Turns out it’s best to trust your gut whenever your shark sense is tingling at the beach. Just ask Aussie pro surfer Matt Wilkinson, who said he got a “sharkie vibe” while a 2.5-metre Bull shark legit circled him in the water.
Wilkinson was up at Sharpes Beach at Ballina, near Byron Bay, when the encounter happened as he paddled out to sea.
“I heard a little plonk behind me… I got the sharkie vibe, but I convinced myself it was all good,” he told 9News.
It wasn’t until live savers spotted the creature on their drone that Wilkinson realised his intuition was spot on.
“The drone came down and told me that there was a dangerous shark in the area, return to the beach,” Wilkinson added.
“I got to the shore feeling a bit weird and the lifeguards showed me the footage and I realised how close it came without knowing it was there.”
Lifesavers evacuated the water as soon as they caught sight of the shark.
It appears that the shark ultimately lost interest and swam away, but staying in the water wasn’t worth the risk.
Life guards in NSW currently use drones to patrol 34 beaches for sharks and anything else that might need attention.
“It’s nice to know the drones go up and down the beach and can see what we can’t and it makes you feel more comfortable,” Wilkinson later said in a statement.
“It’s nice to know if there’s a big one around you can just come in and let them go by.”
One theory behind shark attacks is that when surfers paddle – like Wilkinson was – they have the same silhouettes as seals when viewed from beneath. That’s what gets the sharks interested.
“I’ve been surfing with sharks my whole life and I understand they’re there and know enough about them to know they have not too much interest in humans,” he added.
Despite lockdown restrictions, there have been 19 shark attacks in Australia this year, six of which were fatal, according to Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.
The lesson here is that sometimes your gut instinct is right.