Image: Phil Gallagher used with permission
When Fergal Smith dropped in on a monster barrel two miles off the coast of Perth in Western Australia, he little realised he was also dropping in on a monster of another kind. For as he powered down the face of the 20-plus-foot wave, lurking there just a few feet from him was a 500-pound Great White Shark. Smith didn’t even realise how close he had come to an encounter with one of the ocean’s deadliest predators. Other surfers’ shaves with man-eating sharks are closer still.
Image: Phil Gallagher
Close shave: Fergal Smith catching a barrel just feet from a Great White
Fergal Smith was lucky. If he had wiped out on the wave he was sharing with the Great White, help was far away – and who can tell what might have happened? Smith only discovered how narrow his escape had been when he was shown this picture by local photographer Phil Gallagher. His reaction? Laughter – though perhaps of a nervous flavour. At the time, in 2008, Smith said: “I saw a grey shape in the wave but I thought it was the reflection of a slab of rock – how wrong was I?”
Smiling assassin? Great White Shark off South Africa
Since 1876, the Great White Shark has been responsible for at least 66 recorded deaths worldwide – most recently off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa – plus around 250 further non-fatal attacks. Incredibly, 101 of the attacks reported in the 20th century were on surfers, though often without serious injury – Great Whites being known to test-bite unfamiliar objects such as surfboards. Even so, there is much in the way of misinformation out there as well as some decidedly fishy photos.