4 August, 2014 4 August, 2014

“I Swapped Boards With Him” – Brave Friend Assists Shark Victim

A 20 year old surfer is recovering in hospital after being attacked by an estimated four metre great white shark at Muizenberg, Cape Town, this past Friday.

Muizenberg, the scene of the attack.

Matthew Smithers was knocked into the air when he was struck by the shark, which bit his board and both thighs. Smithers was surfing down the beach in front of the pavilion at the time.

“He’s one lucky guy,” said Brendhan “Jock” Kannemeyer after the incident. “His board took 90% of the hit and the shark got a mouth full of fins and board and not his legs.”

Kannemeyer had seen the shark moments before and was warning other surfers to get out the water when the attack occurred. The Shark Spotters were on duty but the black flag was up, indicating poor visibility. The spotters had not seen the shark but were alerted by a member of the public. It’s reported they were in the process of raising the shark alarm when the attack took place.

The black flag was flying at the time of the incident. (file photo)

According to Kannemeyer, he was far out on his SUP with friend Julian Pringle when he spotted a large black shape moving through the water.

“I thought it was a whale at first,” said Kannemeyer. “I mentioned this to Jules…and then saw what was clearly a great white shark, the white belly giving it away as it cruised through a wave about 10 metres in front of me.”

Kannemeyer and Pringle paddled calmly to shore, warning other surfers in the lineup that there was a shark.

“I stopped about 20 metres from the shore and kneeling on my SUP, looked back and around checking that everyone was heading in,” said Kannemeyer. “Jules then came past me lying down on his SUP, saying there had been an attack.”


The victim was being assisted by a friend, Matthew Kabot, when Kannemeyer paddled back out to help.

“I was about 10 metres away from Smithers when I first heard him shout that there was a shark in the water,” said third year UCT student, Matthew Kabot, about the incident. “I looked towards him and could see a big fin about a metre or two away. A wave came through and I instinctively picked it up and made it about half way to shore. I saw a few other people making their way in but couldn’t see Smithers, so I turned around and paddled back out. By then I was pretty sure he was in trouble and when I got to him I could see a bad gash on his leg. He’d managed to paddle some of the way in, but said that he needed help and was understandably struggling to paddle. I was on a solid fish that paddles really well and the back of his shortboard was taking in water, so we swapped boards and started making our way in. We made it to about chest deep water when a guy on a stand-up paddleboard (Kannemeyer) saw us and came to help us in. I was a few metres behind Smithers as they helped him onto the beach.”

Matt Kabot (left) watches on with concern as paramedics tend to his friend, Matt Smithers.

“I stood up and saw two guys clearly in trouble about 20 metres away,” said Kannemeyer. “I paddled out and across to them. The victim was being helped in by a very brave friend (Kabot), who had given him his board. I knew the SUP could be of great help in a surf rescue so stayed with them and tried to assist. I checked the victim had two bad wounds, one on each leg, so I used a leash to tourniquet both thighs as we swam, pushed and paddled towards the shore. Jules appeared and joined in and we carried the victim up the beach on his board. I stayed with him applying pressure with my hand to a terrible wound in the back of his knee till medics arrived some 20 minutes later.”

Smithers was stabilised by paramedics and airlifted to Vincent Pallotti Hospital, where he is expected to make a full recovery.


According to Dr Alison Kock, research manager for the Shark Spotter programme, great whites in False Bay tend to stay around Seal Island over the winter months, making the incident unusual. “However, of course, sharks can and do sometimes deviate from this general pattern,” said Kock.

She added that there had been unseasonal onshore winds blowing in Cape Town over the last week and eyewitnesses had reported large schools of bait fish in the area where the attack happened.

“It’s possible these conditions were favourable for a shark at that time,” said Kock.

Kock’s research has recently concluded that False Bay is home to the largest population of great whites near a coastal city the size of Cape Town. The incident is the first shark attack in Muizenberg in 10 years, and the first since the Shark Spotter programme has been in place since 2005. JP Andrew lost his right leg when he was attacked by a great white while surfing in roughly the same location as Smithers in 2004.


  1. Kevin
    4 August, 2014 at 5:56 am · Reply

    Stoked Matt is going to be alright. Matthew Kabot, you’re a hero bru. I bet you’ll say you were just helping a friend, but that’s what a hero would say. Many people would have headed straight for the beach. Thanks to Brendon and Justin for their speedy assistance too.

  2. JHL
    4 August, 2014 at 6:15 am · Reply

    Hey Zag,

    I saw someone’s comment on Twitter over the weekend that the Shark spotters were locked in the back of an office and not doing their job, guys suggesting that they were romping on duty. Have you guys caught wind of this yet?

    • Zigzag1976
      4 August, 2014 at 7:46 am · Reply

      Hey JHL, we have heard conflicting reports. But we have been in contact with the City and head of the Shark Spotters to verify. They are compiling a full report on the incident as well, which will be released today. We will make this public as soon as we receive it. From what we do know, the Shark Spotters do an incredible job day-to-day but the system is also fallible and limited by factors such as visibility.

  3. Richard C
    4 August, 2014 at 8:30 am · Reply

    Hi Guys,

    I would just like to say the shark spotters do an excellent job. They are a wonderful service for the community of surfers in Cape Town. I don’t know anywhere else in the world where this happens, so I’m pretty stoked about that. The only item of concern I have is the time it takes for the siren to go off. I was once surfing at Muizenburg when someone in the water claimed they saw a shark and started paddling fast for the shore. Everyone followed in tow. It took about 10 mins for the siren to be activated and by then the entire lineup was empty already. Surely the shark spotters can have a fog horn or something that can be activated immediately when they get the news of a shark in the lineup. This delay could be the difference between life or death. Just a thought…

  4. soulsurf74
    4 August, 2014 at 8:55 am · Reply

    They have not been on duty and the day before the attack a lady came up to me at the shop to tell me there was a big White at the backline and there were no spotters on Boyes Drive where she had just come from. I asked her to please inform them down the beach at their offices, which are being renovated, but there was no one to be found. Today I spot probably the same big boy at the backline from the beach and whistled to a city council guy to inform them of the shark. Thankfully no one was in the water. This is of great concern to me!

  5. SadSurfer
    4 August, 2014 at 10:46 am · Reply

    somehow people managed to leave this bit of information out..

    • Another Local
      4 August, 2014 at 1:16 pm · Reply

      Check the date bru, that story is two years old…

  6. Local
    4 August, 2014 at 11:43 am · Reply

    Hi Guys

    I live at Muizies right above Knead and surf there everyday that there is surf to be surfed, “Sad Surfer” has a point the wind was blowing SE few days before the attack and if they were chumming that would definitely drift towards us. This should have been communicated to the Shark Spotters or relevant people for obvious reasons, the sharks spotters are not innocent in the situation I do think they do a good job 60% of the time I normally have run up to there spotting station on days that it is SE or when there is no surf. I have found on a few occasions they there is no one manning the station and they communicate via radios, sometimes the batteries are flat and Id ask them how are you going to tell them what happening. There answer is I will send them a “please call me” and tell them if they reply. On that Thursday night before the attack a fund raiser was held for the Shark spotters in Muizenberg ironic!! Maybe some of that money should be used to revisit the system they are using and setup better coms. channels to tell them when extensive chumming is happening and get there coms. between each other better. As I understand the siren was also a problem and did no operate immediately and tripped the circuit when trying to set it off maybe they should intermittently test the siren if it has not been used for a while

    • Witness.
      5 August, 2014 at 5:16 pm · Reply

      When i found sharkspotter staff member in office with curtains and door closed with a cleaning staff member, she had no idea that there was a shark as nobody was able to find her.She turned the alarm on soon after i asked her to. Sup guy who had been looking for her before attack happened couldn’t find her either. He could have got her to set it off earlier because he saw shark before it attacked. Just saying.

  7. JJ
    4 August, 2014 at 1:14 pm · Reply

    Hey Guys,

    I would like to consider myself a muizi local and surf there along with a couple hundred people every week. So as for a lot of people reading and posting this is very close to home. I am so glad the surfer Matt is making a good recovery and hope it is speedy.
    i do share the same concerns as many of the readers about the effectiveness of what’s going on above us on Boyes drive. I really do put my trust in the shark spotters and would really like to hope none of the rumors below are true. So, because i really do want to surf the berg again I am giving them the benefit of the doubt of poor conditions and hoping that they are innocent until proven guilty. If guilty, i’m pretty freaked out about what might be lurking below me each time i’m there, along with the other couple hundred buddies in the water who consider themselves muizi locals.
    Looking forward to hearing the truth later on from Zag.

    Concerned self proclaimed local,

  8. Carcharias
    4 August, 2014 at 5:40 pm · Reply

    a shark incident or interaction. “Attack” suggests something quite human by nature. Knowing these creatures, it becomes difficult to consider the incident an act of wanting to cause harm or a pre-meditated act of vengeance, such as the term “attack” might otherwise suggest. #ReThinkTheshark #JustSaying

  9. Carcharias
    4 August, 2014 at 5:50 pm · Reply

    also, in defense of Shark Spotters, the method of approach used by this shark, (and typical of the False Bay population), would suggest a fast upward thrust from deep, impossible to spot if the animal approached from depth to begin with, more so in difficult conditions with high glare on the water and/or wind conditions. The outcome would likely not have been effected if there were 50 Spotters on duty with all eyes trained on the Corner. It is also likely that the animal left the area right after having confirmed the presence of a surfboard and a un-tasty human. #JustSaying

  10. Jeff
    4 August, 2014 at 8:54 pm · Reply

    The viz was not great, hence the black flag, and I doubt the shark was on the surface for very long, so I dont think any finger can be pointed at the spotters. So its winter and “Sharks dont usually come ashore in winter” Well, nobody told the shark that. At the end of the day, every time you paddle out, winter, summer, false bay, Atlantic, forget what the sharks should be doing, ot what the scientists are thinking, it means nothing. Shit happens, and if its your day, then so be it. If the risk is not worth it, buy a skate board. Wishing you a fast recovery bud. And Matthew Kabot, well played sir! Youre a legend.

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