With recent occurrences of shark attacks on the rise on the East Coast of Australia, I guarantee there are many surfers out there who are reminded of any close calls they have had in the past. See my close encounter here. Aside from this pretty close call, I have had an even more terrifying experience where I was almost knocked off my board by some creature (seal or shark) which still remains unknown to me.
I was still within my first year of surfing and I had a trip back home to the South Island of New Zealand. I had been out surfing a couple of sessions during the day up the coast (shorter than usual thanks to the freezing water temp of 13 degrees) and I had just pulled up at my local spot. It was heading towards dusk in the middle of summer so it was around 9.30pm at night. A girl Laura who I had met only a few times was suiting up in a thick 5/4 and we noticed one another from across the carpark. “What are you doing it’s pumping let’s get out there!” She yelled out enthusiastically. “Are you serious it’s going to be dark soon?!” I replied. “Yeah, and? C’mon they’ve got spotlights off the pier we can surf all night if we want to!”. She did have a point and I hadn’t surfed at night before. “Alright you got me, let’s get out there!” I yelled to her as I jumped out of my car.
After uncomfortably putting on my wet wetsuit in a freezing cold offshore wind we headed down to the water’s edge together. We could see there were already two other body boarders out there and figured they probably had the same idea as us. The bank was really shallow and stretched further out to sea than normal. By the time we made it out the back, darkness was well and truly upon us, although we could see so much brightness on the bottom of the ocean from the spotlights hitting the sand bank.
The waves were only two foot but were peeling perfectly along the shallow bank and Laura and I had fun switching between our longboard and shortboard. I had just jumped on her longboard when I noticed a shadow not too far from us. “Guys I think it’s a shark”. Everyone laughed it off, not believing me and made jokes about no sharks being around in these waters. Suddenly something struck hard in the centre of my board from below and nearly knocked me off into the water. “Holy shit, shaaaaark, shaaaark, paddle in, go, go,go!” I yelled in absolute fear. Everyone started to panic as they could see what had happened and paddled as fast as they could towards the shore. BANG. I’m struck again in the centre of my board but this time I manage to cling on for life and continue paddling in. Luckily the sand was shallow and we were able to get in pretty fast on the whitewash. I was full of adrenaline and fear and by the time we made it to shore my body felt numb all over. When I caught my breath I was able to tell everyone exactly what had happened.
I still don’t know to this day what it was that struck me but I’ll never forget that feeling of being struck by something wild from nature.