MELBOURNE: A dramatic close encounter between Australian world championship surfer Matt Wilkinson and a shark off the east coast of the country was captured by a drone, showing the shark circle him, close in and then dart away from his feet.
Wilkinson was paddling in from a surf at Sharpes Beach, 733km north of Sydney, when the shark swam towards him and then under his surfboard on Wednesday (Oct 7), with the drama being captured on a drone used by lifeguards to watch for sharks.
The 1.3-metre great white shark then circled and swam up to Wilkinson's feet, which were trailing in the water, and quickly turned away.
"I was surfing out the back at Sharpes Beach and just cruising on my own," Wilkinson, a former pro surfer, said in a press release issued by Surf Life Saving NSW.
"I heard a splash and a noise and looked around and couldn't see anything. Then the drone came down and told me that there was a dangerous shark in the area," he said.
"I realised how close it came without knowing it was there. 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."
Wilkinson competed in a world championship heat just before Australian Mick Fanning's encounter with a large white shark at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa in 2015, which he fought off by punching it.
The area around where Wilkinson was surfing has a reputation for sharks and has been the scene of a spate of attacks over the years.
A 46-year-old surfer was killed last month at a Gold Coast beach after he suffered severe leg injuries from a shark attack, with Australia recording a total of 19 shark attacks in 2020, according to the Taronga Conservation Society.