The Great White divide

2014-02-12 21:20

My limbs are drenched in shock and the blood stops flowing through veins. I bob up and down in False Bay’s breathing ocean. The horn sounds again. My certifiable fear of sharks has forced me to educate myself enough to know what is happening. This is it. I just never thought I’d be floating like a new year’s champagne cork at backline when this alarm’s resounding voice echoed against the mountain ringing chills into the crowded Muizenberg surf.

I hastily paddle toward the beckoning sand. My luminous green bodyboard moving across the water like tropical seaweed caught in a rip current. At one point I choose to swim instead of paddle, dragging my board behind me as I kick my fins into the water, most likely closely resembling a very slow wounded seal trying to escape the jaws of Jaws.

Growing up on the unspoilt iconic beaches of the Bluff in Durbs, the hunting ground of many great surfers and home to arguably the world’s best surfer Jordy Smith, the threat of a Great White chomping at my thigh never really crossed my mind.  I mean we’d sometimes see fisherman catch sharks from the beach but never anything scary enough to ward me off charging the barrels of Cave Rock or Anstey’s.

Many years later I find myself living in Cape Town and navigating the maps in search of shark free waves. I don’t think spots like that exist here. Don’t get me wrong, I love False Bay. The water’s temp is not too bad, on good days there’s a nice enough swell and the scenery is absolutely breath-taking. My only worry, and you might call it a constant ever-present thought at the back of my mind when joining the line, is the presence of our local sea predators.

People ask me all the time why I still surf False Bay, like one person wrote on a surfer’s forum; “surfing in False Bay is like skateboarding in the Kruger Park,” and the answer is, besides my love for the sport, the Shark Spotters.

This venture is amazing and it makes me so proud to know that a South African initiative is leading the world in shark conservation with project that saves human lives too. The disgraceful shark culling practise currently under-way in Western Australia proves that the world still has a long way to go in educating people on sustainable projects that can protect our people and our ecosystems, simultaneously.

So, thank you Shark Spotters, while I drop into a hollow four footer and you sit perched on the mountain with your binoculars, I feel a whole lot safer, well until that horn goes off again.

Follow them on Twitter for updates: @SharkSpotters

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