Narrow escape for surfer as shark closes in
September 04 2006 at 05:09AM
By Hannah Roberts
A surfer has narrowly avoided becoming the latest victim of a Great White shark encounter after one circled him and rammed his board in waters off Noordhoek beach on Saturday.
The 3.5-metre shark circled Steven Harcourt-Wood for around five minutes while 10 or 12 other surfers looked on, unable to move for fear of provoking an attack.
"It came at me, thrashing its tail and bashing the board.
'I was the first surfer out of the water'
"There was no doubt in my mind that he wanted to serve me up for dinner," said Harcourt-Wood.
Neither Harcourt-Wood, a 37-year-old surfer from Noordhoek, nor the others in the water were able to escape as there was a lull in the waves at the back line.
"It was completely flat. We were stuck.
"And no one paddled away because the shark could have chased them.
"I was trying to get a look at its eyes and mouth so I could position myself correctly, but it was coming from far below the water."
'The sharks were never a problem in the past'
As the shark came at him water sports fanatic Harcourt-Wood bravely squared up to it and paddled at the shark, face to face.
"I think that's what saved me. If you move fast or paddle away they are more likely to see you as prey and go for you," he said.
"Eventually a set of waves came and we all went for it at once - I was the first surfer out of the water," he said.
Although Harcourt-Wood has been surfing for 27 years it was his first real encounter with a shark.
"The sharks were never a problem in the past - they've always been there but they never used to attack people.
"I've seen small ones out at the back from time to time but this is different.
"Their behaviour has changed completely."
From now on Harcourt-Wood will use a shark-repelling electronic device.
"If the leash on the device touches your skin you get a sting... but that's better than a bite. I've had my warning now," he said.
Boats worked to protect surfers at the Roxy Surf Jam at nearby Long Beach on Sunday.
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