A great white shark has given a group of top surfers an almighty scare, less than a year after Mick Fanning’s much-publicised drama.
The shark, estimated to be 4.5m in length, paid the surfers an unwelcome visit on the eve of competition starting at the Margaret River Pro in WA.
The incident prompted World Surf League organisers to again outline the safety measures that were upgraded in the wake of Fanning’s close encounter last July at the J-Bay Open in South Africa.
His final was called off after Fanning had to fight off a shark and fellow Australian Julian Wilson paddled over to offer help.
Friday’s first round of competition in the men’s and women’s events went ahead without incident.
But American Kanoa Igarashi has described the frightening encounter late on Thursday, when he and a handful of other professionals were surfing Margaret River’s famed Mainbreak.
“We were in the water about 10 minutes before dark, which was a really bad idea,” Igarashi told Stab Magazine.
“We went over a wave and me and Caio (Ibelli) are looking out and see this fin emerging out of the water – it looked like a submarine – it kept growing,” Igarashi told Stab Magazine.
“Then it was flustering and thrashing, making so much water and then it just shot down and I looked over at Caio and he had the most scared face I’ve ever seen. No one said a word.”
Igarashi said the true size of the shark dawned on him when what he thought was a second marine creature several feet away from the main fin turned out to be its tail.
He said they bolted to shore.
In the wake of the incident, surfing organisers repeated the measures put in place following Fanning’s scare.
Each competitor has an allocated jetski driver, plus there is a safety boat for equipment caddies and watercraft for all event photographers.
The event is also trialling a new prototype for underwater surveillance.
Fanning has started his mid-season sabbatical and is not competing at Margaret River.
Australian Matt Wilkinson is the man to beat in WA off the back of winning the first two rounds of the world tour.
He won his round-one heat, while Wilson posted the best day-one score among the men of 17.10.
Three heats of the men’s first round are yet to be run.
American Courtney Conlogue took the women’s lead at the end of last month by winning Bells Beach for the first time.
She also won her opening-round heat on Friday, while Hawaii’s reigning world champion Carissa Moore posted the best score of 15.77.