Great White “blew out of the hole trying to nail the boy”
A surfer has described the ‘terrifying’ moment a teenager surfing in the Bay of Plenty narrowly avoided the jaws of a great white shark.
“It was fierce, jaws wide open, definitely in hunting mode,” said 52-year-old Vaughan Wilson, known in the Mount Maunganui surf scene as Willow.
“It was a 3.5m monster, ready to kill. He launched himself out of the water until his whole body was completely in the air, about half a meter above the ocean, as if he were flying.
“I screamed, ‘shark, shark’, at the top of my lungs, but the waves were so high and there was so much white water around, no one could hear me even though I’m known to be pretty damn loud.
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“It was both frightening and breathtaking – flying through the sun-drenched air. I knew it was a great white from its white underbelly and the enormous size and shape of its pectoral fins and tail. I know sharks well.
Willow was surfing off Matakana Island on Monday morning with her best friend and her friend’s 14-year-old son, one of Bay of Plenty’s top junior surfers. All three are experienced surfers.
“We surf two or three times a week,” he explains. “We’ve surfed this spot together thousands of times and never worried about big whites before.”
They had been surfing for about 45 minutes when the attack happened. Willow was the only one of the three to see the shark – her friend and her son were completely unaware that it was behind them.
“The youngster took off on a wave going left towards the beach. He was riding towards the channel of Mount Harbor. I was watching it like I like to give it a thumbs up at the end.
The shark followed the boy’s journey down the wave and attempted to cut him off from the beach, Willow said.
“It was like he was stalking his prey, following him. He sped past him and turned around in the hole – the deepest part of the channel that makes good waves – and that’s when he exploded out of the hole to try and pin the boy. But he had miscalculated, because just before the boy got off his board, he had made a sharp turn. This decision to turn saved his life because it meant that the shark’s jaws had missed him.
After launching her attack, Willow said the shark landed in the water, narrowly missing the boy who was off his board.
“He splashed in the water near his right shoulder, missing him. He was off his board, waist deep in the water and completely unconscious. The shark disappeared underwater and I couldn’t see where it was – I was scared.
Willow and the boy’s father were about 80 yards from the boy. His father also began frantically yelling at his son, shouting “Shark, get out of the water”, until his son heard him.
“He was amazing – so calm. He hauled himself up on his board, caught a wave and rowed back to shore.
“When I told them how close he got to the shark grabbing his arm, or his life, my friend, like me, was shocked. It was scary. I got the jerks. But the boy was cool – all he kept saying was “oh wow”.
Locals like Peter Rogers have plenty of white shark stories to tell, but swimmers still do their thing in Bowentown.
When the three were back on the beach at Matakana Island, they still had to deal with the fact that they had to swim to their boat to get home. The boat was anchored in the water about 150 meters from the beach, in the same area as the shark.
“We waited 40 minutes, looking for his fin or any signs, but we saw nothing. We had to row to the boat, so we put the boy in the middle between us. It wasn’t a long distance, but it felt like the longest paddle of my life – totally nerve wracking.
“We later found out from a shark expert that after a shark jumps like that, it can get exhausted, so it stops hunting for a while. I guess we got lucky, and that’s ok. ‘is tired.
Willow said the seriousness of the situation had still not been appreciated by the boy, but the trio wanted to tell their story to warn the community. After talking to the Department of Conservation, they figure out the shark planned its attack, targeting the boy as the smallest of the three.
“I would feel so guilty if we didn’t say anything and it attacked someone else. I myself have three children. I saw he was looking for blood, so what would stop him from doing it again? »
The boy, still shocked, hasn’t been in the water since, but Willow said he wasn’t giving up on his passion for surfing.