J-Bay shark attack brings back memories for local surfer
KEEN surfer and fisherman Ron Pointon watched the footage of Mick Fanning's close encounter with a great white at South Africa's J-Bay and remembered.
"You have to have it in your face to understand it," he said of the emotions and fear that Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson would have felt in the final of the World Surf League tour event on Sunday (South African time).
Ron was sitting in the surf near Seabreeze Caravan Park at Maroochydore in 1975, talking about the new board he was riding to Gary Grace, the friend who had glassed it for him.
"I got that same little feeling; there was a turbulence of water. It came under me and in mid conversation launched Gary out of the water. You can't explain it. I punched into it. It bit Titch and came back. Titch (Gary) kicked it in the head and ended up with another 17 stitches in his foot."
Ross Stark and Zane Jensen, who had been surfing nearby, rushed over to help.
"I was yelling at him (Gary) and we were pushing towards the beach," Ron recalled yesterday, the incident still vivid in his mind.
"When you see something so awesome ... the power it had to burn.
"I know how Mick felt. I was waiting for the pain.
"Surfers' instinctive reaction is to help. There was no asking that day with Gary. The job just had to be done. It was all a rush and then we found ourselves on the beach with Gary and his backside half gone."
A keen observer of nature, Ron, with no disrespect for what Mick and Julian experienced, is uncomfortable with the portrayal of what went down in South Africa as an "attack". He believes the shark came in for a look and became entangled in Fanning's leg rope.
"The first thing they (the media) do is call it an attack when it did not leave a mark on body or board," Ron said.
"Sharks are inquisitive. If they see you in a cage they don't charge and attack it."
He says while the first reaction to incidents like the one he experienced and was witnessed live during the J-Bay Open, is to kill sharks, we would do better to study them. A greater understanding may be a better safeguard for humans than fear.