Two local kayakers faced a fisherman’s biggest fear early on Sunday Morning when a four-metre Great White got quite serious about having them for breakfast. When the huge shark hit one fishing kayak so viciously the paddler fell into the water, his fishing buddy truly believed a tragic end was looming…
Experienced fishermen Hanno Smit and Dennis Robson launched their fishing kayaks (or skis) from Myoli Beach at about quarter to five in the morning, well before sunrise. Conditions were perfect for paddling.
“The sea was beautiful,” Hanno told us later, “It was flat, glassy smooth, with very little swell and good visibility. Nice and warm too. Perfect”
They had paddled about 1km out to sea before stopping to gear up. Hanno described to us what happened next.
“We opened our hatches and I was just taking my fishing rod out when we heard this sort of deep, loud explosion,” he said. They did a serious double-take when they saw what had caused it. “It was a great white that breached right over Dennis’s kayak and landed right between us!”
He says at first they were just awestruck, not fully understanding what they had just witnessed. Then they started babbling, almost in disbelief.
“What just happened? Can you believe it?”
But 10 seconds later their excited chattering was interrupted as a shark hit, this time from underneath.
“Whether it was the same one or another one, I don’t know,” Hanno told us, “It hit the nose of Dennis’s kayak from underneath with huge force, and took it right up out of the water, throwing old Dennis right out of his ski!” Hanno went on to describe how the shark seemed more interested in the ski than the now frantic Dennis who was desperately trying to get out the water.
“It kind of rolled with the ski. Dennis was trying to clamber back on to it, but all the time the shark was wrestling with the ski and didn’t let go.”
Finally Dennis managed to get back onto the kayak as Hanno bought his own alongside to steady him. Fortunately, as Dennis got on, the Great White released the craft’s nose.
And then they sat next to each other, holding the boats together and bracing themselves for the next attack.
“After about a minute of nothing happening, I noticed that Dennis’s fishing rod was all tangled up with his paddle leash, so he wouldn’t be able to paddle,” recalls Hanno, “So I took out a knife and freed up the ski.”
The two men then started gingerly paddling back towards the shoreline. For the first 200m they kept the kayaks firmly together in the middle, only using the outer blades of their paddles. “It was very tense, we were anticipating another attack at any moment,” said Hanno.
They then started paddling naturally, with their blades hitting the water on both sides of the kayaks, but still keeping the two craft very close together. Hanno said that they both expected another hit every second of the way back to the beach. Fortunately it seems the shark had lost interest.
Once safely on the sand, and after regaining their composure, the two men closely examined Dennis’s ski. They found several shark size tooth marks as well as two shark teeth still stuck in the hull!
Having had time to think about the terrifying incident, Hanno is convinced the great white was looking to feed rather than just being curious. He explains why.
“From underneath it wasn’t sure what we were. That’s why it breached right over us – to see what we were. And when it saw us moving and screaming it saw us as living things. That’s why it immediately came for the kill.”
The hardened fishermen were both shaken up by this experience.
“We were SO lucky to survive,” said Hanno, “Especially old Dennis. It felt like he was in the water forever, and at some stage he must have been touching the shark because I saw black right next to him! Very, very frightening.”
Hanno feels quite strongly that there has been a definite change in Great White behaviour .
“We have been fishing these waters for 13 years, between 15 and 30 times a year, and up until three years ago we hardly knew that there were Great Whites off Myoli. But the last few years we’ve had regular sightings of them, and this last year they’ve been very aggressive. Bumping us, and coming right up to us with almost no fear.”
He is convinced that this is the result of shark cage diving companies ‘chumming’ (enticing the sharks to come closer by throwing food in the water.)
“That’s made the sharks so at ease with humans and craft – the food factor. Because in reality why else would a Great White come up to a boat?” he said.
Picture:- Dennis Robson, safely back on shore and ecstatic to still have all his limbs after being knocked off his fishing kayak by a 4m Great White Shark.