A dramatic close encounter between Australian world championship surfer Matt Wilkinson and a shark off the east coast of the country was captured by a drone, showing the shark circle him, close in and then dart away from his feet.
Wilkinson was paddling in from a surf at Sharpes Beach, 733 km (455 miles) north of Sydney, when the shark swam towards him and then under his surfboard on Wednesday, with the drama being captured on a drone used by lifeguards to watch for sharks.
The 1.3-metre (five-feet) Great White Shark then circled and swam up to Wilkinson’s feet, which were trailing in the water, and quickly turned away.
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“I was surfing out the back at Sharpes Beach and just cruising on my own,” Wilkinson, a former pro surfer, said in a press release issued by Surf Life Saving NSW.
“I heard a splash and a noise and looked around and couldn’t see anything. Then the drone came down and told me that there was a dangerous shark in the area,” he said.
“I realised how close it came without knowing it was there. I called my wife because I didn’t want her to see the footage before I saw it. She doesn’t want me surfing for a couple of days now.”
Wilkinson competed in a world championship heat just before Australian Mick Fanning’s encounter with a large white shark at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa in 2015, which he fought off by punching it.
The area around where Wilkinson was surfing has a reputation for sharks and has been the scene of a spate of attacks over the years.
A 46-year-old surfer was killed last month at a Gold Coast beach after he suffered severe leg injuries from a shark attack, with Australia recording a total of 19 shark attacks in 2020, according to the Taronga Conservation Society.