least they can report with some confidence that the screening process is stringent: sensitive sharks will be turned away.

Eventually, these desperately sad tragedies could become a distant memory.

To be honest, I have no evidence of this technology being taken seriously. For all I know, DPI has scoffed at the suggestion.

It is loosely based on technology designed to protect baited hooks from sharks. So, it might not be patentable.

But, I have applied for a patent, just in case.

The opportunity is lost, once it goes public.

After submitting the application, I wrote to the Minister responsible for DPI’s operations, asking that he present it to DPI on my behalf.

But, I am afraid he is also having difficulty penetrating DPI’s fortress mentality.

(In 2016, Dan Webber watched as surfer Cooper Allan got what is described on the north coast as a “Ballina hickey” from a Great White. “I was standing in waist deep water, about five metres away, when I saw a shark in the face of a wave between me and three guys sitting further out,” said Dan. “A few seconds later, I heard a shout, followed by the nose of a board sailing through the air.” He is the author of When Great Whites Take Over Your Beach and Sobering: The (Real) Odds of a Shark Attack.)


Breaking: World’s happiest thief caught trying to reprise Jack Johnson concert by stealing surfboards, guitars, flip flop sandals from local shop!

It's anti-depressive!

You are certainly aware of those “Good News” websites or social media feeds, no? The ones that leave Covid-19, unrest, impending economic doom off the menu and only serve piping hot stories of interracial children hugging and Scandinavian politicians saying things delightful.

A welcome respite, oases in troubled times, and something anti-depressive we should reprise?

It would be anti-anti-depressive not to and so let us post haste to my home state of Oregon where the world’s happiest thief was caught, red-handed, trying to reprise a Jack Johnson concert by stealing many of Jack’s favorite things.

As a quick aside, I am trying to not cut and paste anymore, trying to take the “craft” of “surf journalism” seriously, but last night was a rough one as I got caught on the balcony of a very fancy Beverly Hills hotel, the Waldorf-Astoria if you must know, sipping rosé with wife in matching bathrobes while protestors for school equality, I think, marched in the street below. They pointed fingers our way and said, “If you cared you’d join us.” One in their group pointed a camera at us too and snapped pictures. I’d imagine if you dig deep enough you’ll be able to find. I was also wearing rose-colored sunglasses, as it were.

I did care-ish but poured another glass of rosé instead as it was an exceedingly rare night alone.

So forgive this one more indulgence from my hometown Coos Bay newspaper The World if you’d be so kind?

On Wednesday, July 22, at about 11:25 p.m., Lincoln City Police officers responded to a reported suspicious person call in the southwest 3800 block of U.S. Highway 101 in Lincoln City.

It was reported that a man was walking along Highway 101 while carrying several surf boards, according to a press release from Sgt. Jeffrey Winn of the Lincoln City Police Department. Officers located the man and identified him as 29-year-old Christian M. Berry of California and Hawaii, carrying several surf boards. When asked, Berry said he found the surf boards.

During the subsequent investigation, officers saw that the surfboards still had price stickers on them and that he was wearing two hats on his head. In addition, Berry had a wetsuit tied around his waist that still had tags on it. Berry was also found to be in possession of an acoustic guitar, wax, board fins and other items, many price-tag marked and surf-related.

The officers discovered a local shop had, in fact, been robbed and arrested the man but did he care?

Examine his mugshot above. A very similar face to the one I accidentally made toward the protestors.

Delightful!


Gaz, bringing life to Nazaré. | Photo: @garrettmcnamara

The true story of the Hawaiian big-wave surfer abandoned by his mom in Guatemala and almost adopted by peasant farmer before being taken into a Christian cult: “It was the worst humiliation of my life!”

And how this noted big-waver came to save a Portuguese fishing village…

It is rare when the civilian world jumps into the surf pool and makes a ripple that we don’t snicker at.

Surf, like combat and birthing a child, can only be understood when sleeves are rolled up and fingers are buried into the rind.

It has to be lived through years of torture punctuated by minor successes to be understood.

But then, and rarely, there’s a story that reveals a surfer, a wave, or both, like never before.

This Smithsonian article from 2018 (the mag was gifted by a retired uncle whose new hobby was permanently borrowing ‘free’ magazines from old barber shops and dentist offices), brings light to the darker corners of the Garrett McNamara and Nazaré square.

Garrett, who is fifty-two, is often overlooked by surf media. Could be the Mercedes drip or the Anderson Cooper jet ski drive-by.

But this article endears him to the reader.

Highlights include Garrett’s upbringing with his mother who was searching for answers in communes and cults. Mammy took Garrett to Central America where her then-partner Luis kicked her in the head till she was bloody and unconscious with five-year-old Garrett as a witness.

Another details Garrett being left with a peasant farmer in Guatemala who adopted him for some time.

It describes their time in California when Garrett’s mammy, now following the Christ Family christian cult which was led by a man who called himself ‘Jesus Christ Lightning Amen,’ took all their possessions, put them in a pile and lit them on fire.

They were left with bedsheets that became their robes with rope for a belt.

Garrett describes the incident as “one of the worst humiliations of my life.”

He tried to hide in an alley but school friends saw him.

The dark history of Nazaré (named after the place of Jesus’ birth, Nazareth) will similarly excite.

It tells how the town withered into near-extinction after once being a prosperous fishing village.

Fishermen who set out never returned.

Disappeared.

Thrown into the cliffs by giant waves while trying to bring their catches to land.

It also tells how the widows of the lost fisherman now line the streets, quiet and sullen, in black dresses.

And, how Dino Casimiro, a local who knew the town was in despair, sent an email to Garrett to explore the wave in hopes that it would bring tourism and life back to the sequestered village.

Get a piece of the Smithsonian story here. 


Watch: Aggressive shark crosses “thin blue line” in Kelly Slater’s hometown; attempts to eat young child and police officer!

Dramatic.

The relationship between law enforcement officers and citizens in these United States of America has reached a true nadir. Much distrust and hard feelings etc. with the divisions being stoked from on high.

Well, at least we have Kelly Slater’s hometown of Cocoa Beach, Florida where, over the weekend, a shark sensing vulnerabilities in the system attempted to eat a young boy directly in front of a policeman.

As you can see in the dramatic video, the policeman does not pause, but rather jumps immediately into action and saves the day. Also, no crowd gathers and begins chanting obscenities about brutality etc.

A sea-change where we can all, once again, be wonderful friends like in the Andy Griffith days?

Possibly.

But what does Kelly Slater think? As I am not allowed into his mind’s eye (Instagram feed) anymore I don’t know where he falls on federal officers being dispatched to U.S. cities in order to arrest people standing around statues.

Is he mad about that or still occupied with the amount of sugar in Snapple?

Thanks.


Lil Dean Morrison wins Snapper; Mick Fanning hoists upon shoulder etc. | Photo: @thewaveofalifetime

Essential service: Coolangatta Kid and Snapper Pro winner Dean Morrison will tow you into the wave of your life for five-hundred bucks!

Includes private filmer and après-surf tutorial…

If there’s a better way to spend five hundred Australian dollars I ain’t heard of it.

Dean Morrison, who is thirty-nine, is a former world number nine, Pipe Master runner-up and winner of the Quiksilver Pro in 2003.

In 1998, aged seventeen, he won the Queensland Title, the Australian Title and World Games in the one year.

A legend in the game, the pivotal figure in the Parkinson/Fanning/Morrison triumvirate although its least successful competitively, mainly cause he wasn’t into raking his teeth across the erected cherry nipples of ASP judges.

Now, punters, you and me, can get access Dean’s skills, his jetski, a filmer and a private tutorial for five hundred dollars, three American c-notes or thereabouts.

Dean’s coaching biz is called The Wave of Lifetime. He offers, private hour-and-a-half lessons with filmer and analysis of footage, no ski, for $350, two hours, with ski and filmer etc for $500 and a deluxe pack called Wave of Lifetime that’ll take you to anywhere within a two-hour radius of Coolangatta for two days or up to a week.

His youngest client is a nine-year-old pro surfer hopeful, his oldest is a sixty-five year old who wants to keep an edge before the sands of time run out.

When I called Dean, he was fresh out of the water after an eight-til-ten session. He tells me he got into coaching three years ago and the ski came into the equation when he realised that his marks weren’t getting that many waves.

“You see results, but not really,” he says. “With the ski, they get better straight away. You can keep telling ‘em to make little adjustments.”

The way it works is Dean’ll pick you up on his ski from either the boat ramp on Kennedy Drive, in West Tweed Heads, or from little D-Bah, a crescent of sand inside the mouth of the Tweed River just before it runs out into D-Bah.

You and he will identify something you want to work on, he’ll tow you into fifty waves or whatever, following you on the ski to analyse your style, and a few days later Deano’ll send you a split-screen of your surfing, cut with a pro surfer of a similar build, to illustrate the diff, and how you can get better.

While we’re talking he Whatsapps me a sample. It’s pretty sick. An intermediate sorta surfer is in the top frame; pro on the bottom. At each juncture of the turn, Dean commentates what’s going right and what’s going wrong.

“I just want you to see what you’re doing here, mate, you’re doing great with the compression on the bottom turn, look how low you’re getting here but what I want is for you to start rotating your shoulders so that your front hand is coming behind you in that position,” says Dean. “As you’re going along and extending, start bringing that front hand here (arrow appears on screen) to square you to the lip…”

And so on, for five minutes.

“I teach the basics, compression, extension, rotation,” he says.

Watching the same surfer get a no-rail-grab backside tube is proof the one-on-one coaching works.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CCvEzSGHHIf/

“Moments like that,” says Dean, “And they’re stoked for weeks later. Being able to be a part of that…”

He lets out a laugh.

“It’s such a gift. Fuck.