Swimmer mauled to death by fifteen-foot Great White shark in front of eye-witnesses at popular Sydney beach, “It was terrible. I am shaking. I keep vomiting… the splash looked like a car landed in the water”

"It came back and swallowed parts of his body and that was it. It disappeared."  

(Editor’s note: This story was previously titled Rock fisherman killed by a fifteen-foot Great White after slipping off rocks in front of eye-witnesses at popular Sydney beach, “It was terrible. I am shaking. I keep vomiting… the splash looked like a car landed in the water”. The title and pertinent details have been changed as new details came to light.)

A swimmer was hit and killed by a fifteen-foot Great White shark at Little Bay, a few clicks south of Maroubra beach in Sydney’s south-east on Wednesday afternoon. 

Simon Nellist, who was thirty-five, was practising for an upcoming charity swim when the White hit.

Fisherman Kris Linto said he saw the White attack.

“The shark came and attacked them vertically,” Linto told Nine News. “We heard a yell and then turned around. [The splash] looked like a car just landed in the water.”

Another fisherman said the man was in front of him when he was dragged underwater by the Great White. 

“When he went down there were so many splashes. It was terrible. I am shaking,” he told ABC news. I keep vomiting. It’s very, very upsetting “He just …enjoying the day, but that shark took his life.”

There’s a video kicking around of the attack but I ain’t watching it.

Here’s some of the dialogue.

“Someone just got eaten by a shark. Oh man! Oh no! That’s insane. That’s a Great White shark.”

“The person’s still there!”

“I just saw a four to five metre great white explode on the surface just here on a swimmer and it was like a car landing in the water.”

“Fuck man, I heard a scream and the shark was just chomping on his body and the body was in half just off the rocks here.”

“It came back and swallowed parts of his body and that was it. It disappeared.”

Half of Nellist’s body was recovered. 

Six months ago Nellist posted on Facebook, “Shark net and drum lines protect no one and kill all kinds of marine life each year.”

It was the first fatal shark attack in Sydney since 1963 when the smoking hot actress Marcia Hathaway was hit in Sydney Harbour although not, as you know, the first, or last, fatal Great White attack in Australia where the fish has been afforded federal protection since 1999. 

Last week, a twenty-year-old girl was hit by a Great White at Esperance’s notorious Kelpies beach, the site of multiple fatal Great White attacks over the course of the last five years.

WSL commentary team including the disappeared Martin Potter, left, and Joe Turpel, far right. Ross Williams, middle, yanks his legs apart.

The WSL has elevated toxic positivity to an art. And I can’t help but admire it!

"What the WSL has created is an ideological institution of system-supportive propaganda so self-censoring Noam Chomsky would be proud."

Some people don’t like the WSL’s commentary team. Not me. I look forward to the WSL call as much as I do the surfing.

Chris. Rosie. Kaipo. Strider. Ross. The coterie of special guests. Each comp I tune in, turn the speakers up to 11, and wonder what gifts will be bestowed next.

Not because I enjoy listening to it all.

I’m impressed by the discipline. The commitment. The dedication to wringing any semblance of discontent from the dialogue that this team has accomplished.

The ‘wall of positive noise’ does the WSL a disservice. Walls can be scaled. Walls can be torn down. What the team at Santa Monica have created is an ideological institution of system-supportive propaganda so unwavering, so self-censoring, so unthinking, Noam Chomsky himself would be proud.

They’ve elevated toxic positivity to an art. And I can’t help but admire it.

What is toxic positivity? In psychological circles, it’s known as a dysfunctional approach to emotional management that happens when people do not fully acknowledge negative emotions. “A pressure to stay upbeat no matter how dire one’s circumstance is.”

Consider it. WSL commentators exist in a world of the eternal present. In the booth there is no past. No future. The world outside does not even exist unless it is of some explicit reference to the approved reading of the events unfolding in front of them.

But most importantly, there’s no bad vibes.

These conditions in front of us right now are the best they could possibly be. Nobody is underperforming. Every competitor is in with a chance. Combo’d by 18 points with a minute left and an empty horizon?

‘If anyone can do it, <insert surfer here> can.’

There’s no losers. Literally. Post-heat interviews are only ever granted to winners.

(What are we missing from the insight, emotion, energy of the vanquished?)

Then there’s the women. The women? The women are making history. They’re amazing. We’re smashing the glass ceiling. Creating equality for all. And they will be running today.

Wait a minute. No they won’t. In fact, we’ve never heard of them. What women?

Or the loss of Turpel from the booth. Potter before him. Zero discussion. A void of information. They might be back next competition. But they might not. For all we know they were both taken for a helicopter ride at the Sosa ranch.

Not a word will be uttered. Because no wrong has ever been committed by the WSL or anybody involved with it, nor could any such wrong ever possibly be committed in the future.

This is the constant assurance being screamed at us. The manufactured consent. The team are like lackeys of some totalitarian dictator that refuses to admit the possibility of defeat. Stalin’s generals reading from Pravda as the eastern front collapses.

Everything Is Fine.

Now I don’t level any of this criticism directly at the commentary team. Individually they all do a good job, for the most part. They’re professional. Dedicated. Absolute sweethearts to boot.

It’s obvious somebody behind the scenes setting the agenda. A player pulling the shots. Chomsky would suggest it’s the corporate ownership, or the advertisers, or some other shady player in the ruling class. He’s probably close. I’d suggest a mild mannered, chest-waxed Oklahoman with a skewed appetite to risk.

Whoever it is, they’re letting themselves – and the team – down.

The incessant positivity is condescending at best. Self-defeating at worse. Anybody with half a surfing brain can tell when Filipe’s having a melt. To try and sugar coat it is offensive to both he and the audience.

Same goes with the scheduling hiccups re: integrating women into the format. I think pay equality is fantastic and know that this approach will pay off in the long run. The WSL should be commended for it. But it won’t always be pretty. This is the start of a long process. Not everybody will be comfortable with it 100% of the time. It’ll take a while to start working. It might need to change on the run. Why do we have to pretend otherwise?

I know this is old ground being re-hashed, but based on the first look at this year’s effort things are getting worse.

The WSL is painting itself further into a corner. Something’s gotta give.

The solution? Simple, as I see it. First, inject an old hand into the booth. Somebody from outside the surf world. A straight shooter that can ask the simple questions for the non-surfing audience, and call out some of the many inexplicable nuances of competitive surfing. Like the old English bloke they paired with Barton at the Olympics. That guy was mint.

Or old mate from Best In Show. 

Then, give the likes of Ross, Pete Mel, Stace Galbraith and booth guests like Slater or Mick Fanning permission to speak freely. Call out bad judging, bad surfing and bad officiating. Ask the difficult questions. It’s all part of the game. Punters don’t demand perfection. But they do demand transparency.

Finally, don’t be afraid to stick the mic in front of somebody who’s just lost a heat. Ask them what happened. What did they do wrong. How are they going to fix it for next time. How did it all Make Them Feel?

Ultimately athletes are inspiring. Other-worldly. The gods manifest in man and woman. They’re why we tune in. And why we will continue to tune in. But it’s their follies that truly connect us. We want to share their highs and their lows. We want to see their sacrifice, their anguish, their pain.
By denying us that, we’re being denied our very own humanity. Or something.

The big question now is: will the WSL listen?

Stay Tuned.

Open Thread: Comment Live on Day One of the Hurley Pro Sunset Beach presented by Shiseido!

GOATs on parade!

Wow but it seemed like an eternity to arrive at this moment, this time, when our professional surfers and surfettes will once again paddle from shore into pitched competition with each other and with nature.

Jordy Smith appears in heat one. Kanoa Igarashi heat two. Kelly Slater, who is sometimes called the Greatest of All-Time, or GOAT, joins us for heat three. Will the women surf today? Will they even kick the event right off? Impossible to know.

Exciting times and made more so by enjoying with your very best friends in the comments. Watch here or here. Comment below.

Screen grab from film EuroTrip.
Screen grab from film EuroTrip.

Inspired by World Surf League mantra, Nantucket activist introduces bylaw that would allow topless sunbathing for all genders: “This is really antiquated and this is inequality. Some men have bigger breasts than I do!”

Dominos of institutional sexism fall!

The World Surf League has proudly, loudly, beaten its breast these past few years as champions of equality and champions it is, equalizing pay between men and women, having them surf the exact same waves on lightly different days, running many advertisements with the word “equality” while also using the hashtag “#equality.”

Aside from female longboarders, who have become cannon fodder for the League, this message of samsies is resonating from the halls of Santa Monica all the way across the nation to the tony beaches of Nantucket floating, there, just south of Boston. Dorthy Stover, a resident, was on the warm sand this last summer and infuriated that she could not take her top off and enjoy some extra vitamin D just like her male counterparts.

It is, currently, illegal for women to de-layer, a right solely possessed by men, and so Stover has activated and is introducing a bylaw that declares “In order to promote equality for all persons, any person shall be allowed to be topless on any public or private beach within the Town of Nantucket,” for which to be voted upon in May.

Stover told the Cape Cod Times, “This is really antiquated and this is inequality. Some men have bigger breasts than I do. Nantucket has a history of fighting for equality,” and feels that passing the bylaw will decrease people feeling insecure about their curves (save the men with large breasts). “I’m not saying that everybody has to be topless. I want to support the love of the body.”

Back in Santa Monica, though, do you imagine pride and joy is resonating back and forth from World Surf League CEO Erik Logan’s office down to World Surf League commissioner Jessi Miley-Dyer’s?

The dominos of institutional sexism falling all thanks to professional surfing?

Let’s hope.

Star of big-wave tour sues World Surf League alleging “gross negligence, fraudulent concealment, intentional and negligent misrepresentation” following near-fatal wipeout at 2020 Nazaré event, “Our lives are clickbait!”

"When the big-wave star was pulled from the water, he had no pulse. It took more than a minute for medical personnel to revive him."

On February 9, 2022, the noted Portuguese big wave surfer and 2019 Big Wave Tour top-six finisher, Alexandre Antonio Keja Botelho sued the World Surf League in California state court.

Bill Sharp, the General Manager of the Big Wave World Tour, and Scott Eggers, the Safety Director of the Big Wave World Tour, were also named as defendants.

(Read complaint here.)

The suit stems from the 2020 Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge, held on February 11, 2020. During the event, Botelho was involved in a jet ski crash that made international headlines, where he and his partner, Hugo Vau, were thrown more than 20 feet in the air. The chaos of the accident led Albee Layer to state, “Our lives are clickbait.”

During the event, Botelho and Vau were launched into the air after trying to drive out of the impact zone following one of Botelho’s rides.

Botelho landed on the ski, striking both his head and chest, rendering him unconscious.

According to Botelho, he was unconscious in the water for up to six minutes before he was pulled from the sea not breathing. Earlier rescue attempts were made by his tow partner Alemao Edilson Luis da Assuncio, but Botelho was not saved until he drifted close enough to the shore to be reached by rescue personnel.

When Botelho was pulled from the water, he had no pulse. It took more than a minute for medical personnel to revive him. He also suffered a perforated lung and was rushed to the hospital in critical condition after vomiting water on the beach.

After arriving at the hospital, Botelho had to be intubated (a medical procedure where a tube is inserted into the trachea) for “machine-assisted breathing.” According to the complaint, Botelho “required his lungs to be drained and further suffered a bacterial infection in his lungs from the sea water.” He remained in intensive care for a week and had to be hospitalized for fifteen days.

Further, Botelho alleged psychological injuries from the accident, including “nightmares of the drowning, sleep and mood disturbance, and a gradually dissipating fear of entering ocean water again.”

He also lost various sponsorships and income as a result of his inability to compete.

Botelho alleged claims of: (1) negligence/gross negligence; (2) fraudulent concealment; (3) intentional misrepresentation; and (4) negligent misrepresentation. He seeks damages for past and future expenses and loss of revenue, as well as punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

According to Botelho, the WSL greatly exaggerated the event’s safety measures and then coerced competitors into signing waivers of liability after competitors realized the promised safety measures were not present.

In the months before the event, Botelho and other surfers became concerned about the adequacy of the safety measures proposed by the WSL, prompting the surfers to propose “that each team be provided with a budget to assemble their own, hand-picked safety team.”

According to the complaint, the WSL agreed to the proposal that “each team [would] have a dedicated water safety jet ski and driver shadowing them while in the water and three radios and a dedicated channel per team for communication.”

The WSL, through Bill Sharp, also communicated a three-layer safety plan: the first being the team member on the ski to make pickups; the second a “dedicated Safety Support pilot and jet ski to pick up a surfer in the event the team member is unable to do so;” and the third being medical personnel position on the shore.

According to the complaint, this plan “was deemed by virtually every surfer invited to participate in the Nazaré event as unsatisfactory” and the WSL was allegedly made aware of the discontent via a group email.

The surfers, including Botelho, were concerned about the lack of an additional safety layer. They insisted on the presence of an additional jet ski carrying a rescue swimmer “dedicated to the rescue and pickup of any hurt, unconscious, or in distress surfer.”

To comply, the WSL allegedly agreed to hire Kalani Lattanzi to be the rescue swimmer; according to the complaint he was listed in this role in the WSL Information Kit provided to the competitors.

The complaint alleges that the WSL failed to take any steps to implement the safety measures promised to the surfers. Further, it alleges the WSL “willfully and fraudulently” concealed this failure.

The WSL also allegedly never contacted Lattanzi, the agreed upon rescue swimmer.

The complaint alleges further failures on behalf of the WSL: (1) failure to provide a dedicated Safety Support jet ski driver to shadow each team; (2) failure to provide working radios to each team’s spotter; (3) failure to provide three promised radios to each team, resulting in Botelho’s spotter’s inability to communicate with safety personnel; (4) failure to provide any rescue swimmer; (5) failure to provide “the minimum number of experienced water safety individuals anticipated by the competitors;” (6) failure to implement “a clear structure” and to assign responsibilities to water safety personnel; (7) failure to place a strategy to address emergencies; and (8) failure to train and equip lifeguards on the beach with the necessary lifesaving equipment.

The competitors did not become aware of the WSL’s alleged misrepresentations until the eve of the event. When competitors did become aware of the inadequate safety measures, some refused to sign the required agreement between the individual and WSL. The agreement included a waiver of liability.

In response, the WSL allegedly told surfers they would not be permitted to compete if they did not sign the agreement. According to the complaint, many competitors felt pressured to sign the agreement due in part to costs associated with traveling and training for Nazaré and perceived obligations to sponsors.

When Botelho signed the agreement, he was still not fully aware of the extent of the WSL’s alleged misrepresentations.

According to the complaint, after signing, he still was under the impression that Lattanzi would be acting as a rescue swimmer.

The complaint alleges that the confluence of these factors, notably the lack of an independent rescue swimmer, resulted in Botelho’s injuries.

Last year, HBO unveiled “100 Foot Wave,” a docuseries profiling the big wave community at Nazaré. Episode five of the docuseries detailed the 2020 tow event.

The series has been widely advertised by the WSL.

In August of 2021, HBO announced the series had been renewed for a second season.

The 2022 Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge took place on February 10, a day after Botelho’s suit was filed.