We have all seen the footage a thousand times now of the “Fanning Shark” but lets dig a little
deeper and hopefully put it into perspective.
What made this different to any other attack?
The big difference was it was live on television and streamed live on the World Surf League
(WSL) website. By breaking it down further, the camera was actually on Fanning at the time
the shark arrived on the scene.
It could have happened during the first wave Julian Wilson caught or on his paddle back out
but it happened as he was on screen.
Any shark experience will shake up anyone, specially those who grew up after the Jaws era,
a film that made some people rethink their love of the ocean.
Many surfers have shark stories even me.
Surfing with a mate on an unpatrolled beach in Northern NSW, a 6ft shark swam directly
under me and freaked me out and what followed can only be described as a very quick paddle in.
Always one to face fears head on we paddled out again the next day and somehow my legrope
came off. The long swim in which seemed to take forever was a good chance to think about
sharks and is probably how my fascination with them began.
Becoming a Scuba Diver a few years later gave me the opportunity to get up close and
personal with these majestic creatures.
As a avid watcher of shark documentary’s on the Discovery Channel, it’s interesting to
see the behaviour at J Bay.
Great Whites are known to attack from underneath at speeds of up to 40km/h with a bit
force of 4,000psi which is massive.
During an attack a film covers the eye to protect it from damage. The shark relies on
sensors in it’s nose to guide it.
Due to attacking blind, the animal doesn’t know what it has till it grabs it. Due to the
ferocity of the initial attack, most humans die from blood loss and rarely eaten as Hollywood
would have us believe.
The Fanning Shark may have been young and taking a bit of a look but happened to get
caught up in Fannings legrope, however try telling Fanning this.
Commentator Peter Mel tried to say this but was quickly shutdown.
So where to from here for Fanning?
The main thing is to clear the head and get back in the water, the quicker the better.
The drive home from the airport could be more dangerous but no one can imagine how
shaken up he is, same for Julian Wilson.
Wilson was paddling back out when it all unfolded and it is well known now, the thought
processes running through his mind.
Were the actions of Wilson brave?
Paddling towards an area where an attack could be occurring is brave. It takes much
more than guts. It is a heroic act and should be seen as so.
As during last Summer the people of Newcastle have learned that sharks will be more
common as they chase bait closer to shore.
The Newcastle shark had it’s own Twitter account (@Newyshark) and recently re-emerged with the appearance of (@j bayshark).
The Newy Shark even had it’s own range of clothing, placing some humour into the plight
of the surf starved surfers over Summer.
Surfers will always venture out into the water as the chances of an attack are slim at best.
We are luckily not a favoured food of sharks.
Whilst the Fanning incident was rare, it is a timely reminder that we share our beloved
ocean with many creatures.
We are surfers, we love and protect the ocean but we are small and insignificant in the
scheme of things. This includes protecting the sharks we so often fear.
Fanning and Wilson will be back. They will be nervous that first time and probably many
times after that, but be assured that this will not stop them.
What’s SUP with Paddle Boarding
Stand up paddle boarding has been listed as one of the largest first time outdoor activity sports
in 2013, by The USA Outdoor Participant Report.
Although the sport really took off in 2005, there is footage of Duke Kahanamoku, the man
who introduced traditional surfing to Australia, riding a primitive version of a SUP in 1939.
One of the benefits of Stand Up Paddle Boarding is anyone can do it on a body of water,
being the lake, a river or the surf.
Many people were drawn to the SUP lifestyle due to the fitness aspect as Paddle Boarding
is a fantastic core strength exercise.
You can expect to pay around $849 for a basic model and up to to $1500 for a carbon
model. Lack of knowledge of your paddle boards have to buy blindly as you can attend
one of the many Demonstration Days to see how much you like it and try a variety of
BaySUP at Nelson Bay does a series of Demo Days in Newcastle and Nelson Bay, this
provides the opportunity to try different styles of board before you commit and go to
the expense of buying your own board.
BaySUP don’t just sell a wide range of paddle boards, they can provide lessons and have
social paddles. The social paddles, held at different locations, cost $20 for board hire
but is free for those with their own boards.
Lessons with BaySUP are with certified instructors who have completed course and
are able to teach children, having completed the Working With Children Check.
Costs vary with Group Lessons being cheaper but expect to pay $100 for a private
lesson but you can bring a friend for free.
If you want to try something a little bit different we recommend SUP Yoga with
Bay SUP, where you can do a yoga class in the water on your SUP.
BaySUP stock the range of SUPCO & East Coast Surfboards ranges which come
with leg rope, FCS Fins, Deck Grip and Paddles.
Anyone who has seen Glenn Turner riding his SUP at Merewether, will know he
shreds in all conditions whilst anyone who knows Glenn knows he isn’t one who
makes a big deal of his achievements.
According to Adam Keene of K Stars Surf Shop, someone who has never surfed
and doesn’t plan on hitting the surf, should start with a larger board, something
around the 10 to 11 feet mark, which gives great stability and a more enjoyable
Dropping down to a paddle board under 10 feet will see a board that has greater
maneuverability and better suited to the surfing genre.
K Stars stock the Ocean & Earth Squeeze & Blister ranges of paddle-boards that
come with deck grip.
The Squeeze range come in Flat Water or All Round styles, the later used in the
surf. Ocean & Earth also do a kids model called, The Spud. This ranger are what
is called soft tops which are forgiving when it comes to learner spills.
The Blister range are an epoxy board with a three quarter deck grip.
The Ocean & Earth range start at $849 and are well priced.
As with surfing, a longer and wider board is easier to learn on but for someone
who surfs, this may see them outgrow the board in a short period of time.
Paddle boarding is something that has proven popular with females, new
technology has seen the boards become lighter and easier to manage in the
We expect to see paddle boarding grow and become more common on our lakes
and beaches, all that’s left is to get out there and give it a go.