The Margaret River Pro surfing competition has been cancelled by organisers due to safety concerns following two shark encounters near Gracetown. The event had been suspended yesterday due to poor conditions, but in a statement this morning World Surf League (WSL) CEO Sophie Goldschmidt said the event could not continue.
The two incidents happened on Monday taking place just hours apart and only 6 km’s away from the primary event site at Main Break. Alejandro Travaglini, 37, needed surgery to both legs after he was attacked at Cobblestones beach, while 41-year-old Jason Longrass was almost able to walk it off and his limp toward the ambulance after he was bitten on the leg at nearby Lefthanders break.
Upon examining the men’s surfboards it was determined that a great white shark was involved in both incidents, although it cannot be assumed that the same shark was responsible for the attacks. The marks on Mr Longrass’s board suggest he was bitten by a shark between 3.6m and 4.2m in size.
Two of the world’s top surfers Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira took to social media to say they did not feel safe competing in the Margaret River region in the wake of the attacks saying anything could happen at any time and Ferreira calling it very dangerous.
“Today there have been two shark attacks on a nearby beach to where we are competing. I do not feel safe training and competing in this kind of place, any time anything can happen to one of us. Hope not. Leaving my opinion before it’s too late!”
⚠ Dois ataques de tubarão em menos de 24h aqui na Austrália, detalhe, apenas alguns Km de onde está sendo realizado o evento. Muito perigoso não acham? mesmo assim, continuam insistindo em fazer etapas onde o risco de ter esse tipo de acidente é 90% aí eu pergunto: a segurança dos atletas não é prioridade? Já tivemos vários alertas. A vida vale mais ! Espero que não aconteça com nenhum de nós. Eu não me sinto confortável treinando e competindo em lugares assim!
“Two shark attacks in less than 24 hours here in Australia, just a few miles from where the event is being held. Very dangerous don’t you think? Even so, they keep insisting on doing steps where the risk of having this type of accident is 90%. So I ask: is not the safety of athletes a priority? We already had several alerts. Life is worth more! I hope it does not happen to any of us. I do not feel comfortable training and competing in places like this!”
Ms Goldschmidt said surfing carried various forms of risk, but the cancellation of the event was necessary:
“Sharks are an occasional reality of WSL competitions, and of surfing in general. Everyone associated with our sport knows that. There have been incidents in the past and it’s possible that there will be incidents in the future which did not (and will not) result in the cancellation of an event. However, current circumstances are very unusual and troubling, and we have decided that the elevated risk during this season’s Margaret River Pro has crossed the threshold for what is acceptable.”
“Probably the waves they surfed on the first day of the event were a lot riskier than the possibility of a shark attack. It’s just one of the things that come with surfing and competing in the ocean. It’s obviously safer in the competition area because they’ve got a few options for spotting sharks. It’s very well monitored”, said retired professional surfer Taj Burrow.