A group of surfers were recently filmed during a near-miss encounter with a shark in New South Wales, as the oceanic predator swam directly under them, just a few feet below the surface of the waves.
The unusual encounter took place in New South Wales’ Byron Bay, according to ABC News. Derik Broshar of Iowa was relaxing with friends at an area known as the Pass when he noticed a shark approaching a group of surfers this past Tuesday. As the animal slowly slid beneath the oblivious group, Broshar began filming, while the people around him began attempting to warn the wayward surfers.
“We were looking down at all the surfers having a good time, and we saw this shark.”
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As the animal moved closer to the surfers, a number of people on shore attempted to catch the group’s attention, whistling and shouting at them. A stiff wind stymied their efforts, however, leaving the surfers totally unaware that they were gliding through the waves just a few feet away from a potentially dangerous interloper.
At one point, a surfer caught a wave directly over the shark. As the Northern Star reports, he has since been identified as Fajiri Fajiri, a local who moved to the area 10 years ago from Indonesia. A former lifeguard at Kuta beach, Fajiri avoided surfing for his first three years of Australian residency, due largely to the local shark population. Eventually his love of the sport caught up with him, however, and he can now be regularly found plying the waves at Byron and Lennox.
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According to his ex-wife Emma Fajiri-Kempnich, the now-viral video doesn’t represent the first time that Fajiri has encountered one of the oceanic predators.
“He’s now used to sharing the ocean with these impressive creatures, and had a couple of other close encounters with sharks in recent years. Despite the recently high rate of shark attacks they don’t deter him at all.”
While hardly commonplace, shark attacks have become a source of controversy in Australia during recent months. In Ballina Shire, the most recent attack took place in early October, the sixth such incident in just 21 months. As The Guardian notes, that interaction prompted Premier Mike Baird to reverse his previously held position advocating against shark nets on north coast beaches. Following the most recent attack, in which a 25-year-old man was bitten at Sharpes beach, it was announced that Baird would instead advocate for the implementation of shark nets in an effort to protect beachgoers.
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The local community has been sharply divided over the issue, as the ABC notes. In the last few days, a rally was held in Ballina in support of a planned six-month shark net trial which is set to take place in the region. By contrast, hundreds of people gathered at Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach several weeks ago to protest against the netting plan. The proposed deterrents are set to be deployed at two yet-to-be-determined sites prior to the Christmas holiday.
According to Ms. Fajiri-Kempnich, the video of her ex-husband surfing over the shark only highlights the challenges that officials face in dealing with a naturally curious, and at times innocuous, species.
“As our community grapples with what to do to improve shark safety, and whether to implement controversial shark nets, I think this footage highlights an interesting point, that sharks are by nature curious creatures and don’t always pose a threat to humans, while at the same time reminding us to have due diligence and respect for their presence.”
The shark, which was eventually identified as a juvenile great white, remained around the surfers for roughly a minute and a half, before turning and exiting the area after Fajiri cut through the waves above it.