A former pro surfer has been filmed in a terrifying close up encounter with a shark at a beach on NSW far north coast.
Matt Wilkinson told NSW Surf Lifesavers he had no idea he’d been approached by the 1.5m shark while paddling on his board at Sharpes Beach in Ballina.
“I was surfing out the back at Sharpes Beach and just cruising on my own and I heard a splash and a noise and looked around and couldn’t see anything,” Mr Wilkinson said. “Then the drone came down and told me that there was a dangerous shark in the area, return to the beach.
“I got to the shore feeling a bit weird and the lifeguards showed me the footage and I realised how close it came without knowing it was there. It looks like it’s going for my leg and it’s changed its mind,” he said.
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“I feel grateful and pretty weird at the same time but happy it decided not to go me. When I saw the footage I saw the similarities, like I had a yellow leg rope on and Mick’s board was yellow is what I was thinking about when I came in,” he said.
The escape is his second close encounter with dangerous sharks — Mr Wilkinson competed in the heat before Mick Fanning was attacked by a large white shark in South Africa.
“I called my wife because I didn’t want her to see the footage before I saw it. She doesn’t want me surfing for a couple of days now.”
The incredible footage was captured by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), operated by Surf Life Saving NSW on behalf of the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).
Following the incident, Sharpes Beach was evacuated and has been closed until tomorrow.
“I’ve been surfing with sharks my whole life and I understand they’re there and know enough about them to know they have not too much interest in humans. I’m just glad today the shark reconsidered at the last second,” Wilkinson said.
Beau Monks, the drone operator, said he spotted the shark during his seventh flight of the day.
“It sort of came out of nowhere, then went right up to Matt,” he said. “It moved pretty fast. I was tracking it and notified the lifeguards and used the speaker on the drone to get everyone out of the water.
“Within 10 seconds it was at the surfer and five seconds later it was gone.”