An Australian surfer has recounted the story of his very first shark encounter, after a six-foot-long predator jumped on his board for a short ride before returning to the sea and swimming off, leaving him shaken and surprised.
The unusual encounter took place last Tuesday off Bondi Beach, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Dean Norburn was surfing along with two friends at the southern end of the beach around 7 am when the small shark launched itself out of the water. As Norburn paddled back toward shore, he was leaning forward on his board, gripping the sides when the shark “brushed by” him and unexpectedly came to rest on his surfboard.
— Discovery (@Discovery) December 23, 2015
Startled, Norburn thought, at first, that his unusual passenger was a seal. After a moment’s observation, however, he realized that he was looking at a shark, thought to be a bronze whaler roughly six-feet-long, sitting just three to four inches away from his face. As he recalled in interviews after the fact, Norburn’s run-in with the shark was nothing if not startling.
“Mate, I lost about 100 heartbeats I reckon in that split second, and got a few more grey hairs.”
— Surfersvillage (@Surfersvillage) December 26, 2015
As quickly as the shark alighted on his surfboard, it departed, moving back into the water and swimming away under one of Norburn’s fellow surfers. It was that man who got a close look at the shark, identifying the animal as a bronze whaler. As for Norburn, he said that the experience lasted just a few seconds, leaving him too shell shocked to determine what variety of shark had joined him on the surfboard.
Norburn recalled that the shark only had enough room to land on his board because his torso was elevated, as he pushed himself up from the board’s rails. He and his fellow surfers propelled themselves swiftly to land following the encounter, and while they were quick to exit the sea, Norburn said that he intended to resume surfing in the area the next day.
— The Times of London (@thetimes) December 22, 2015
Bondi Beach lifeguards confirmed the incident, relaying that they had cleared the water using a megaphone directly after Norburn’s unusual shark encounter. The lifeguards did not observe the shark themselves however, and as the beach was sparsely populated at the time, the local shark alarm was not triggered. Nevertheless, they related on social media that the morning’s surf would be a “memorable one” for Norburn and his friends, as the Telegraph points out.
— Nine News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) December 22, 2015
Australia has been a hotbed of shark-related activity and associated controversy over the last year, as authorities struggle to deal with an unusual spate of attacks taking place off the coast. Recently, state governments have instituted a variety of measures aimed at tracking sharks and mitigating the likelihood of attacks, following a year in which 33 such interactions (both provoked and unprovoked) have taken place. New South Wales has been hardest hit, reporting 14 shark incidents, which resulted in eight injuries and one fatality.
The plans suggested for shark management have taken a variety of forms, including a proposed deployment of drones off shore to keep an aerial eye out for potentially dangerous sharks. Meanwhile, so-called “smart” drum lines have been deployed off Ballina. While some critics of the practice assert that the drum lines indiscriminately threaten wildlife, some locals in the region assert that they do not go far enough to protect beachgoers from the local shark population.
Neither Norburn nor the shark were injured in the unusual exchange. The surfer noted that he is usually out in the waves on most mornings, and he hopes the shark encounter won’t prevent him from returning with his board to the ocean in the coming days.