23 June, 2014 23 June, 2014

J-Bay Sharks Keep Surfers On Their Toes

With the J-Bay Open fast approaching, an increase in the number of shark sightings in Jeffreys Bay has raised concerns. The most recent incident, which saw the lineup cleared in a matter of minutes after a great white was spotted, encouraged Eastern Cape journalist and frothing surfer, David MacGregor, to ask a few questions.


J-Bay Sharks Keep Surfers On Their Toes  – by: David MacGregor

Next month will see the world’s best surfers shredding the world’s best right point.

Several close encounters at world renowned Jeffreys Bay in recent weeks may have rattled surfers, but it is not stopping them from riding the famous walls of Supertubes. Although experts told the Dispatch that surfers have more chance of winning the Lotto than getting bitten by a shark, it means little when a four metre great white pops up next to you in the lineup at Supertubes.

Cape Town surfer, Terrence ‘Murph’ Murphy – who has spent the past week surfing “cooking J-Bay” – said that even though a four metre-plus great white cruised slowly past him last Sunday afternoon, it did not keep him and his mates out the water for long.

“It was a serious fish,” explained Murph of the encounter. “It looked like a small tank as it slowly glided past with its dorsal fin out the water. It was not aggressive, it just cruised slowly through the line-up.” Although it “did not spin-out” the 42 year-old surfer, he did call out to warn others in the water and about 50 scrambled for the safety of the rocks.

The lineup cleared swiftly after a 4 metre great white cruised through the Supertubes lineup.

Murphy, who has clocked up thousands of hours in the water since he took up the sport 24 years ago, says it was the second time in his life that he has actually encountered a shark in the surf. By the next day he was back in the water at Supertubes. “It has not affected me much, its the ones you don’t see that are the problem.”

The incident made headlines in overseas surf mags.

World big wave surfing champ, Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker, who was surfing at the time with a shark device to repel attacks, said the latest incident had quickly thinned out the packed lineup.

“This was a heavy experience. A 5 metre-long White swam right through the lineup between the surfers and once everyone turned to scratch for the beach it went after the nearest surfer,” he posted on Facebook. “Luckily a set came and washed everyone in or else it could have bitten someone for sure!” Twiggy also mentioned that a spear diver got “buzzed by this hungry great white” the day before.

When Supers is barrelling like this, a shark scare doesn’t keep the lineup empty for long. Twiggy in the slot.

Local shark expert, Dr Matt Dicken, who has been researching great white shark movements in Algoa Bay for four years using transponders, said it was rare for the feared apex predator to spend time close to shore in the winter months. He said although there had been an increase in great white activity in Jeffreys Bay in recent years, he doubted the four metre-plus shark was a resident at the popular surf spot, as they regularly travel up and down the coast. According to Dicken, attempts to set up similar transponders in the surf crazy town had not been well received by officials.

“It would be nice to tag it if it is seen regularly,” he explained. “The tags will not prevent attacks, but they will give us more data to record great white movements and make more informed decisions.”

Dicken also explained that although great white sharks have been regularly spotted in the line-up, they were not a major problem. “The chances of being attacked are remote.” he said. “You’ve got more chance of winning the Lotto than getting bitten.”

Organiser of the upcoming J-Bay Winterfest, Koffie Jacobs, yesterday said that a jetski and trained medics would be at Supertubes when the touring professionals arrive next month. “It is not a concern, there are always sharks in the water,” said Koffie. “Everybody is absolutely keen to surf.”


  1. Ken Hutchings
    23 June, 2014 at 2:11 pm · Reply

    I hope our big wave world champ was misquoted. The assumption that the shark “would have bitten someone for sure” is inaccurate and unfair to sharks. White sharks undoubtedly swim under and around surfers on a daily basis off our coast and they almost never bite. The perception that sharks are indiscriminate predators that are a threat to humans at every encounter is based on a ridiculous fiction film that screened 50 odd years ago. Surely we have learnt something since then and can stop making villains out of these animals that are only behaving naturally in their own environment. Shark populations globally are struggling to survive the increasing onslaught of human impacts (culling, fishing, pollution, habitat destruction etc.) As surfers we need a change of mentality I kind-of hoped it was already happening). Yes I surf & dive & am cognizant that the risk of a shark bite is increasing as white shark populations recover (SA was a leader in shark conservation and protected them some 2 decades ago)., However, this is a risk that I judge to be insignificant compared to the danger of driving my car to a surf spot, or fishing along the northern shore of the false bay coast at night (where a two legged con specific is more likely to murder me – better off in the water!). Large sharks are critical to the functioning of our marine ecosystems, the danger they represent to ocean users is relatively low, please don’t scaremonger Zigzag.

    • Kev
      23 June, 2014 at 5:01 pm · Reply

      Agreed. But in Twiggy’s defense, he said the shark “COULD have” bitten someone, not WOULD have. Pretty big difference.

  2. Jonesy B
    23 June, 2014 at 2:36 pm · Reply

    Well Mr Ken Hutchings ….what the f#$%k must people say then ?
    Give the nice old shark a cute nickname and pat it on it’s head and take it for walks around the block.I get all the environmental science lessons . Twiggs has seen plenty cruise past him -so he gets more cred in my books than most .Folk are most definately going to voice their opinion in which ever fashion they want !!!

  3. sunspell
    23 June, 2014 at 11:55 pm · Reply

    Safety attributed to ESDS…


    no doubt!

  4. knuckles
    24 June, 2014 at 8:40 am · Reply

    thanks Kev n Jonesy! well said .. Ken, blah blah blah blah.. you mouth is moving but nothings coming out..?^&*)

  5. pothief
    26 June, 2014 at 6:27 am · Reply

    I think ken should go and hug a tree…….wanker

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