A well known Byron Bay Bay Surf Club veteran, 71-year-old Arthur "Woody" Vidgen, was knocked off his surf ski by a three-metre shark yesterday morning while paddling about 200 metres offshore from Belongil Beach.
"I was just paddling along the coastline about 200 metres out and I was heading back to the surf club at about 11.15am," he said. "There was quite a bump and I got thrown off the ski and I just assumed I'd hit a pod of dolphins. There had been pods of dolphins about this morning off Main Beach."
He climbed back onto the ski and headed back to the surf club, unaware that it was a shark that had hit him. "I headed back to the surf club, and then I noticed the ski was a little bit heavy and lifeguards came down to give me a hand. Then we noticed the stern of the ski had a bite mark almost right around the whole boat. It would be 30 centimetres in diameter at least."
Due to the radius of the bite, lifeguards concluded that it was in fact a shark, and estimated it to be around three metres in length. Lifeguards immediatelly closed nearby beaches, from The Pass to Main Beach, and drove jet skis along the shoreline warning swimmers and surfers to get out of the water. Beaches were reopened at 1.30pm, with no sign of the shark.
Woody has been a member of the Byron Bay Surf Club for 35 years, and says that in all that time he's never had a similar enounter at Byron.
"It might be tailor season and the fish are running and the tailor are running and the sharks are coming in," he said. "This was probably my first paddle in a month in the surf due to a back injury, but I've been paddling every day at Brunswick Heads and have no plans of stopping just yet," he said.