Experience: Surf Boarder
Regions: Otago, Catlins, Foveaux Strait
Interview Location: Curio Bay, NZ
Interview Date: 10 January 2016
Post Date: 11 November 2017; Copyright © 2017 Nick Smart and Steve Crawford
1. EXPERIENCE IN AOTEAROA/NZ COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS
CRAWFORD: Ok, Nick - what year were you born?
CRAWFORD: And where were you born?
CRAWFORD: What was your first significant exposure to New Zealand coastal waters? Roughly how old were you?
SMART: Oh, probably three or four years old.
CRAWFORD: Growing up in a coastal community, did your family have property on the water, or did you make regular trips to the beach?
SMART: I grew up in Timaru, but my grandparents owned a farm at Kaka Point, just north of Nugget Point. The farm was only a kilometre from the ocean. So yeah, every nice day I was off down to the beach.
CRAWFORD: Did you also spend time around coastal waters up at Timaru, when you were growing up?
SMART: Both. Maybe 70-30.
CRAWFORD: 70% Timaru, 30% Kaka Point?
CRAWFORD: From your first days then, as a supervised kid, you'd be playing on the beach? You’d be swimming in the surf?
SMART: Swimming, yeah. Bodyboarding. Just in the ocean.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever do any boating?
SMART: Not at that stage of my life. It wasn’t until I was maybe 12 or 13 did I do a bit of sailing.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Still as a younger kid, would your ocean time have been mostly in the summer?
SMART: Yeah. All of the school holidays, we would spend at my grandparents' farm at Kaka Point. Three months a year.
CRAWFORD: My wife and I were just at Kaka Point today. That’s a beautiful beach, right there at the Surf Life Saving clubhouse. Is that where you would have been spending your time when you were at Kaka Point?
SMART: Yeah, that’s where my Father met my Mother.
SMART: Yeah. He was a life guard.
CRAWFORD: With Surf Life Saving?
SMART: At Kaka Point, yeah.
CRAWFORD: That’s important to know actually, because your parents, well at least your Dad would have been an extremely good swimmer. He would have been very knowledgeable about the ocean, and coastal waters. Not just in terms of the tide and the waves and winds, but also in terms of the life that exists in there.
CRAWFORD: Did you take swimming lessons?
SMART: Yeah. We all took swimming lessons. And we learned swimming lessons at school in New Zealand anyway. In the early days in New Zealand, all the schools had a pool.
CRAWFORD: What's the first significant new coastal thing that you started doing as a kid, other than swimming?
SMART: Once I got to about 14 years old, I started surfing. And once I was about 15, 16 then I said "Look, let’s go back down to my family’s area in the Catlins, and we’ll start looking for surf."
CRAWFORD: So, when surfing took hold, that was going to be a natural break point in your history?
SMART: Oh, very much.
CRAWFORD: At the age of 14, 15 - were you still at that 70-30 split between Timaru and Kaka Point?
SMART: Yep. All my life it’s pretty much been like that. Until I moved down here [Porpoise Bay] to start my business 15 years ago.
CRAWFORD: When you got exposed to surfing, was it just a kid thing, for fun?
SMART: Yeah. My friends were doing it. It was a cool thing to do, so I just tagged along for the ride. And then I just enjoyed it a lot.
CRAWFORD: When you’re talking about doing something for the sake of enjoyment - of the time that you spent around the water, how much of your time would boarding have taken up?
SMART: A lot. Afternoons, weekends, holidays. We used to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning, and bike down to the beach, surf, and the we'd get on our bikes, and bike to school and be there at 8:30.
CRAWFORD: You’d go surfing before school?
SMART: Yeah, we used to.
CRAWFORD: So, you'd be surfing around what 5-6 o'clock in the morning - just after dawn?
SMART: Yeah. It's light here around 5 o'clock, in the summer anyway.
CRAWFORD: Right. This was obviously a big part of your life from an early age.
CRAWFORD: Was there a period of time when it was for fun, and then it switched into being competitive? Anything like that?
SMART: No, no. I’ve never been a competitive surfer. I’ve done a few contests in my earlier years, but I don’t really like contests. I’m a free surfer.
CRAWFORD: Alright. You were at the age of 14-15 when you started your passion with surfing. But you weren’t quite at the age when you were mobile on your own yet, so where were you surf mostly?
SMART: In Timaru.
CRAWFORD: Close proximity to Timaru, and close proximity to Kaka Point?
CRAWFORD: What was the stage when you started to spread your wings - travelling elsewhere to surf?
SMART: Soon as I bought a car. Soon as I got a job. 17 years old.
CRAWFORD: Still in school with a part-time job?
SMART: I left school just after 16. And then I worked a bit of part-time, bit of this and a bit of that.
CRAWFORD: When you were working, roughly how many days a week would you be surfing?
SMART: Every day I could. [laughs]
CRAWFORD: Yeah, ok. I’ve heard similar kinds of stories from avid boarders in this country.
SMART: Yeah. Every day there’s waves breaking, we’ll be out there.
CRAWFORD: Once you had access to your own vehicle, tell me about the surfing places you started to explore.
SMART: Well, I’d already been in Dunedin quite a bit, through friends and that. But once I had my car, then we started coming down and spending more time around Kaka Point. And because the family’s got the farm there, we always had somewhere to stay.
SMART: And north and south of Kaka Point, there’s lots of good surf.
CRAWFORD: You said you that you had been up to Dunedin before with friends?
SMART: Yes. Well, we used to go down from Timaru - but it wasn’t just Dunedin. We would come down to Dunedin - quite often there’d be surf contests there. When we were young, we’d go down and there’d be contests and have a bit of a party and things like that.
CRAWFORD: When you were surfing around the Otago Peninsula region, what kinds of places were you surfing?
CRAWFORD: Did you surf on the outer part of the peninsula as well? Some of the beaches?
SMART: Yeah. Still do now.
CRAWFORD: Ok. That take us into when you’re mobile - let’s say 17-ish. When do you add a new dimension, at what age?
SMART: When I was about 19-20 years old, I started travelling abroad. I spent about 15 years living in Indonesia. 1989, I think - to 2002, I lived in Indonesia 6 months per year.
CRAWFORD: And then back here 6 months? I'm guessing for the summer here? Indonesia during the winter months?
CRAWFORD: Generally, what kinds of things just were you doing in Indonesia?
SMART: Was always surfing, yeah. For 15 years.
CRAWFORD: When did you start surfing Foveaux Strait, the south end of South Island generally - beyond Kaka Point?
SMART: About 17 we’d go down and surf Sandy Bay to south of Nugget Point. And Cannibal Bay, surfed there a bit. Sometimes Surat Bay. Purakaunui Bay, which is where I was surfing at today. And that’s where we sort of started surfing. I didn’t actually come down to Waikawa or Curio Bay until - it was '87 I think. And a friend had shown me a photograph of the surf down here, and then I thought "Oh, that's good, I better go and have a look." And then I came down, and it's got really good surf here. And all the rest is history, really.
CRAWFORD: When you say 'the rest is history' - you moved here to Curio Bay then?
SMART: Because I was living overseas six months a year, and then I’d come home and work six months - then holidays, weekends, we’d come down here. So, I did spend a lot of time down here at those times, right through the ‘90s. Once I got into the ‘90s I didn’t surf at Kaka Point much, because it’s not as good there.
CRAWFORD: Then you moved to Curio Bay?
SMART: I came and lived here summer ‘96 for six months, and then I went back to Indonesia. And then after, ;98-99 I was in Timaru/Indonesia, but still making trips down here. I moved to Curio Bay in 2001, opened my surf school 2002.
CRAWFORD: Ok. From 2002 to 2015, it’s your surf school for six months, here in the summer, and in the winter maybe travel a bit?
SMART: Yeah. Just follow the swell. When you’re a surfer, there’s no time limit. It’s like, the surf comes and you go and you surf it, and then it’s gone and so you move on. You might go one day, it might be three days, it might be a week …
CRAWFORD: When did you start following the surf in Foveaux Strait?
CRAWFORD: What would the split have been between Foveaux Strait versus Fiordland?
SMART: 95% - 5%.
CRAWFORD: Oh, so just a few instances on the west coast?
SMART: Yeah, not much surf in Fiordland.
CRAWFORD: Last question about your surfing in Foveaux Strait - if there were top three places you would have spent time in that region – where would they have been?
SMART: Pahia, Porridge, … I mean, when we live here, we don’t have to travel too far to surf. The only time we ever travel … I went to Pahia because we swell on an easterly wind, so we go over surfing there. But I have spent quite a bit of time in Riverton. I have friends that live there, and we’d just go over there to party and hang out with friends and that. But I have surfed there quite a bit. Colac Bay as well, though I've never actually surfed right at Colac Bay because it’s a bit of a learner wave.
CRAWFORD: Okay, thank you for being patient with me as a non-surfer.
SMART: That’s fine.
2. EXPOSURE TO MĀORI/LOCAL/SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS
CRAWFORD: In general, to what extent has Māori culture and knowledge about the marine ecosystem had an effect on your understanding of how the marine ecosystem works? Where would that be on a general scale?
SMART: Pretty low, very low.
CRAWFORD: In terms of Science culture and knowledge, where would you rank that as affecting your understanding of the marine ecosystem. generally?
SMART: Pretty high.
CRAWFORD: With people who give me a ‘high’ or ‘very high,’ I ask them why?
SMART: Just because most of the information comes from scientists or off the ‘net or from books and all that.
3. WHITE POINTER DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE
CRAWFORD: Other than your experience here in Porpoise Bay, have you heard of any other encounters that boarders have had with White Pointers, anywhere else - up around Timaru, Kaka Point, or down around Foveaux Strait?
SMART: Not really.
CRAWFORD: Anything for Otago Peninsula, north or south?
SMART: No. I can’t say that I have.
CRAWFORD: What other kinds of encounters with White Pointers have you heard about?
SMART: Mostly abalone divers.
CRAWFORD: Pāua divers?
SMART: Stewart Island.
CRAWFORD: You heard from them directly?
CRAWFORD: [Discussion about project classification levels for human encounters with White Pointers: Level 1-Observation, Level 2-Swim-By, Level 3-Interest, Level 4-Intense] In terms of their shark-human interaction Levels, what were the Pāua divers mostly describing?
CRAWFORD: Level 2's then, mostly? The animal would cruise by, and then be on its way?
SMART: That’s right.
CRAWFORD: Any of the Pāua divers you’ve talked to, did they tell you anything about Level 3’s? Heightened interest, circling, those kinds of things?
SMART: No, no.
CRAWFORD: Are you familiar with people who have been doing Pāua diving elsewhere?
SMART: Yeah, well I used to manage the boat for some Pāua divers.
CRAWFORD: You were a dinghy boy?
SMART: Yeah. I did that for quite a few years, further southwest along the coast years ago.
CRAWFORD: What region?
CRAWFORD: Ok. When you were a dinghy boy for Pāua operations in that region, did your divers ever have any encounters with White Pointers?
SMART: No. It was only on Stewart Island that I had heard of the drive-bys.
CRAWFORD: Nothing elsewhere from Foveaux Strait?
SMART: It’s more just that a lot of those guys surf, so I know them from surfing. But nah, I haven’t heard any of those shark stories from them. They do get hit by Sevengillers a lot out at Porridge Point. Last few years there have been a lot of incidences of Sevengillers coming up and bumping boards. That’s happening every few weeks almost.
CRAWFORD: It’s happening now every few weeks?
SMART: Yeah, quite regular.
CRAWFORD: Have you ever been bumped by a Sevengiller?
CRAWFORD: But for your boarding mates who have been bumped by a Sevengiller, describe that for me.
SMART: Just out surfing, and something just comes up and bumps your board ...
SMART: Well, I'm not sure the exact details. It can be from behind or underneath or from the side, but it’s generally not knocking you off the board. Because when you’re in the water, anything touches you, and you simply don’t know - it could be a bit of seaweed hit your leg, and you just know.
CRAWFORD: But when you consider that your legs are dangling when you’re sitting on your board ...
SMART: Yeah. Like chicken feet.
CRAWFORD: If a Sevengiller wanted to have a chunk out of your leg ...
SMART: It would.
CRAWFORD: It would but ...
SMART: But they don’t. They’re bumping.
CRAWFORD: Specifically, they’re bumping the board?
SMART: Well, a lot of the time the guys are lying down paddling, so their legs aren’t dangling then.
CRAWFORD: Okay fair enough, but their arms are out paddling. I mean, would it be fair to say that mostly it’s the board that’s being bumped, rather than the extremities of the person on the board?
SMART: It’s the board, yeah.
CRAWFORD: I know it’s difficult to say, but do you think that kind of bumping is a Level 3 for the Sevengillers? Is it their interest? Or is there some type of attitude or aggression or anything?
SMART: It’s probably just a bit of curious. Wanting to know what it is, give it a bump, work out what it is. I can’t eat it? Ok. But it still freaks guys out. They get out of the water, you know? Sort of.
CRAWFORD: Sure. You mentioned Porridge. Any other places where Sevengillers have been bumping boarders?
SMART: That’s where I’ve been hearing about it the most.
SMART: Because when you’re at Porridge Point there’s nothing from there - just straight out.
CRAWFORD: Let's get back to Otago and the Catlins. You've surfed a lot of that coastline?
SMART: Oh, everywhere. I’ve surfed every inch of that coast, all over. Kuri Bush, Brighton, Kilda, Sandfly Bay, Hooper’s Inlet, Allans Beach, Pipikaretu, Aramoana, Murderer's Beach, Purakaunui - there’s 2 Purakaunui's. Surfed at Goat Island, Warrington, Karitane, Shag Point, Moeraki ...
CRAWFORD: Let’s talk about the Otago Peninsula specifically for a bit. Any kind of White Pointer encounters from there that you know of?
SMART: Well, I must say at Aramoana.
CRAWFORD: Right. As a boarder, was there a culture among boarders, where people would talk about sharks?
SMART: Yep. Always. Especially in Dunedin.
CRAWFORD: What would the boarders say about the sharks?
SMART: Just look out.
CRAWFORD: So, you’d keep an eye out. But would they say there were particular places, or times of year, or day/night? Anything like that?
SMART: Well yeah, dawn and dusk. All surfers know dawn and dusk are shark feeding times. Sometimes down here - sometimes you think "Oh, I know I maybe shouldn't go out tomorrow morning very, very early because it is shark feeding time." And yet here I am about to get up at 4:30 tomorrow morning and go down the coast and surf. We’re going to be in the water just after dawn ...
CRAWFORD: I’m not jinxing anything here ...
SMART: No, no.
CRAWFORD: I’m just trying to get at the common knowledge within the boarding community?
SMART: Yeah, just keep your eyes open.
CRAWFORD: Keep your eyes open. And if you see a shark, you get out of there water?
SMART: Yeah. And let your friends know.
CRAWFORD: Yes. Were there particular shark hotspots around the Otago Peninsula?
SMART: Aramoana. Taiaroa Head.
CRAWFORD: Was this from people who saw sharks there?
SMART: Yes, yes.
CRAWFORD: Or was it kind of the accumulated common knowledge?
SMART: Well, there was a fishing club up there ...
CRAWFORD: Tautuku Fishing Club?
SMART: Yeah, Tautuku Fishing Club. We used to hang out at the Waterloo Tavern in Dunedin, which is just up from the beach, and that’s where the Tautuku Fishing Club was. We used to hang out with all the fishermen boys, and they’d tell us their stories. I remember one night we were up there, and saying we were going out to surf Aramoana the next day. One of the old boys just said "Oh you boys are not surfing out there" you know? And we’re like "Why’s that?" And he says "Oh well, I was out there fishing last week, and a big shark came upside the boat and blah blah blah." And we’re like "Yeah, yeah. We’ve heard it all before" you know? And then he went and got his VHS video recorder, and put it on, and we watched it, and you can see this White Pointer - all you could see was a fin, you know?
CRAWFORD: Yeah. But I mean he had evidence to back up his claim.
SMART: Yeah. And he told us we were not surfing out there.
CRAWFORD: Prior to this recreational fisherman telling you about White Pointers there, you had heard anything about White Pointers at Aramoana?
SMART: Yeah, just through the surfers. Dunedin surfers had always talked about sharks there because it is a very sharky place. Yet the iconic thing is that there has never ever been an attack on a surfer in Dunedin.
CRAWFORD: Ok. You said it was known that Aramoana is sharky, and you said Taiaroa Head is sharky too?
SMART: That’s right. Next door to each other.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever hear of a shark called KZ-7?
SMART: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Actually, I’ve been hearing that story today.
SMART: Yeah, well I’ve got the young guy down with me.
CRAWFORD: Oh. He wanted to know what our interview was going to be about?
SMART: Yeah. And I told him about the shark down the coast from here, and he goes “Oh, it must have been KZ-7.”
CRAWFORD: [laughs heartily] He brought that up?
SMART: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
CRAWFORD: That was 30 years ago!
SMART: Yeah, yeah. When I was younger and living in Dunedin, everyone used to talk about KZ-7. It was always a story about the old fishermen off Taiaroa Head, and they were in a boat, the boat was like 25-foot long, and a shark pulled up beside the boat, and it was longer than the boat! It was when the America’s Cup was on, and we had to call it KZ-7, named after the Kiwi boat.
CRAWFORD: Wow. Just to get that idea about how knowledge, whether it’s reliable knowledge or not, how it gets into the system. You have a 16-year-old kid down at Porpoise Bay, and he carries echoes of a White Pointer from 200 kilometres and 30 years away. That’s a hell of a legacy!
SMART: Yeah, yeah.
CRAWFORD: But my reason for asking whether you had heard about KZ-7, was that I have a reliable commercial fisherman from there who strongly suspected that people were actually seeing a Basking Shark, while I also have a reliable boarder who said he had a first-hand interaction there with a very large White Pointer.
SMART: I would believe the fisherman more than I’d believe the surfer.
CRAWFORD: Really? Why would you say that?
SMART: Just because fishermen are more onto it. They see more ocean stuff though their lives. They’re up on a boat looking down. A surfer lying on a board - you don’t have a very good range of visibility.
CRAWFORD: Ok. These are all valid points. But, in this particular case I’m going to ask you to reserve judgement until you read the transcripts of their interviews, because there are some exceptional circumstances for each.
SMART: Yeah, ok.
CRAWFORD: Right. Was there any kind of thinking among the boarders, or anybody else, about why Aramaona and Taiaroa Head had a reputation for being sharky?
SMART: The harbour. The harbour outlet there.
CRAWFORD: Yeah? And what about the Otago Harbour.
SMART: All the salmon coming out the harbour at certain times of year, or whenever. Because it is quite good salmon fishing in there at certain times of year. Surfers are always dubious about surfing river mouths, because they are a source of food.
CRAWFORD: Estuaries are often highly productive.
SMART: Yeah. So, if you’re going to be surfing on a mouth of an estuary or a harbour, naturally there’s going to be more sharks there.
CRAWFORD: And that’s just known within the boarding community?
SMART: It’s just common knowledge. All surfers worldwide pretty much. I reckon.
SMART: Including northern California.
CRAWFORD: I think you’re the first boarder to have brought that up, and I’m glad that you did. With regards specifically to the outlet of the Otago Harbour, was there anything about time of year that White Pointers were around?
SMART: It was February, March when those guys were involved in that incident down here ...
CRAWFORD: Down where?
SMART: Down at Haldane Bay. I told you my friends got rushed? [described below]
SMART: That was February, March. So, end of summer. And I know a lot of people always said White Pointers migrate up the coast at that time of year. But that’s not necessarily true.
CRAWFORD: Why do you say that?
SMART: Just going by what the guy who runs the shark dive operation used to say.
CRAWFORD: Which guy, Pete or Mike?
SMART: Peter. Peter Scott, yeah. He used to work on my uncle’s boat every so often. My uncles were fishermen. And Pete did his apprenticeship on my uncle’s boat. And after I did the shark dive, we got chatting, and realized we had connections. When we had the shark attack here [Porpoise Bay], pretty much a month afterwards I went and did the shark dive just to get ... I wanted to get familiar with sharks, because you know, there’d just been some guy chomped out here, and I’m otherwise surfing in some really dangerous places, offshore reefs, and all around. So, I just believed that if I’d been in a cage with sharks, I’d be a lot more comfortable if I ever see again one in the wild - which I do believe that’s true. I love sharks. I'm not scared of them, but if I’m in the water surfing, and one pops up, then naturally you would be a bit scared.
CRAWFORD: Okay, we’re going to get to the Porpoise Bay incident in a bit. But you said that some people said that the White Pointers are moving south to north along this stretch of the coastline, toward the Otago Peninsula.
SMART: Yeah, well Pete said that day on the boat, he said "You want to be careful June onwards." Because he does the shark dive down there, and it’s sort of busy autumn, early winter. And then he said once it starts getting winter, sort of June/July, those guys will start migrating up to warmer waters, and they’ll swim up the coast, and up to Fiji or wherever they go. So, he told me, he says in his experiences you want to be nice of the lookout in June, July. For those Stewart Island ones heading north to migrate to warm waters.
CRAWFORD: Up past this region?
SMART: Well, basically they go up to as far as Fiji.
CRAWFORD: I know, but you want to be careful in those months along this section of south-eastern South Island?
CRAWFORD: Alright. In terms of Otago Peninsula region - Brighton, St. Clair, St. Kilda ... was there anyplace else you ever heard, other than Aramona-Taiaroa Head at the tip of Otago Harbour? Did you ever hear about any other White Pointer encounters with boarders?
SMART: No, not with surfers.
CRAWFORD: With anybody else?
SMART: There was a guy killed by a White Pointer back in 1953. He was a Life Saver in a race at St. Kilda. And he got taken.
CRAWFORD: Did you hear about any other White Pointer incidences or attacks?
SMART: There was a diver who got taken in Otago Harbour, a long time ago in the late 50’s, early 60’s. He was attacked and killed by a shark.
CRAWFORD: Scuba diver or free diver?
SMART: I’m not sure about whether it was scuba or free. I think it was scuba but it was a long time ago. He was yeah, fatally wounded. I’m not sure that it was a White Pointer that got him, but he was fatally wounded.
CRAWFORD: Is there anything else about this region, that you ever heard of from mates or old-timers, that would have explained places or times that boarders had to be especially careful of. You said surfers worldwide are wary of dawn and dusk, and river mouths ... You know, that's kind of interesting, because the tavern manager up at Kaka Point, he was telling me "Oh there’s definitely no sharks here, because we’re at the mouth of an estuary for the Clutha River. And you don’t get sharks at the mouth of an estuary."
CRAWFORD: [laughs] Ok.
CRAWFORD: Anything else for this region that I should know about, in terms of distribution or abundance or White Pointers moving around? Or anything else that the boarders, or anyone else, would know?
SMART: No. But my friends are Pāua divers from Dunedin, and they quite often do the Nuggets. One friend did have bit of an encounter one day down on the south side and Roaring bay.
CRAWFORD: When would this have been, roughly?
SMART: Would have been eight years ago, maybe nine years ago.
CRAWFORD: And he was Pāua diving at the time?
CRAWFORD: From shore or from a dinghy?
SMART: From a dinghy. Yeah, he’s always got the dinghy there.
CRAWFORD: And he’s a commercial Pāua diver?
SMART: Commercial diver, yeah. They were out there, and they just kind had a bit of a funny feeling. He came up to the surface, and then he looked, and he could just see there was something moving underwater ... you know the bow wake? There was something in the water moving towards him, and he couldn't really see the fin, but he could see the water rise and then peel off, you know? Like a submarine - you know, when a submarine’s just underwater? And they could see the bow wake coming their way.
CRAWFORD: There were two of them?
SMART: Yeah. Two of them in the water, and one of the guys jumped in the boat and ...
CRAWFORD: He saw a White Pointer coming?
SMART: Nah. They didn’t even see a shark. All they seen was the bow wake on the surface coming towards them. It was a wee way away, maybe 30 metres, so they just jumped into the boat. But hey you know, it could have been a Sea Lion.
CRAWFORD: Right. Ok, before we get to the recent incident here at Porpoise Bay, any other White Pointer incidences that you’ve heard of in this region? Between the Nuggets and Slope Point?
SMART: No, but one thing I will say - it’s very interesting, a local fisherman, 4th generation fisherman here ...
CRAWFORD: Who’s that?
SMART: Wayne Stronach. His father has been fishing here - he’s about 4th generation, so they’ve been fishing a long time. And now the son’s taken over the fishing business. And he has never, ever, ever seen a White Pointer on his fishing boat - ever.
CRAWFORD: Wayne Stronach?
SMART: Yeah, and his brother Vaughan. Wayne and Vaughan and the father is Allan Stronach, he’s retired now. But those guys have never got any shark stories to tell.
CRAWFORD: The two brothers, are they fishing one vessel together?
SMART: Well they had two vessels, but now they just fish one.
CRAWFORD: What’s that vessel called?
SMART: It’s called Strathallan.
CRAWFORD: And where does it sail from?
SMART: Out at Waikawa Harbour, down here at the mouth.
CRAWFORD: Are they Cod fishermen? Or trawlermen? Or setnetters?
SMART: Yeah, Cod fishermen, Codpots.
CRAWFORD: Ok, thanks for those leads.
4. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - DIRECT EXPERIENCE
CRAWFORD: Now I’d like to switch to the recent incident here at Porpoise Bay, between a boarder and a White Pointer. When did this happen?
SMART: That was February 17th, two years ago.
CRAWFORD: So, February 2013?
CRAWFORD: Did you see the incident?
SMART: I was having a surf lesson with two surf students, about 50 metres away. I did not see it happen.
CRAWFORD: But you were in very close proximity.
SMART: Very close proximity, yeah.
CRAWFORD: Did you speak to the fellow who got hit?
SMART: Yeah. Darren Mills.
CRAWFORD: Alright, so you’ve got three different sources: proximity during the incident, there immediately after, and direct contact with the person.
SMART: He wasn’t saying much though. He was in a state of shock, you know?
CRAWFORD: Right, but I mean other things would have come up afterwards as well.
SMART: Oh yeah, I knew him personally. I knew him previously to the incident.
CRAWFORD: Right. Take me through all the relevant details - I’ll try not to interrupt you.
SMART: Well, it was probably about 8 o'clock in the evening, beautiful summer evening. Just nice, beautiful, clean, offshore waves - like today. And we came out doing a surf lesson. There’d been some Dolphins - we’d had Dolphins around us like ten minutes earlier, and generally when there’s Dolphins you feel pretty safe. And then, just all of a sudden, I noticed there was a group of people on the beach, and I noticed there was a car - a car had come down, and parked there too. So, I wondered what it was, and I carried on. And then all of a sudden, I seen one of my friends running up the beach. He’d been in the water, he was within 10 metres of the incident, and I’d seen him sprinting up the beach waving, doubled handed waves. He used to be with the Coast Guard up in Queenstown, captain of the Coast Guard, so me and him are pretty familiar with what to do in that kind of situation. I instantly knew that it was something very wrong, so I came in from the water and he met me out at waist deep water, and just said “Shark attack!” and “Where’s your phone?” Because I always have my little 4-wheel drive buggy, I’ve got a wee jeep and I always park it on the beach with a phone and first aid kit. He always knows that I have a phone in the jeep, so he came looking for my phone and I just said “Yep, ok.” And the funniest thing about it, I still laugh about it to this day, as soon as I came into waist deep water and he said “Shark” and he said “I need your phone” - I just started sprinting towards my jeep totally forgetting about my two students that were still in the water. Luckily, he was clever enough, and he was right there, and said “Hey you guys, come in.”
CRAWFORD: When you were with your students, how far offshore were you?
SMART: Not far. Maybe 20-30 metres - same as the fellow that got hit.
CRAWFORD: Over what kind of depth of water?
SMART: Oh, just out the back. He said he was just behind the depth of breaking waves, not even. Maybe 6-8 foot water, 10 foot tops. One of his friends, who I now quite well, had been out there. And I must say, quite often in the summer you get the seaweed come in, and it all clogs up, and you’ll be paddling along, and it’ll be clear water, and then all of sudden there’ll be a big shape underneath you. And you’ll go “Oh, what’s that?” And you’ll look down, and identify it, and it’s just a big patch of shredded kelp that’s congregated in one area. And when you’re paddling along you look down, and you do see the dark shape, and you’ve got to look twice. But his friend said to me, he was paddling along, and he’d seen a big dark shape, and he freaked out, and then maybe a few seconds later Bang! his friend got hurt. He honestly believed he’d seen the shark before it hit his friend. I myself, don’t necessarily believe that. I think he may have just seen some kelp and identified that as the shark. But obviously, I can’t say for sure.
CRAWFORD: Fair enough. But I mean, this is as much about what people perceive, and what they interpret. Did his friend say, other than believing he saw the shark just before it happened, was there anything else about what he saw that was distinctive?
CRAWFORD: Ok. You said that you knew the fellow that got hit - Darren?
SMART: Yeah, and that I’ve had him tell me the story personally to myself.
CRAWFORD: What did he tell you?
SMART: He said he had just had a wave, and he paddled back out, and that his friend was over there, so he just paddled parallel to the back of the waves - out behind the breaking waves. He said “Oh, I’ll go see my mate,” and he just started paddling across, and then something just came up, and Bang! - it hit him. He looked down and he realized it was just a small shark, maybe 2½ metres. And he seen the shark clamped onto his leg.
CRAWFORD: Clamped to his leg? Clamped to the leg and the board?
SMART: Yeah. Leg and board - both.
CRAWFORD: The shark’s lower jaw underneath the board, upper jaw on top of his leg?
SMART: Yeah, yeah.
CRAWFORD: Was it moving or was this a stationary clamp?
SMART: Stationary clamp.
CRAWFORD: Hit him from behind?
SMART: Just parallel. He was going that way, and the shark came up from the side. Sideways. Not aggressively. Didn’t knock him off his board. I mean a shark, a White Pointer’s kind of heavy. You’re going to fly six feet in the air! This thing just came up, and just gently went clamp.
CRAWFORD: Did Darren say whether he saw the clamp, or did he just feel it?
SMART: Felt it first.
CRAWFORD: Then he looked down, and saw it?
SMART: Yeah, yeah.
CRAWFORD: Ok. So, he doesn’t know if the animal came up or in, horizontally, or anything like that?
SMART: No. But, he would have seen it coming in sideways, probably.
CRAWFORD: Yeah. Did it hold that clamp for very long?
SMART: No, because as soon as it clamped him, he started punching it. And he said as soon as he started punching it the shark just ricocheted. He said it was incredible. He said as soon as he punched it, the shark was just Bam! - off like a bullet.
CRAWFORD: It just released?
SMART: Just released, and turned and swam away so quickly. He said like a ricochet - phoo - just gone.
SMART: Straight out to sea. He said he watched it peeling out to sea.
CRAWFORD: Based on what people saw, without even looking at the board afterward or anything else, was anyone asked to identify what kind of shark it was?
SMART: Yeah, I guess so. But the shark wasn’t actually identified until maybe a month later. It was DOC [Department of Conservation] or the DSIR [Department and Scientific and Industrial Research] that took the surfboard away, and they had the bite analyzed. Once they analyzed it, they said it was for sure a White Pointer. I must say, when I looked at the surfboard the next day - a good friend came to my office the next day and put the surfboard down, and showed me - it had the perfect little bite mark on the bottom of the board, where the jaw had clamped underneath. And I put my ruler out, it was 28 centimetres wide! But looking at the shape of the bites going into it - it was the perfect White Pointer triangle teeth impression. But small, a small shark.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever hear anything about what Darren saw - any characteristics of the animal, because he was closest to it?
SMART: Yeah, I mean he’s an English guy who had never really been in the ocean much. I mean, pretty much straight away in the media he was saying a White Pointer - which I was a bit disappointed with myself, because he didn’t know that. It was only a small shark. Soon after, he wouldn’t talk to the media. And the media was just non-stop phone calls, television, paper. And no one in the area, they didn’t want to deal with it. So, I just said “I’ll look after the media.” So, I had all the media coming to me - so I just told them the truth. I said “Look, there was a shark bite. We don’t know what sort of shark it was. It was only a small shark - which it was. See the bite in the surf board?” Basically, I was kind of fending off the media a bit, because you know how media operates - they want the worst story. They just always want a terrible 50-foot White Pointer that is going to eat all the people - “Ah, that’s great, we can sell that story.” But I’d never give them that story. And it wasn’t until the facts came out on that study of the surf board, that they said yes it was a White Pointer.
CRAWFORD: Did DOC ever give a report or a news statement or anything official that you remember?
SMART: No. Not that I know of. One thing I will say is that Peter Scott, you know who does the shark dive, we were chatting about that and he had seen my name in the media, and he knew who I was already just from school. He just said that’s typical behaviour of a teenage White Pointer. They’re young, they’re stupid, they come in and bite something, and then “Oops, you can’t eat it,” and they go away. Whereas the old White Pointers, the wise ones - it takes a lot of energy for a White Pointer to attack something and eat it, so they need to calculate how much energy they’re going to spend and how much nutrients and proteins they’re going to get back. But old White Pointers are very clever, they know what to eat. Those teenagers, they don’t. He said that was just typical, stupid, teenage behaviour.
CRAWFORD: Let’s think a bit more about the size of this White Pointer. Estimated size range from bite analysis was said to be 2½ to 3 metres in length. Clearly, by White Pointer standards, that is a very small, very young shark.
CRAWFORD: When did you first start spending a fair chunk of time around the Porpoise Bay region?
CRAWFORD: In those roughly 30 years, have any other people had shark experiences in this bay?
SMART: Not really, not too much. A couple of times we’ve been surfing or wading on the beach, and we’d see water bubbling and boiling a bit and that. But, that could just be a school of fish or something like that. you know? Not really something enough to make you get out of the water. But it does make you look.
CRAWFORD: What about Seals in this area?
SMART: Hardly any seals on this coast. We do get Sea Lions, not a lot, but certainly not heaps of Seals. That’s one reason I feel quite safe here. Because if you are up at Nugget Point, there’s just hundreds and hundreds of Seals all around the rocks. I would not feel so safe. I wouldn’t surf around Nugget Point.
CRAWFORD: Let’s talk about those Dolphins. If I remember correctly, you described it as kind of a common knowledge among people, that where there are Dolphins, there won’t be Sharks - is that what you had said? Do you think that boarders, in general, believe that? So, if they see Dolphins, they feel ...
SMART: They feel safe.
CRAWFORD: But why do they feel safe?
SMART: Oh, it’s just common folklore or whatever - if there’s Dolphins, Sharks won’t attack you.
CRAWFORD: Does that mean that the Sharks won’t come around the Dolphins?
SMART: There was an instance in New Zealand years ago, where there were some lifeguards from Piha - you know, very respectable people - and they were out ocean swimming and all of a sudden a White Pointer came up to them, very interested in them. And they freaked out, and thought this is going to get radical, and then all of a sudden out of nowhere some Dolphins just came in. I think they might have been Bottlenose or Dusky Dolphins or something. And the Dolphins herded the shark away from them. That was nationwide in the newspapers.
CRAWFORD: Roughly when?
SMART: Probably 15 years ago.
CRAWFORD: Okay, I’ll look into that.
CRAWFORD: Ok. That’s an example of a situation that would keep alive this idea that where you see Dolphins, they’re going to take care of aggressive encounters with Sharks. The Dolphins in this bay, for almost 30 years you’ve been around them as well. Do you have you any reason to believe that these Dolphins would interact with Sharks?
SMART: No, I don’t know.
CRAWFORD: But then again, as you’ve said - shark sightings in this bay are very rare.
SMART: Yeah. The funny thing about it is that was the worst shark attack ever on a surfer in the whole history of surfing in New Zealand.
CRAWFORD: And that’s a lot of surfing.
SMART: That’s a lot of surfing, man. And I’ll tell you - in Dunedin, there’s so many surfers in Dunedin, and they just surf the craziest places, dawn, dusk. I mean they won’t get out of the water when it’s dark, sometimes. Personally myself, I cannot believe that there has never been a surfer chomped in Dunedin. So, in reality, I mean we were all really blown out about this bite, because you know it’s such a safe bay. It’s a beautiful, sandy, safe bay - lots of Dolphins. And all of sudden a White Pointer comes in and chomps someone. I don’t call that an attack. People all say there was a shark attack down here. I say “No, it wasn’t a shark attack. It was a shark bite. It bit him once.” You can call it an attack - but to me, an attack is something where it’s shaking around and ripping you up.
CRAWFORD: Let me ask you, and I don’t want to jinx anything with this either, if I put the question to you. What part of coastal New Zealand would you say would be the least likely to have White Pointers?
SMART: North Island. Areas of the North Island maybe, yeah. I think though there are still White Pointers at the North island. I think the last shark fatality we had was that ocean open swimmer off Muriwai Beach a few years ago. He was training for triathlons, and he got taken by a couple of sharks, and they suspected at least one was a White Pointer, but I don’t think they ever could really identify. I don’t quite know it that well.
CRAWFORD: You said that after the incident in Porpoise Bay, you went to Stewart Island for that White Pointer shark cage dive. What was your motivation?
SMART: I’d sort of been planning on doing it, but once that shark thing happened there, then I just went “Man, you know, I have to go down in the water to see them, to get comfortable. And it worked very, very well.”
CRAWFORD: So, you went out to the operation - with Peter, off Edwards Island?
SMART: Yeah. Down the cage on a hookah, just standing there for a couple hours.
CRAWFORD: Describe to me what you saw, what you felt?
SMART: Just unbelievable. It was the best experience of my life. So beautiful watching those sharks in their natural environment.
CRAWFORD: And how were the animals behaving when you were in the cage?
SMART: Pretty tranquil. I mean that was back in the days when he would give the shark the tuna about every third of fourth drive-by, so to say. He wouldn’t give the tuna every time - he would just kind of fish a little bit, and play with them, and let them do a few circles and then give it to them. He’s not allowed to do that now. He’s only allowed to burley and have a tuna head on a tow rope.
CRAWFORD: What went through your mind in terms of seeing what you saw? Because you knew that these were White Pointers. I mean, what happens when someone is out on their board surfing? It might sound a bit silly, but I guess my question is, do you think that somebody could recognize a White Pointer from a surf board - if they hadn’t seen a White Pointer before?
SMART: Possibly. Depending on how much of the dorsal fin you’d seen.
CRAWFORD: Fair enough. The dorsal fin could be one defining characteristic. What would another be?
SMART: I think the side fins, if it tips on its side, and you see those little side fins. And the white belly.
CRAWFORD: The contrast between the counter shading?
CRAWFORD: After the Porpoise Bay incident and the cage dive you did afterward, would it be fair to say that you’re cool with the White Pointers?
SMART: You know, we surf everywhere. Including some pretty dodgy places, and some places that are well offshore. We’re always on jet skis, we do a lot of tow surfing, I’m a big wave surfer. Where we’re surfing you know, 50 foot waves sometimes, 30-40-50 foot waves, and we’re out on jet skis in the middle of the ocean a mile out at sea. I just don’t even think about sharks, I don’t. I’ve been doing it for too long. And until I see a shark in my face, I’m not going to worry about it. Until I can see one, or have a reason to worry about it - then I’ll worry about it. But till then? Nah.
5. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - EXPERIENCES OF OTHERS
CRAWFORD: What was your first time you recall seeing or hearing about or seeing a White Pointer?
SMART: Probably at school, you know. We learned that stuff at school, became familiar with all that sort of stuff.
CRAWFORD: So, in Timaru – as a kid?
CRAWFORD: When you were growing up in Timaru, did the old-timers up there ever caution or warn you about sharks, in general?
SMART: Yeah, yeah. They’d do that. But not really so many White Pointers up around that area.
CRAWFORD: What kind of cautions - up around Timaru - would people have given kids?
SMART: Just “Be careful. As soon as you get sight of a shark, get out of the water.” But we were pretty lucky in Timaru. We had a few occasions. We had some Sevengill sharks would come up, and sort of bump you, or occasionally ‘mount’ your board, so to say.
CRAWFORD: You mean on the person’s body? Or on the board?
SMART: On the body and the board. Just sort of come up. But Sevengillers, you know, you sort of get to know the shark species. Yeah, we don’t worry about Sevengillers too much.
CRAWFORD: How do you recognize a Sevengiller in the water?
SMART: That’s the hard thing about it - looking at a shark and knowing what type of shark it is. Because if the shark’s going to get you, he’ll come up and get you without you even knowing.
CRAWFORD: Had you seen sharks up around Timaru?
SMART: Yes. Not while I’m surfing. I’ve probably just seen them in the water, or while fishing or something like that. I did have some friends that got mounted by Sevengillers, as we were saying before.
CRAWFORD: Up around TImaru?
SMART: Yeah. Never any bites.
CRAWFORD: But some people are in shock when that happens. When you’re in trauma, when you’re in shock, you don’t necessarily see things the same way.
SMART: Yes. And the water in Timaru’s also very, very murky. Can’t even see your knees, if you’re on the board.
CRAWFORD: Really? Why so murky up there?
SMART: Because of all the rivers coming out. A lot of South Canterbury has so many rivers coming out, so many more rivers you can’t even see on that map. And it just murks up the water.
CRAWFORD: When you were in school up in Timaru, do you remember anybody ever saying anything about White Pointers around there?
CRAWFORD: No sightings or stories? Anything like that?
SMART: No, not that I can recall.
CRAWFORD: But encounters and stories about Sevengillers?
SMART: Yeah, yeah. And Basking Sharks A lot of Basking Sharks in Timaru.
CRAWFORD: Have you seen any Basking Sharks?
SMART: No, I haven’t. But friends have had lots of close encounters with them in Timaru - out sailing.
CRAWFORD: What kinds of ‘close encounters’?
SMART: Sailing in little dinghies, and just big as … the Basking Sharks get massive.
CRAWFORD: Yes they do. When your mates told you these stories, about these encounters, what did they say?
SMART: They were freaked out.
CRAWFORD: By having such a big animal next to them? Or did it respond to them in any way?
SMART: No, it was just a visual thing - that it was such a massive shark. And they’d freak out, and then they’d sail away. The shark goes its way, they go their way. That was pretty random though. It was only once or twice it happened in my lifetime - that I know of.
CRAWFORD: What other sharks maybe have you seen, that you might be able to recognize or identify?
SMART: Wobbegong. I’ve had two Wobbegong encounters out here, actually.
CRAWFORD: In Porpoise Bay?
SMART: Yeah, Porpoise Bay. One time I had one come in - I was sitting on the surf, when I felt something bumping my foot. The water was quite clear, and I looked down and it was a big Wobbegong there. He was about a metre and a half.
CRAWFORD: How did you know it was a Wobbegong?
SMART: Just because I kind of looked at him, and I had a bit of a look. I went home and Identified him on the internet - with the colouring on the top, and that. He was just curious. But another time, I had a bigger one come in. I was paddling the surf board ...
CRAWFORD: Again, here in Porpoise Bay?
SMART: Yeah. Just down the beach a bit further. I was just paddling along you know, to catch another wave. And I looked, and there was a shark swimming right beside me at that same speed. He was about the same length as me, maybe about two metres. And I thought “Oh yeah, that’s cool, just a small shark." I paddled away, and I turned in that direction, and then he followed me. I did a U-turn, and I started going out to sea, and he followed me. The next stage I paddled, and then my hand hit him - so then I just started smashing the water. He just started thrashing, and luckily there was a wave like where the door is [approx. 6 metres]. So, I just turned around, and caught the wave, and went in. Then I sat there in waist-deep water and watched him swimming around. He just kind of swam around a bit, and then he just went down the beach. We just paddled back out and carried on surfing. Because he was only small - he was only two meters. To me, a shark’s not a shark until it’s bigger than me.
CRAWFORD: And how tall are you?
SMART: I’m 6 foot 1. But you know, I can put up a fight. If that shark came in to my size, I can put up a pretty good fight.
CRAWFORD: Right. That was a Wobbegong you figure, as well?
SMART: Yeah, it was definitely a Wobbegong. I know that for sure.
CRAWFORD: What time of year was that?
CRAWFORD: And roughly when?
SMART: February. Not last year, the year before.
SMART: Yeah. And the first time would have been two years before that again.
CRAWFORD: Alright. Let’s come back to the White Pointers. Have you ever seen a White Pointer in the wild, other than the shark cage dive at Stewart Island?
SMART: Not myself, no.
CRAWFORD: Have you heard from others people, mates, old-timers, about White Pointers in this region?
SMART: Haldane Bay - next bay down the coast.
CRAWFORD: And roughly when was that? What year?
SMART: Would have been in early '90s. Maybe 1993.
CRAWFORD: What were the circumstances? What time of year?
SMART: Summertime, or maybe like February-March - around that time of year. There was bit of a story to that one actually. Do you want me to tell it to you?
CRAWFORD: Yes, please.
SMART: Well, one of my friends used to live down here. He’s a Timaru boy. We got friendly with a farmer up the valley, and he had a little hut he used to let us stay in. We’d come down surfing, and my friend liked living down here, so he ended up coming down to live down here. We surfed a reef quite regularly - there's a nice reef break going on the next bay. It’s a bombora, so you’ve got to paddle for 15 minutes across deep water to get to an offshore reef. I wasn't able to go out, but three of them went surfing out there - Paul McLaughlan, Craig Welsh and Brendan Brooks. They said a few minutes earlier they’d seen some Hector's Dolphins in the bay. We quite often would see Hector's Dolphins there, and they thought "Oh that’s Hector Dolphins. It’s safe" you know? Dolphins, no Sharks, you know? As people always say - I hear that all the time here. And when they see Seagulls circling - that is not a good sign.
CRAWFORD: Why not?
SMART: Seagulls circling generally means there are some fish scraps. If a Shark come up and eats something, there’s going be a lot of debris floating on the ocean, and the Seagulls are going to go straight for it. All surfers say that in New Zealand - "If you see Seagulls circling, you’ve got to be a bit careful."
SMART: And then Paul caught a wave, and he’d ridden down the wave, and he was paddling back out. As he’s paddling out, Craig and Brendan sitting on the side of the wave, and quite a big wave came in - maybe the size of this roof here [approx 4 metres], and Paul said it was like an 18-foot White Pointer in the wave, swimming towards where the other two guys were. Sort of going towards them, and then the wave came up and it was a really, really, hard broken wave, really hollow, shooting on it. And the wave just came, and last minute just sucked up and Boom! The guys who were out there heard the yelling. The guy was yelling "Ahh!" so they said they looked in towards the wave, and saw this massive shark coming towards them, doing a big corkscrew dive. And as it went towards them, it dove, and it went down underneath.
CRAWFORD: It turned over on its back?
SMART: On its side, and then dived down, as it was coming towards them. That wave ... they were still maybe 15 metres away. Craig turned around, and he caught the wave and he rode it in to the end of the reef.
CRAWFORD: And this reef is a 15-minute paddle offshore?
CRAWFORD: We’re talking half a kilometre offshore?
CRAWFORD: And all of this happened out there? There were three surfers - your mates?
SMART: Yeah. Paul was on the inside, he had spotted it first. Craig managed to catch the wave that he’d seen the shark in - because it had dove under the wave before it got to him. I honestly believe the shark was coming in to get them, and the wave kind of sucked up, and took a big trove and just kind of messed the shark up a bit.
CRAWFORD: Why do you think the shark was coming in to get them?
SMART: Just because it ... oh, it’s one thing I forgot to tell you about. Fifteen minutes previous to that, they’d seen a big thing just go 'Flap' in the water, and they thought "That’s strange, might just be a Whale or something" - because we do see Whales here. But they didn’t think much of it, and they’d seen the Dolphins, and they probably thought it was safe. I mean, Seagulls - well, alarm bells ringing. But not a big Flap. And then 10 minutes later, Bang! they seen the shark. The guy who was paddling out when he first spotted it, the wave stood up and he seen the whole thing.
CRAWFORD: So, the shark was parallel to the wave?
CRAWFORD: It was going along the wave?
SMART: Yeah. Inside the wave, going towards the other two. They were out on the side of the wave, as it kind of came in, it did the big corkscrew dive, and then went down. Put it this way, if that wave hadn't been there, I think things would have been very different.
SMART: Because it would have been flat water. That shark would have been swimming straight towards them, and then Bang! - all of a sudden wave puffs up, something pops up in between them, and messes the shark up. I believe.
CRAWFORD: When your mates told you the story, you heard it from their three different perspectives, right?
CRAWFORD: Other than the corkscrew dive at the end, did they say anything about the speed of it?
SMART: Didn’t really mention the speed of it - just that it was swimming with speed.
CRAWFORD: And it was a big shark?
SMART: He said ... I mean, we’re all pretty familiar with the oceans in New Zealand. And the first guy who’d seen it, Paul, he’s a fishing guide now. He’s very, very, experienced.
CRAWFORD: The guy’s been around the water.
SMART: He’s been around. But he said, it wasn’t so much the length of it. He said it was the girth of it. The thickness of it. He reckoned it was like 6-foot wide. He said he could see it in the wave, and sure it was long - but it was but the thickness and the width of it.
CRAWFORD: And that’s when the animal was coming to him?
SMART: Well, he was spotting on the inside. He was kind of safe, but the shark was swimming towards the other two guys, and the wave broke between them.
CRAWFORD: So, the shark was going across from him ...
SMART: Yeah it was. Going towards the other two guys. Craig caught that wave, and rode it in to where the wave stops at the end. The guys were freaked out, and they started paddling in. Brendan had missed that wave ...
CRAWFORD: And he was still out there on the reef?
SMART: He was still out there. But then the next wave came, he caught that, and went in. He didn’t even have a visual of the shark. The shark was gone by then. So, between the second wave and the third wave, the shark was gone.
CRAWFORD: There was no indication, no circling behaviour afterward?
SMART: Nothing. But when they got on the beach, they waited for Brendan, who was a few minutes behind them. That guy, when he got up on the beach he started dry retching, because he was that freaked out, you know? He wasn’t actually throwing up, he was just hyperventilating. They all got up there, and they walked up the beach. They got their clothes, they got changed. And five minutes later, that shark swam all the way back in the lagoon! Exactly to where their footprints were on the beach. And then it just turned around, and swam back out to sea.
CRAWFORD: They saw that?
SMART: They saw that. When they got out, they had a camera there, and they took some photos, and you can see the fin. But that was at the same time the tide was getting a bit low, lots of kelp sticks out. Sometimes the kelp comes up, and it can look just like a fin. But we're used to that, you just don’t worry about it. But he had photos of it, and you could see it was inside the reef, and you could see it. But it wasn’t a zoom lens, and it was a long way away.
CRAWFORD: But the fact was that they saw it, and they were absolutely convinced that that was not just a shark but ...
SMART: That one guy lived here. He was my best friend, and so many nights we’d sit around and he would just tell me so many times that story. Just burned into him, you know? After that, my mates were a bit freaked out, and didn’t really want to surf there too much. Then I came down one time, and we said "Right. Come on, let’s surf over the reef." We called it the reef because it’s a reef break, it was a good swell. We’d been over there, we had a good surf, and we came home and had lunch. And we thought "Right. We’ll go back and surf it one more time on the outgoing tide, because it’s a high tide break only." As soon as we arrived, we came up to lookout on the hill - the break is a good 800 meters out from the lookout point of the hill. As soon as we pulled up, I looked out and I seen a wave break and I seen this - I’ll never forget it - I seen a big kind of light grey shape of a shark silhouette in the wave. And then that wave passed by, and then it was gone. So, I only seen that wave for about two or three seconds.
CRAWFORD: And that was from an elevated perspective?
SMART: Yeah. Looking down on it, so I had a pretty good look.
CRAWFORD: 800 meters away, though.
SMART: Yes. So, it was pretty big. I mean, I would estimate that shark to be at least 12 foot. At least.
CRAWFORD: That offshore reef in Haldane Bay, what kind of depth around it?
SMART: Probably be 20-30 feet deep.
CRAWFORD: And this story was told to you pretty soon after the incident?
SMART: Few days afterwards, at most.
CRAWFORD: And without you experiencing it yourself, that was a very close encounter from people you know and trust?
SMART: it’s the closest encounter with a White Pointer that I’ve ever heard of in my surfing career, in all of New Zealand. Apart from the bite that we had here last year.
CRAWFORD: You said your mates were convinced, based on the swimming behaviour of the animal and its orientation and on top of everything the fact that it came back, that this was at least a Level 3 and they thought that it was a Level 4?
SMART: Yeah. Well, yeah, it was definitely very, very interested in them.
CRAWFORD: Right, whether it was a Level 3 or a Level 4, we will never know.
CRAWFORD: Thank you for the interview, man.
SMART: Yeah. No worries.
Copyright © 2017 Nick Smart and Steve Crawford