Professional surfer Matt Wilkinson was oblivious as a great white shark swims up to his surfboard on Wednesday.
Wilkinson was enjoying a day of surfing in New South Wales, Australia, when a drone appeared overhead with a frantic message. Responders on the beach warned the man that a potentially dangerous shark was in the area.
“I was surfing out the back at Sharpes Beach and just cruising on my own, and I heard a splash and a noise and looked around and couldn’t see anything,” Wilkinson recalled. “Then the drone came down and told me that there was a dangerous shark in the area. Return to the beach.”
Once Wilkinson made it to shore, officials showed the video taken from above to the lucky man. The drone captured the shark circling the surfer. It curiously makes a dash at the back of the board before changing its mind and retreating back to the depths. He quickly realized how lucky he was.
“I got to the shore feeling a bit weird, and the lifeguards showed me the footage, and I realized how close [the shark] came without knowing it was there. It looks like it’s going for my leg, and it changed its mind,” Wilkinson said.
The operator of the drone, Beau Monks, said he was observing the five-foot sharks quick movements.
“It sort of came out of nowhere, then went right up to Matt. It moved pretty fast. I was tracking it and notified the lifeguards and used the speaker on the drone to get everyone out of the water. Within 10 seconds, it was at the surfer, and five seconds later, it was gone.”
Similar Shark Encounter
The experience shook Wilkinson, who said he felt “grateful and pretty weird” about the encounter. He said the situation brought back memories of a 2015 surfing competition. During the competition former professional surfer Mick Fanning experienced an attack in South Africa just after Wilkinson finished his turn.
“When I saw the footage, I saw the similarities. I had a yellow leg rope on, and Mick’s board was yellow. I called my wife because I didn’t want her to see the footage before I saw it,” Wilkinson said.
He adds that his wife doesn’t want him to return to the water to surf for a few days.
[H/T Miami Herald]