NO-GO ZONES: The beaches between Shelly Beach and Lennox Head remain closed after Monday’s fatal shark attack.
NO-GO ZONES: The beaches between Shelly Beach and Lennox Head remain closed after Monday’s fatal shark attack.

Frequency of shark attacks has local surfers scared

SURFERS are a resilient bunch but many are scared to go back into the water after Monday's tragic shark attack.

Speaking from Shelly Beach yesterday morning, president of the Lennox-Ballina Boardriders (Le-Ba) Club Don Munro said his community had been devastated by the loss of Japanese expat Tadashi Nakahara.

"He was very well known, very well-liked, and everybody is shaken to the core," he said.

"Surfers are pretty resilient to all sorts of things, including sharks, but because we've had two (attacks in two days)... the word running around is that everyone's scared.

"No one's being cocky about it."

Mr Munro said many shark encounters were going unreported, citing two encounters over the weekend at Lennox Point.

One man had been "brushed" by a shark while a "big shark" was seen swimming under two boys.

In response he pledged to set up an online database on the Le-Ba website documenting all shark encounters to get a better read on shark numbers.

"We have so many unreported incidences where guys have been belted off their boards or (the shark has) bitten their boards," he said.

He blamed the problem on marine parks and a "shortage of food".

"Marine parks are a feeding ground for them. With mullet and fish stocks generally dwindling, they're coming in closer."

Lennox Head surf writer and fisherman Steve Shearer said the circumstances around the attack had upturned common knowledge on how to avoid shark encounters.

"It was clear water, it was a nice summer day, it was mid-morning," he said.

"There wasn't any large numbers of bait fish around.

"There wouldn't have been any indication that this was the day there was any risk of a shark attack.

"That would have been a day you would have thought, 'yep this is a day I am taking my kids out the back'."

Mr Shearer commented that water conditions were also quite clear when Paul Wilcox was killed at Main Beach, Byron Bay, last year.

He attributed it to a rise in "big sharks" - presumed Great Whites - haunting the North Coast in greater numbers.

Mr Shearer said while it was easy to get caught up in emotion after an attack, "I do believe there is a factual basis for concern".

He called for a "rethink" on shark awareness and prevention strategies.

"They were close to the shore, they could easily have got out of harm's way if there was any kind of early warning system," Mr Shearer said.


Victim was "a big part of the surfing scene"

A LONGTIME friend of shark attack victim Tadashi Nakahara has paid tribute to him as a "great Australian".

Gold Coast local Neil Fitzgerald drove down yesterday to lay flowers at the Shelly Beach rocks and carve a "rest in peace" message in sand to his mate.

Mr Nakahara was new to the Ballina area but not to the wider surfing scene, having moved to the Gold Coast in the late 1990s where Mr Fitzgerald had met him in the surf.

He said the Japanese man was a "big part of the surfing scene on the Gold Coast", who worked a "dream gig" at former surf company Brothers Neilsen.

After moving to Ballina Mr Nakahara had taken up a position at the Ramada Ballina while also working with local board shaper Wayne Webster.

Surrounded by a throng of media after returning from the beach, a grieving Mr Fitzgerald said his 41-year-old friend had been part of his extended family.

"I just came to say goodbye," he said.

"It's an incredible loss.

"He loved Australia, he worked hard for it.

"I know the Japanese community in Surfers Paradise are reeling over this at the moment."

It was a windblown ocean and a closed beach which greeted those who came to pay their respects to the surfer.

While lifeguards looked on to ensure no one ventured into the swirling waters, the beach remained mostly empty except for a handful of locals taking their regular morning stroll.

East Ballina's Jenny Hohepa said family-friendly Shelly Beach had been forever changed.

"It was safe haven for a lot of people; the skies were clear and the water was clear, and yet the unthinkable happened," she said.

Ms Hohepa was moved to lay flowers on the beach in honour of Mr Nakahara, even though she didn't know him personally.

A public memorial service planned at Shelly Beach on Saturday at 10am is expected to draw a large contingent from the Gold Coast surfing community.

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