Being a keen surfer, dive master & free diver I spend a lot of time in the water, where I have come across my fair share of sharks. From big (10ft) scary Tiger Sharks in Boca De Pascuales off the coast of Mexico, to 6-8ft reef sharks in the Caribbean (Belize), to smaller sharks at my home town, the Gold Coast, Australia. Never have I thought about being attacked by a shark, the chances are less than getting kicked to death by a mule, or, then again, being killed by a falling coconut. Now that would be a crap way to go out wouldn’t it, a shark attack is a much cooler story really.
I had been working up in Townsville with Liam (my apprentice) and we decided to make the weekend worthwhile and head over to Magnetic Island. I am a super keen free diver and Liam has just started to get stuck into it also. So we are enthralled about being up in Northern Queensland (for work) as we had this opportunity to score some great dive locations amongst the Whitsunday Islands.
After catching up with a mate who is currently living in Townsville, he suggested Magnetic Island to be a great place for us to get some free diving done. However, we were to be careful because on the western side of the island the waters are known to be tiger shark breeding grounds. I wasn’t too fazed by this, as long as we stuck to the eastern side we should be in the clear.
We were both in the water over the eastern side of the island in Alma Bay at a maximum depth of about 6-7m. I was going through a few free diving techniques with Liam and we spotted a cool little blue spotted eagle ray that had half his tail missing, poor bugger. About 5 minutes later I am half way through a dive approximately 5m deep when I see this shark come right at me.
I think to myself what the hell is this thing doing? It was only about 1m long, just a little shark (compared to what I have seen). It was one both Liam and I have never seen before. As the shark was swimming quite fast in a direct line toward me, I am thinking to myself, ok stay cool man. Its small, you’re big, stand your ground like you’re supposed to in this scenario and it will simply swim off like all sharks do, just curiously having a look.
Sure enough time starts to tick mildly slower for some reason. His mouth slightly opens displaying only tiny but super sharp teeth as he gets closer when all of a sudden he goes for my right leg. I think to myself what the. . . ? This shouldn’t be happening. I don’t know what to do when they actually try and strike. Shhiiiittt fight, fight, fight!
By this time I had nearly reached the surface when I started to kick and poke as much as possible at this shark, who clearly wanted a taste of my leg. Sure enough, if I let it, he would have taken a chunk of me and left anyway. But I wasn’t going to let this shark take a 10cm piece of my leg. That would not only really hurt, but I would be out of the water for a good few weeks due to the damage of the injury.
Once at the surface, I am moving and frantically kicking my legs like a kick boxer on steroids. To which the shark can know sense my increase in fear as my heart rate is not only through the roof but half way to bloody mars! Still going for my legs I started to swim whilst making as much splashing with my legs as possible to make it that much more difficult for the shark (if possible).
Meanwhile, I am trying to save myself from having a chunk of my leg disappear into the belly of this cheeky freaking shark. Liam witnesses the incident and contemplates helping me. Although he made an educated decision as he thought to himself, “there is nothing I can do really, is there” he told me later. Which is probably right? What was he going to do, he had no weapon and could just as well end up being in the same position as me.
So swimming as though I was getting attacked by . . . well a shark!! I reached the rocks in a pace even Michael Phelps would be impressed by. Now grasping onto the rocks with my hands, I am getting cut up by the jaggedly sharp barnacles when I glance back into the water to realize this shark is still trying to find an opening between my uncoordinated kicking legs to take a souvenir of the battle.
Nup, not happening buddy! I launch myself up and out of the water using the rock as leverage whilst cutting more into my hands and forearms until both my feet are out of the water and upon the barnacles. I stop and look back into the water as the shark darts away thinking c’mon did that really happen. Well I am bleeding but, that happens in dreams right . . .
I shout out to my mate in a distressed stutter “Liam, Liam, Liam! What the f*&k, did. . . did . . . did you just see what happened? I think I got attacked”. To which he replied “Yea! Yea that was a shark”. I shoot back at him utterly shocked and confused to confirm “it was a shark hey? I am not just imagining this because it seems super freaky”.
Liam swims up and out of the water and says. “Yea the shark swam right by me, I tried to keep up with it for about 15m and it went straight for you!”
Well, that’s just great isn’t it! I mean what 1m shark attacks a 6ft bloke? Not only do I feel like such a pussy but I can’t even say I wasn’t scared. Because I was, I was petrified, even after being out of the water for 10-15 minutes I could feel the adrenalin pumping through my body from the incident. I have seen sharks under the water and they look so cool, graceful and completely harmless. Yes of course they can cause some major damage to the human body but never before had I seen one try. That is until now, and no matter how big the shark is, when you see that thing come for you, and you both know he means business, it is scary!
Will I keep surfing, diving and free diving? Of course, even if I came out with a chunk of flesh missing I would be back in the water once healed. There is not much that can halt my passions, but this is a great reminder that when I do enter the water, it is their territory and I will always respect that.