LOCAL surfers described the horrifying moments when they narrowly escaped a great white shark near a popular Dunsborough break, just days before the Ironman event in Busselton.
“It was coming straight for us and it was huge,” Scott Eves said.
Scott and a group of friends were at a wave near popular surf break Honeycombs, near Moses Rock.
He and Shawn Rowe, Stuart Forrest, Trent Keen and Zach Reiger were with two other local surfers sitting on the shoulder of the wave, with Peter Knight out wide where the wave forms, around 150m off shore.
Being further out, it was Pete who first saw the great white.
“I was sitting on my board, waiting for a wave, and I saw something in the water,” Pete said.
“It started swimming towards me, and the fin was coming further and further up. It got to at least 50cm high out of the water.”
Pete paddled towards the shore but was moving his hands so fast he wasn’t getting any traction. He was going nowhere, with the shark right behind him.
“When Pete said there was a shark we thought he was having us on,” Scott said.
“But his face was so white, we knew he was serious.”
Pete reached the group and they all paddled in, seeking refuge on rocks about 50m out, paddling to shore when the shark was gone.
“Not five minutes before, the helicopter flew over us, and obviously didn’t see it,” Pete said.
“There needs to be more helicopters up there.
“If Pete hadn’t seen it first, this would have been a totally different story.”
In a bizarre twist, on the way in to the break that morning the group spoke to veteran knee-boarder known as ‘Rocket’, who had decided to surf elsewhere saying to Scott that he “felt something amiss” that day.
“We didn’t think anything of it at the time,” Scott said.
With no mobile phone reception in the area to raise the alarm, the group wrote ‘SHARK 9AM” in the sand, to warn others of the danger.
“It didn’t really sink in how big it was until the next morning,” Pete said.
“I’m not going out there, not for awhile.”
Interestingly, the close shave has landed the pair on different sides of a long-standing debate.
“I think there needs to be a cull,” Pete said.
“When I saw that fin coming towards me it completely changed how I think about surfing.”
But Scott disagrees, saying: “I don’t think we should cull them, but there definitely needs to be more research.
“There needs to be more marine scientists studying sharks on WA coasts. It’s a real hot-spot for sharks here.”
Undeterred, the group are already back in the water, though not at the same break.
“I think what saved us from freaking out was that we went over to Honeycombs and surfed for three hours straight after,” Scott said.
Still keen to surf, the pair returned to the break again on Monday.
“I feel a bit safer at Honeycombs, because it’s a beach-break, so you can a shark coming earlier,” Pete said.
The group admits that the few beers they had at Occy’s after their ordeal may have helped them recover more quickly.