The weekend dished up a few waves if you traveled west, or didn't mind the chop in the Bay. Another quiet week before that though. We seem to be in the flat week, weekend waves cycle at the moment, which I guess has those stuck at work/school smiling.
JBay is starting to warm-up for the upcoming WSL comp, and has already had some cooking swells this winter. The scaffolding is starting to go up for the comp and local photag Robbie Irlam will be hoping he can "borrow" the platforms for a few sessions before the comp kicks off.
Speaking of comps - the SA Open kicks off at Pipe on Tuesday - and there may actually even be some waves. Shock, horror! It would confuse everyone senseless should Pipe actually deliver good surf to coincide with a comp! Mobile venue so the guys can pick up sticks and head round the corner if need be.
Our East Cape locals keep up their winning streak - this past weekend saw St Francis's Crystal Hulett and Micheal Hill win the Longboard divisions in the City Surf Series in Durbs.
The pier is probably PE's most iconic landmark, so it's always cool to see an unusual photo of it - how this one from Paul Wright showing some "light painting" . Light painting is basically lighting some steel wool and whipping it about in varying directions whilst photographing with a slow shutter speed to catch all the movement.
Aloes usually mean waves, but sometimes we get aloes and no waves. Ah well, win some lose some. Plenty of sand at Humewood is seems, so be interesting if we do get a bit of a swell going through there soon.
All you ever needed to know about ding repair below:
Some beaut weather this past week - which meant some beaut sunrises. Kudos to the brave peeps who get up early to score these shots, and brave the nippy conditions.
And of course if there's a lekker sunrise you can be assured of a lekker sunset. Much easier to photograph - no early mornings required!
Anyone over the age of 40 should be familiar with these! It used to be the only way to predict what swell was coming, and you had to buy the newspaper to see 'em! See a centre pressure of 980 and below and you'd know it was coming! As nice as all the fancy internet models are with their reds and purples, it's still lekker to see a whole lined of sabre-toothed monsters heading our way.
Another quiet week on the surf-front. Coupla peaks if you went wildside hunting but the Bay didn't have much to offer at all. Even on World Ocean's day on 8 June the sea steadfastly refused to cough up a decent wave. Few lumps 45 minutes drive down the N2 at the end of the week just to keep everyone sane.
Despite the lack of swell, we still have a lekker beachfront to enjoy and for that we're thankful. Kiff sandy beaches and clean water, all easily accessible. Not too many cities can claim to be that lucky.
The only hiccup is that it isn't too safe at the moment. Just this past week a coupla skelms robbed someone in Admiralty Drive and made a beeline for the beach in their escape. The community is gatvol of this sorta thing so peeps gave chase, and together with the help of some surfers at Pipe managed to apprehend and detain the suspects.
Skelms are kooks, but it turns out that so is one of the big shots of the World Surf League. Chief Commercial Officer Beth Greves, 4th in command at WSL, was spotted heading down for a "surf" at the recent Kerama's comp with the fins in her board put in backwards. Yip - and these are the people managing our sport. Just saying....
(and to make matters worse she still had the swing tag on the board.)
From kooks to kings. We have some super talented loggers in the Eastern Cape - Crystal Hullet (St Francis) and Steve Sawyer (JBay) took top honours at the Tigers Milk Classic in Cape Town this past weekend. Class act those two.
Stoked with my new Hanalei Fins thanks to Lancelot Pearson, and ex-PE ou now based in Aus. Been riding these fins for over 4 years now and absolutely love them, so was beyond chuffed when Lance sent me some new Q2 flip tips that he hand painted. Can't wait to try em out. Just need waves.
These things are like nitrox for surfboards - tune Dust Surf in Cape Town if you wanna get your mitts on some.
Winter is now fully under way, and the glorious glow of the late arvo sunset always makes up for what we don't get in waves. Although sometimes one can be lucky and get a kiff sunset AND waves.
How do you know it's winter - besides the obvious temperature change? The aloes are a dead giveaway. Any surfer has a special affinity with aloes cos spotting them along the drive from PE to JBay means you know it's waves season.
So how flat was it in the bay this week? This flat...
But never let the fact that it's flat stop you from paddling out! A dedicated early morning Pipe crew are often out there no matter what, and truly embody the definition of the word "optimist"!
Not too much on the charts for the coming week either until the weekend, and then it looks like the wind might not play ball. Eish, surfing isn't as simple as playing tennis.
A yin and yang week. Bogger all during the week, but the weekend delivered the goods. Two days of decent surf in the bay, and very very decent surf up the road. JBay was cooooking. The bay had to deal with some wind issues, but in between that there were still good waves to be had.
Besides being alive with waves, the ocean was alive with sea-life. Red tide made a comeback, with large swathes of brown all over, and then there were what seemed like millions of mullets. Huge schools of them right in among the line up, that all leapt up as you paddled through them. Water didn't smell too lekker either!
Seemed like the mullets weren't only swimming in the water but surfing it too. Lotsa frothing surfers in the line-up meant that some ou's forgot their manners.
Mullet-behaviour probably wasn't helped by the looong lulls between set's. Timed a 40 min break in the action whilst out at Millers. The wait was worth it though, as the really good sets took you down way past 2nd avenue. Which promptly solved the "last wave in" conundrum.
Not only mullets, but plenty of dolphins about - and even a seal hopped about the line-up for a while on Sunday arvo. Nothing quite like have a black thing leap out the water right next to you to get the heart rate going.
Wind was a factor for the weekends surf. Although I think dealing with wind on sand-dunes is probably worse than dealing with wind in the line-up. Dirk Erasmus decided to lose a few layers of skin and ventured into the Sundays River dunes during the gale.
The aborted Margaret River pro got finished off at Kerama's in Indo last week. Jordy managed a 3rd spot, whilst Italo Ferreria won. Jordy did win the paddle battle with Medina - who also tried to grab his leash a coupla times whilst racing back out to the priority buoy. Jordy was thinking about giving him a snotklap!
Kelly decided not to surf Kerama's cos his foot was still injured - however he did manage to surf 10-12ft Cloudbreak without any problems - go figure!
So now that winter has started you probably need to get that gun ready - tune Dennis at the Boardroom for your sharp shooter needs.
Surf Scene's lease at the Summerstrand Village shopping centre is expiring so they're looking to sell off their remaining stock - so head over and grab yourself a bargain.
The new apartment block that's going up over the road from Millers that's had nothing happening for the past few months after the original contractors went bang now has new peeps onsite - and for a minute I thought surf brand RVCA had gotten into construction! Logo's looks pretty darn similar!
Yip, those kiff sunrises still keep coming. This week was no different.
Hopefully everyone got wet this weekend. If you didn't take one final look at what you missed and then remember to consult your diary (aka the wave forecast) before committing to weekend engagements in future.
We all know that winter sunrises and sunsets are pretty spectacular. But why?
Here's an excerpt from a Nat Geo article explaining what goes into making an epic lightshow. The basics first: When a beam of sunlight strikes a molecule in the atmosphere, what's called "scattering" occurs, sending some of the light's wavelengths off in different directions. This happens millions of times before that beam gets to your eyeball at sunset.
The two main molecules in air, oxygen and nitrogen, are very small compared to the wavelengths of the incoming sunlight—about a thousand times smaller. That means that they preferentially scatter the shortest wavelengths, which are the blues and purples. Basically, that's why the daytime sky is blue. The daytime sky would actually look purple to humans were it not for the fact that the sensitivity of our eyes peaks in the middle [green] part of the spectrum—that is, closer to blue than to purple.
But at sunset, the light takes a much longer path through the atmosphere to your eye than it did at noon, when the sun was right overhead. And that is enough to make a big difference as far as our human eyes are concerned. It means that much of the blue has scattered out long before the light reaches us, leaving a disproportionate amount of oranges and reds as that beam of light hits us.
So why the pyrotechnics in winter? Turns out the the air along the path of the ray of sunlight tends to be dryer and cleaner, so more red and orange gets to us. The stormy nature of winter helps as well - the dramatic sunsets after a weather system moves through are accentuated by the clouds.
There's often a slanting band of clouds on the back side of the departing weather system, and that can act as a sort of projection screen for the low-sun colors, better than a horizontal band would. The slant means it captures more of the orange and red light, and if the cloud is thin enough, it will reflect those colors down to you. Also, storms wash a lot of the big particles out of the air.
So there's why we get those kiff sunsets and sunrises at this time of year.
What a week!! Monday to Thursday were epic. Such good waves and even the wind didn't mess things up too much. All the spots in the bay fired. And then on the weekend you just had to drive round the corner to keep the wave glut coming.
Such good swell that there were enough kiff shots for a gallery by Friday already. Check out all the surf shots from last week here:
The waves were so good you actually didn't even need a wave to surf. You could just hop about between sets and keep yourself occupied!
It was cooking everywhere last week. Cloudbreak was firing, in what some reckon is the biggest it's been in over a decade. Or maybe ever. If you watch the video's it looks exactly like 'Chopes. Just remember it isn't!
Congrats to the Nelson Mandela Bay Surfriders for taking the win at the 2018 Vic Bay Quad. Some solid surf pounding in to the lil bay had everyone on their toes. PE's Michelle von Kempen took the win in the Ladies, Etienne Potgieter won the Masters, and Clinton Fraser & Martin Hartslief got 3rd & 4th in the Grand Masters, with JBay's Joshe Faulkner 4th in the Open Mens.
When we say the swell was cooking everywhere last week, it applied quite literally at some places. Like Hawaii - where the erupting volcano has sent a smoking hot lava flow into the sea - new surf spot coming soon!?
"It was on fire" also applied to the sunrises and sunsets that graced the week.
In between all the surf and sky action, it's nice to take a quick time capsule back to the past, when Kings Beach used to extend literally right up to Beach Rd. That's the (in)famous Humewood Mansions in the pic.
If the bay is decent size then you know the wildside is pretty wild.
The surf was so good that the criminals decided they needed to steal a board - and skyfed this stick from a garage in Beverly Grove. So please keep your eyes open for it and snotklap the new "owner". If found/spotted please tune Surf Centre and they'll get it back to the real owner.
Looks like we might hook a bit more swell this week. So if you missed last weeks swell don't be dumb twice in a row!
The week started with a bang - solid surf Monday and Tuesday meant you could surf til your arms refused to paddle any more. Luckily it was a long period swell, which meant long waits between sets - and less crowds cos the ou's pull in for a quick surf check and see no waves and drive off again.
JBay had some proper waves, which gave everyone a chance to practice their sprint paddles for the horizon and their breath=holds whilst getting worked if the sprint paddle didn't turn out to be fast enough.
Plenty of surf in the Bay to start with but midweek saw a flatspell give everyone's arm's a chance to recover. Still waves if spent R10 on petrol. It was cooking. Have seen the photo evidence. Just won't post it here though. You wanna score that side you gotto make your own missions.
Ballie Barry Wollins dug up a few old pics and among them was this one of what looks like either 69's or Killers back in the day.
Plenty of awesome weather during the week. An almost mid-winter summer. Even the birds took to the skies in celebration.
Props to Dean Biddulph, Vernon Boggenpoel and the ward 2 DA Councillors who arranged a beach clean up at Kings Beach over the weekend. Plenty of rubbish cleared up - nice work peeps!
PE's NSRI's Sea Rescue Station 6 is raising funds to have an additional rescue station built at Noordhoek. Currently it takes a minimum of 20min to respond to Cape Recife by sea from the Station 6 Rescue Base in the PE harbour if conditions are good, and even longer if they need to tow their small boat to the launch spot at Noordhoek Ski-Boat Club. Not ideal in an emergency!
The budget for this project is R 450 000 including the Jetski, sled, trailer, launch dolly, radio’s, rescue equipment, safety equipment etc, for which we already have received pledges to value of nearly R100 000!
If you'd like to contribute to this great cause please click the link to go to the funding page.
In the last 15 months NSRI Station-6 has responded to 18 in-shore incidents between Cape Recife and Maitlands River Mouth (boating related incidents, Drowning in Progress incidents., Diving related incidents, Whale distentaglement). These calls have involved 31 casualties of which unfortunately 5 were deceased.
Anyone interested in the shark cage diving operations due to start in PE, Bayworld PE's next “Know your Bay” event is on Tuesday 22 May and will include a debate on the subject. Raggy Charters who have been granted the licence will be showing their plans for their operation.
The presentation for the evening will be Dr Malcolm Smale presenting some of his shark research in Algoa Bay, and this will be followed by the shark cage debate. The event is organised by Algoa Bay Hope Spot and WESSA Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa. Venue is Bayworld 17h30 for 18h00. Date 22 May.
It was a week of particularly awesome sunrises and sunsets - here's a selection from throughout the week by the early birds.
The only time I woke up super early to try catch the sunrise this happened....
Sunsets happen at more my time of day. There were some cool one's.
Seeing as finned fellows seem to be in the headlines at the moment, why not grab yourself a new set of fins. Even if you don't get em onto your stick looks like your mutt will enjoy chewing on them...
A whole new range of Scarfini fins just dropped at the Boardroom.
Yip - it was a good coupla days of surf this past week. This week the crystal ball is looking decidedly favourable. Start making your bunk work/school excuses so long.
A wave or two to keep the salt water addiction sufficiently fueled. Also some calm summery days to help you forget that mid-winter is just over a month away.
It's that time of year again when our finned friends come a lil closer to shore. A surfer at Beachview had a large fellow swim up next to him and give him the eyeball, whilst there was an incident at Nahoon Reef over the weekend.
A local surfer was struck from below by a shark and sustained minor injuries. Eye witnesses report that he was paddling just past Pinnacle, when he got launched almost a metre in the air out in the packed line-up.
Luckily his board took the brunt of the damage from the impact, whilst the fortunate surfer just got a few minor cuts on his right side, and the fright of his life.
Big news this week was the announcement of a new shark cage diving operation for Algoa Bay. Raggy Charters have been awarded a licence and plan to start offering cage diving trips at Bird Island, which is about 60k's across the bay from the Southern Beaches.
Unsurprisingly ou's are not too stoked with the news and most peeps are of the opinion it's a pretty kak idea., despite no concrete scientific proof at this stage that it can lead to an increase in local human/shark incidents.
You can take a look at the in-depth article I wrote about shark cage diving here.
St Francis photag Chris Scott also had a close encounter during the week - a dawn swim out at the beachie to take some shots got the heart pumping when he realised the fin that popped up 5m in front of him wasn't a dolphin. Thankfully the old adage proved true on this occasion - "It's not the one's you see that bite you..."
The theory behind that saying is that as sharks are ambush predators if they were planning to have a snack on you they don't usually cruise past first - you wouldn't see em coming if you were on the menu.
Whilst early morning ocean swims may not come highly recommended, you're still able to get some lekker sunrise shots with your feet on dry land.
Cool to see a nice aerial shot of a calm day at Avo's, and the layout of all the reefs and rocks under the break. Just wishing the sand would come back and turn it into a surf spot again. Used to be a super consistent break back in the day, barely needed any swell to break - as long as it was low tide you'd usually find a wave.
The charts at least show a lump or two for the coming week. Nothing flash, but will keep you wet nonetheless. Winter still hasn't showed it's face, and is long overdue for a solid swell. Can't wait to see one of those purple people eater swell forecasts again...
(an no - this isn't on the cards for this week - although wish it was!)
I surf. Often alone. Often at sunrise & sunset. I pee in my wetsuit. I’m scared of sharks. They’re big, and have more teeth than I do. And just like you, I don’t want to be on the lunch menu.
Carcharodon carcharias aka the Great White Shark, from the Greek ‘karcharos’ meaning sharp and ‘odous’ meaning teeth. It’s the world’s ultimate ambush predator that’s been around for 400 million years. A 7m long, 2 ton, 3000 toothed ocean-dwelling mugger who doesn’t blink. It lives where we play. And that makes us nervous….
Even more so when you open the mornings newspaper to discover that shark cage diving is about to start in Algoa Bay. The DEA has just awarded a license to Raggy Charters to operate a shark cage diving operation at Bird Island, near Woody Cape.
Now it's hard to be objective about shark cage diving. It's a massively emotive subject. And most peoples knee jerk reaction is that it is a super kak idea. Let's look at the facts.
One of my favourite words is Perception. "[per-sep-shuhn] Noun. The way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted." It’s what can make us see black and white when in reality all there is are shades of grey. It can also make us see grey, when things are black and white.
We all think that the number of attacks from big whites is on the up, and there are far more sightings. Conversations in the line-up and the car park frequently turn to what’s behind the recent increase in activity - "It must be all the shark cage diving" they say.
We’re wired to see something rather than nothing, to seek out patterns rather than accept randomness. Everyone seems to have a shark story or have heard a shark story. Then there’re these ou’s that are dumping blood and guts over the sides of their boats to make a buck. At our expense!?
The neutral observer may see our concern as ironic given that the ocean is the sharks playground not ours; to them, I say stay on the beach. We aren’t neutral. We’re in that ocean playground daily, and we don’t want to be the next statistic. Don’t get between us and our surf. It’s not called an addiction for nothing.
Despite the fact that the statistics show that there isn't a trend of increasing attacks evident over the last 22 years, the presence of white sharks particularly in the False Bay region, and stretches along the coast such as Plett, do seem to have become increasingly conspicuous.
Because we’re surfers we don’t care that we have more chance of getting hit by lightning or killed by a falling coconut than being bitten by a Great White. Who gives a damn about coconuts when you’re sitting on your board getting lazily circled by something larger than you with considerably more teeth. Even if he doesn’t bite us, we’d honestly prefer not to see him.
Even if the records show there’s only an average of 3 Great White attacks per year along our coastline, and of those only 40% are on surfers, the fact is that none of us want to be one those unlucky three.
Just because the stats from the last 22 years don’t seem to show an increase in great white attacks, that doesn’t mean that can’t change in the future. If there’s one thing that science teaches us is that nothing is absolute, and that what’s accepted as correct today might not be so tomorrow. After all, no-one believed Galileo at first when he said the Earth revolved around the sun.
So damn right we want to know what influence cage diving and chumming has on the white’s behaviour. Because what might be happening now might end up influencing our predisposition to attack in the future. Sharks live upwards of 40 years, so what they’re learning now might get applied long into the future.
Irrespective of whether there’s been an increase in great white shark attacks or not, investigating the effect of chumming on their behaviour remains a relevant argument. We don’t want to be caught standing impassively on the sidelines if there’s something that could be potentially increasing our risk of attack.
A heated debate rages over whether shark ecotourism (a dichotomy of terms if ever there was one) otherwise known as shark cage diving, may alter shark behaviour and in doing so increase the propensity for human/white shark encounters.
Much of the debate centres on their use of chum as a means of attracting the sharks, with the argument being that this is conditioning sharks to associate us with food. It just seems to makes sense at first glance. Pavlov says ring the bell, feed the dog. Dog learns bell means food. Now he drools every time the bell rings. Shark diving boat dumps chum, shark goes to boat, eats bait. Shark learns boat means food. Yes, so far the science supports that. Shark learns boat means food and bites human? We’ll get back to that one later.
(“Pavlovian Response - a learning process that occurs when two stimuli are repeatedly paired; a response that is at first elicited by the second stimulus is eventually elicited by the first stimulus alone.”)
Both local and international studies have shown that chumming can result in a change in the white sharks behaviour. Local shark researchers Ryan Johnson and Alison Kock found that although most of the white sharks they monitored in False Bay and Gansbaai showed no evidence of conditioning to chumming, some did.
As Matt Dicken, PE based marine biologist and shark researcher, explains “To evoke Pavlovian conditioning in Great Whites requires the equivalent of the ‘Perfect Storm’. You have to repeatedly feed the same shark every day for a prolonged period. There has to be that predictable reward. But the Whites are transient in nature, often staying in an area for just 1-2 weeks before moving off and returning at a later date. It’s not often we’ll see the same individual on a number of consecutive days when we’re out on the boat, so the opportunity to develop a Pavlovian response would be rare.” Matt goes on to point out that even if conditioning does occur, if the conditioned reflex is not maintained by regular positive reinforcement, it will eventually be lost altogether.
The hiccup is that sharks are clever critters - they haven't been around for millions of years cos they're like doff sheep, and probably don't have to have a Pavlovian response drummed into them to quickly work out "here's a lekker spot to grab a chow".
A recent Australian study in the Neptune Islands showed a more noticeable effect of chumming on white shark behaviour. An earlier study at the same location had shown a negligible effect of chumming, yet just 5 years later the changes were significant.
Shark Cage diving had increased markedly in the interim, with dive days going from an average of 128 days/year to 278 days/year. The study found that sharks were resident for greater periods of time (11 days to 21 days), with a significant increase in the length of each visit (defined as the average number of consecutive days spent at in the area during residency periods) from 2 days to 6.5 days.
The researchers point out that this doesn’t mean that the actual number of sharks had increased, but rather showed that they’re staying for longer periods and that each individual was seen more often.
Daily shark movements changed to more closely match the arrival and departure of shark cage dive operators, with a peak in arrival times of sharks immediately prior to the arrival times of the boats. Disconcertingly this pattern was noted even on days when operators weren’t present.
The observations of both the Australian & South African studies suggest that chumming can change the way sharks behave. However, there is no direct evidence as yet to suggest that these changes have been harmful to the sharks or whether they may lead to changes in their behavior at any other location. And their behavior towards us.
So does shark cage diving increase our risk of attack?
As Ryan Johnson points out in his study “Would a white shark conditioned to associate a 40ft chumming boat and cage have this conditioned reflex stimulated by the detection of a 6ft swimmer or board rider?” Pretty valid point that.
He points to something called Rearrangement Gradients, which basically predicts that progressively larger deviations away from the conditioned stimuli, in this case the cage diving boat, would reduce the stimulation of the conditioned response, being attempted feeding.
In other words, the conditioned 'feeding anticipation' response of the white shark would be less likely to be evoked by anything that didn’t closely resemble the cage diving boat. So the less it resembles the boat, the less likelihood of association. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we look much like a boat?
And we don’t smell much like a chumming boat either. It’s actually this sensory stimulus that entices the white shark to the cage diving boat to start with. Sharks smell better than they see. So they smell the chum first, and then head over to check out the boat.
So what we have is a scenario whereby a similarity in both smell and appearance is required in order for a conditioned shark to associate a new object with a cage diving boat and have its anticipated feeding response evoked. I think it’s safe to conclude we don’t tick either box, and that we can discard the notion that there’s a direct causal relationship between chumming and human/shark encounters…….meaning it sees us and thinks “Food!”
“We draw conclusions on the based on what we see. But it’s important for us to remember that just because there is a correlation between two facts, it doesn’t necessarily a cause/effect relationship between them.”
But that doesn’t necessarily let cage diving off the hook. If it’s capable of keeping sharks in the area for longer periods, and this area happens to be within close proximity to where there’re surfers or other water users, then it’s not implausible to consider that our exposure to these sharks could increase, and with that the potential for an encounter. So an indirect relationship between cage diving and increasing human/shark encounters isn’t implausible.
So it may be that the location of the cage diving operations is a key element to consider in this debate. Although chumming doesn’t draw more sharks into the area, it does create a focal point and makes them hang around for longer. If this “hanging around” area happens to include surf spots or bathing beaches within close proximity, would it not be reasonable to assume that ours paths might cross a little more often?
Upsetting the balance
Our safety aside, if chumming can cause behavioural change in sharks, this could cascade down the entire ecosystem by changing the shark’s interaction with other species, and have potentially detrimental consequences.
Understanding the impacts of such changes is complex because each shark is only a transient resident to these locations, and only exposed to chumming whilst there.
“I instinctively feel that chumming is wrong, especially from an environmental angle - enticing wild animals with blood for the pleasure of humans with cameras doesn't ring well with me.”
The challenge is to reduce the impact of shark cage diving on both sharks and the ecosystem whilst still maintaining a viable industry that contributes significantly to the local economy. The platform that ethical cage diving provides for Great White shark education, research and conservation should not be underestimated either.
When money talks, do rules walk?
The researchers noted that conditioning would only arise if “operators intentionally and willfully contravene current permit regulations prohibiting intentional feeding of sharks”. Which in a South African context is not an entirely unlikely situation.
Particularly so when you there’s so much at stake. A local socio-economic study found that the 8 cage diving operators in Gansbaai generated an income of almost R30 million from direct ticket sales over a 12 month period. The likelihood of a R30 million industry self-regulating to the benefit of the environment not the balance sheet is well, unlikely.
There’re tourists on board who’ve paid good money for their Discovery Channel experience. But nature isn’t DSTV on demand. Whites are elusive creatures, they don’t come when you whistle or click your fingers. Hence the need for chumming.
It’s meant to be limited to 25 kg per day per operator, natural fish products only. But how do we know these rules are being observed? How do we know the sharks aren’t being fed? It’s certainly not to say that every cage dive operator is unscrupulous, far from it, but there might be those that are.
Responsible cage diving – a dichotomy or a possibility?
There’s too much money involved for the call for a ban on cage-diving to ever succeed. But it can be done in a more responsible manner; so what is the sustainable way forward?
Concerned NGO's have called for the appointment of an independent ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) for each boat, who will ensure that regulations are followed. Reducing the level of chumming, as well as the number of days per year its permissible may also assist in reducing the likelihood of conditioning responses. Less exposure to less stimulus less regularly means a lower chance of conditioning.
There’s also anecdotal evidence of sharks being attracted by low frequency sound, so a non-chum alternative may be possible. As cage diving operations could be contributing to sharks remaining in an area for longer, location becomes a critical component. Restricting operations to locations in those areas that are not in close proximity to frequently used beaches should seriously be considered. As the crow flies (or the shark swims) Bird Island is just under 60km from PE's southern beaches.
Understanding white shark demographics & distribution plays a key role in establishing our potential risk profile. If we know when and where they’re most likely to occur we have a better chance at minimising our chance of an encounter. That's why the municipality should renew funding for BayWorld's White Shark study - so Matt Dicken can continue his important research in Algoa Bay.
White sharks aren’t home bodies, they’re travellers. Swimming the oceanic equivalent of the N2 from Cape Town up to Richard’s Bay and beyond. Some even make the transcontinental journey to Australia and back.
There seem to be key places where they spend most of their time, and then move rapidly between these areas once they decide to change location. It’s surmised that these hotspots are related to feeding, resting, mating and socialising.
One of the key hotposts for Great Whites are seal colonies. Seal, Dyer and Bird Islands, and Robberg peninsula, are the McDonald Drive-throughs of the oceanic Highway. Seal-burgers are top of the menu. Bigger seal colonies generally mean an up-size in the shark population within the vicinity. It’s not a coincidence that many of the white shark attacks happen within the general area of seal colonies. More sharks in an area means the higher our chances of bumping into one.
So are we on the menu?
No. Luckily for us great whites think we taste kak. The high-caloric, energy-rich blubber of seal pups gives them far more bang for their buck. We didn’t evolve alongside the shark as ocean dwellers, so we don’t slot into their natural food chain at all.
If they did want to eat us there’d be a lot more than 63 human/white shark encounters over 2 decades, so it’s safe to say they definitely don’t hunt us as natural prey.
So why do we get bitten then? Turns out sharks are exceedingly curious, but in the absence of hands to pick something up and give it the once over, they rely on their mouths instead. This might explain why over 70% of great white bites on humans are a bite and release only.
Much of the time the shark just wants to see what we are, and then on discovering that we don’t taste particularly nice, proceeds to spit us out and move on. Unfortunately our design is such that we have numerous large arteries close to the surface that don’t respond well having 3 rows of razor sharp teeth embedded into them.
That’s not to say that there aren’t instances where the victims get eaten, but these are the exception rather than the rule.
A recent shark incident at Seals saw Ross Spowart get a bite on his knee
But there do seem to be more whites and more incidents!?
Even thought the stats don't clearly point to an increase in attacks, there do seem to be more whites about. And no-one really knows why. There’s a myriad of theories as to what might be responsible. Everything from climate change, to estuary outflows, more sharks or more seals, a change in distribution patterns within the areas themselves, shark cage diving, chumming, more people in the water over longer periods; the list goes on. Most likely it’s a combination of a variety of factors, some we may not even yet have considered.
“We have a deep need to make up a narrative that serves to make sense of a series of connected or disconnected facts. Our correlation calculators pull together these cause and effect stories to help us understand the world around us even if chance has dictated our circumstances. We fit these stories around the observable facts and sometimes render the facts to make them fit the story.”
Psychologist Gerald Guild.
We need something tangible to direct our emotions towards when we’re dealing with our primordial fear of shark attack, and it’s far easier to direct our ire towards something visceral like shark cage diving rather than an abstract construct such an increase in the number of water users.
The explosion of social media and our heightened interconnectedness means news of a shark sighting can extend far beyond our immediate circle of friends as was the case until the advent of Facebook, to now reaching a diverse and dispersed audience within minutes.
The last word
Sharks are integral cogs in our marine ecosystem and certainly deserve our respect and protection. Pull them out of the marine equation and it could collapse like the proverbial pack of cards, with consequences far beyond what we can comprehend.
But at the same time it doesn’t mean we have to like them, or be happy about the fact that we seem to be seeing more of them in close proximity to where we swim or surf.
Modern marine coastal management stresses an ecosystem based approach. It’s not us or them, it’s us and them. We just have to work out how to keep the balance right for both parties. Happy sharks. Happy humans. Wouldn’t that be a happy ending? Where does shark cage diving fit in to all of this? Time will tell.
Shark attacks may be rare. But then rare things happen all the time. Someone does win the lottery, people do have meteorites land in their lounge, people are struck by lightning twice.
Personally, I’d rather win the lotto.
(This blog post contains extracts from a feature on Great White Sharks I wrote for Bomb Surf magazine a while ago, for which I did a heap of research)
Luckily East Cape locals are a well traveled breed, so even when the surfs pretty uninspiring at home you can be sure there's a PE ou somewhere getting kiff waves. Brad Beck ticked the box in Indo this week scoring some of the 22 second period lines that graced our shore 10 days back.
The bay did manage to ruffle up a coupla lines towards the end of the week. Nothing flash, but enough to inspire anyone who owned a board to go and get wet. Some fairly heavy crowds considering the mediocre wave quality.
The only guys getting air were the motorised variety, making good use of the ramps along Kings Beach. With the closing of the ramp at Hobie to emergency vessels only, all other pleasure craft have to launch down at Kings Beach, which has seen the jetski crew relocate there.
Wave quality and quantity aren't always directly related to the crowd factor. Evidenced this week by lank people and not so lank waves. The syndrome is even catching on in the normally wave-rich region west of here. Everyone has their winter froth on, but Neptune just ain't playing the game.
At least we had some good weather. Which meant photo angles were possible that would be a nightmare to try in the usual Windy City conditions. Like this cool shot by Luc Hosten that he'd get totally sand-blasted obliterated in if usual PE conditions prevailed.
Production pumping along at the Boardroom. Anyone that's the wrong side of 40 should immediately recognise that spray towards the back of the room.
It was from back in the day when Kelly had hair. On the Indies Explorer Quiksilver Crossing. When the King pulled a pretty rad loop thing whilst on board in Indo. Would pay money to get hold of the nav card from the chart plotter from that voyage. Must be sooo many amazing waves they found, and didn't tell anyone about. Martin Daly must still hold some aces up his sleeve.
If you spotted some brightly coloured peeps getting pounded in the rock pools out at Schoenies you would have been seeing the guys from the volunteer organisation Coastal Water Rescue practicing some rock gully drills. This is the crew that assists municipal rescue services in our bay, and we're damn lucky to have 'em.
Bit of drama over the weekend when a big-ass tanker went walk-about for a bit. Things went pear-shaped when Tug Boat AHT Carrier, who was towing another boat, MT Order, to Maputo had the tow rope break and foul it's prop. Effectively making both boats dead in the water and at the mercy of the currents just off Cape st Francis. The SA Amandla salvage vessel was dispatched from Cape Town to come take over tow duties, and whilst she was en route the NSRI kept a beady eye on things. Thankfully all got sorted out in the end, and we were saved from having a rather large shipwreck along our coastline.
How often don't you wish you had a time machine to go back 100 years or so to enjoy waves in solitude. Imagine how many perfect lines used to fill into the bay unridden back then. Especially before the construction of the harbour.
The blow hole at Avalanche is a perennial favorite with kids - what's not to love about having water explode all around you!? And if you really feel like a challenge you can try riding your surf ski through it like Chopper. Must dig those shots out - have them on file somewhere. Both Chopper and his ski survived the experience.
The WSL Founders Cup went down at Kellys surf ranch this weekend. It was marginally less exciting than watching paint dry. Yes, I would absolutely love to surf that wave, but no, I have no desire to sit and watch a copious amount of (non-relevant) ad's, some guy floating in the water next to some poles and a net doing nothing for ages, more ads and then one wave every 5 minutes. Made even worse when the ou digs a rail and falls off on his first turn - and then you go through the whole boring waiting 5 minute cycle again. Definitely prefer the real ocean when it comes to surf comps. At least Jordys team won.
What would a week in PE be without it's pink/orange book ends to the day. Pretty sunrise. Tick. Pretty sunset. Tick. Aren't you glad to live in a lil dorpie by the sea instead of the big smoke. Tick.
Again not much on the charts this week as far as surf goes. Early the following week may offer a glimmer of hope but the winds need to sort themselves out. Come on Winter - show your face!!
Gromblitz is a great #localislekker initiative spearheaded by Annie van der Merwe and Willem van Rijswijck that teaches lighties from Missionvale to surf and skateboard.
Can you tell us a bit about Gromblitz and how it started?
We started in February 2016. We are a bit different to the other great initiatives, inasmuch as we have targeted a small group of OVC kids (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) from the Missionvale area. Together with our main funder, the Mandela Bay Development Agency, we decided to “target” 5 kids. The plan was to grow the concept though the kids “Sphere of Influence”. We now have a core group of about 12 kids and end up with around 20 at each intervention.
Besides the surfing and skateboarding, is there a deeper focus?
Our pillars are:
Surfing and skateboarding are both probably rather foreign activities to the kids you work with. I am guessing there must be some funny stories to relate!?
Quite a few. They’re kids and kids do nutty things. SA Club Champs in St Francis was quite a hoot. Get to the backline quickly before the hooter apparently meant paddling to Australia. The whole gang and us hopping up and down trying to call him back…. Anyway, what happens at Gromblitz ……
Any success stories?
We have seen vast improvements in their confidence, school marks, and interaction with others
How often do you host workshops for the kids?
We try to get together at least twice a week. We are sometimes stymied by the weather and transport issues. We also like to include visits museums and other local attractions
Who all is involved in the program?
We are fortunate to have great support from Mandela Bay Development Agency, Missionvale Care Centre, The Boardroom, Twizza, Body Fuel Express, Pam Golding, Surf Centre, SummerBreezz Spar, Family Terence, Beershack, Borer Beetle and Floor Sanding Services. We are very grateful to all, and in particular to those who assist with coaching.
Gotto love how PE peeps just get on with doing good stuff under the radar. Anyone who'd like to help out with the program, in terms of sponsorship, logistics or man power, please get in touch with Willem on firstname.lastname@example.org