Surfers jump on the back of safety skis whilst perfect empty righthand peelers still come rolling in. ‘I think its a dolphin’ shouts out some freckled kid as he drowns himself in sunblock. His voice competing with the monotonous commercial beats invading everyone’s personal space in the background. Could it be, a shark, in the ocean! Oh, my!
Being so close to ‘safari culture’ has created this delusional mindset that nature in it’s purest, raw and wildest form only exists in the confines of fenced-in parks. Well, this may be true on the terrestrial side of the coin, yet moments like that witnessed in JBay yesterday highlight just how wet and wild this planet still is.
Nearing the close of play at the Corona Open JBay the contest was put on hold as, how the commentators so eloquently phrased it, an ‘unwanted visitor’ made its way through the lineup bringing a code blue in effect. Whilst a plane, piloted by a member of the McGillivray family, circled above and athletes were pulled from the water an awkward silence masked by a slurry of murmurs made up the ambiance of the contest sites.
In all honesty, the whole scenario seemed nothing but as Surfer coined it – procedural. The water was cleared from Magnas to Point by a member of the safety crew that the commentators or rather WSL made sure we acknowledged as they brought it up over and over again. Onlookers, stuck in place as if they had seen Medusa, turning to stone only moving to hazard a guess at what was going on to the stranger standing next to them.
Now, I had mixed emotions about the manner in which the shark situation was handled. From the water I took out a great sense of confidence in the procedures set in place to deal with a shark entering the lineup, one certainly never felt at any time that the event or those yet to surf were at risk. There was a tranquil air of calm that blanketed the event, however, what I wasn’t thrilled about was the way it was dealt with over the mic.
Now, in my mind, the correct response would have been for them to talk about something else, literally anything else besides the fact that a great white just decided to get a closer look. Talking points could be pulled from the furthest points of your peripherals making it easy to play down the already extremely well-handled code blue. The commentary could have been void entirely, I refer you back to that space invading commercial drone of kak leaking out the contest speakers. My point being the commentators tarnished the scenario a tad. If yesterday was an exam, the water safety team graduate with top honors whilst the commentators will no doubt have to take a supplementary exam.
I guess I’m just knit-picking, where I needn’t have to. Athletes should feel safe with the measures put in place to protect them, yesterdays events serving as a case and point. The last thing we need is a rehash of what came out of the Margaret River Pro this year.