Monday, 23 February 2009

Memories of a Shark Scare... or two!

Sitting in my dear friend's flat in Stockholm, snowing outside the window, and as usual dreaming about my beloved Cape Town. The place that I call home.

On one of my last surfs there a few weeks back, I had an exciting experience that triggered other memories... so bear with me here, this is not a marathon down memory lane, promise!
And there are sharks in the story.

I'm in Umkomaas, off SA's east coast a while back, and as we're heading out to sea to go dive with the beautiful black- tip and tiger sharks who calls that spot home, we pass by some buoys that our super skipper Steve expertly avoids hitting. 'What are those for?' I innocently ask, Steve looks at me in a somewhat baffled manner before replying through clenched teeth, 'the shark nets'...
Ah, the shark nets... the WHAT? So, we get in the water and for reasons I cannot devulge in this post, (but promise to later) - we get in the water, myself, Steve and some other avid shark lovers, and take a closer look at the nets. It's so eerie. This beautiful wide open wilderness of blue blue blue, cut up into small evil squares... ready to catch an innocent dolphin, turtle, manta ray, whaleshark or misunderstood shark. And of course I know we have shark nets in parts of SA, but this was my first real encounter with them, and honestly, it left me quite traumatised.
While finning around frantically in my monofin, trying to feel what it would be like to be caught behind a shark net, it happened, I GOT CAUGHT IN THE DAMN NET! My weight belt got tangled, and I thought great!!! this would be so apt, 'FREEDIVER DIES IN SHARK NET'.
It would be good for media purposes, though...

So, further along memory lane, some weeks later I was surfing my sweet little Muizenberg break, when the loud whooping sound of the shark alarm came wafting over the water, AHA- a GREAT WHITE in the water!! The Shark Spotters up on the mountain have seen one approaching, so they warn us, we catch the next best wave (or ok, the next wave...) and surf to the beach. Now the beach is packed with surfers like sardines, chatting, laughing... waiting for the white flag with a black shark on- meaning: shark in the water, to go away and the red flag- shark has moved on, to be raised. At which point we all paddle out to the backline and resume our worship of the waves.

And you know what, THAT wasn't half the scare as seeing those shark-nets was. It felt so good to be sharing the ocean with our toothy friends and not just happily, or rather- PRIMITIVELY setting out booby traps for them, in their own homes.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you Hanli for your support. THe shark spotting program is an innovative early warning system in Cape Town that is quite effective at minimising negative human-shark encounters and we greatly appreciate the public's support of our work.
    Kind Regards
    Sarah Titley
    Program Manager
    Shark Spotters