ON WATCH: A Ballina Lighthouse-Lismore Surf Life Saving Club members keeps watch over a swimmers at Lighthouse Beach on the Sunday of the October long weekend.  Photo Graham Broadhead / Ballina Shire Advocate
ON WATCH: A Ballina Lighthouse-Lismore Surf Life Saving Club members keeps watch over a swimmers at Lighthouse Beach on the Sunday of the October long weekend. Photo Graham Broadhead / Ballina Shire Advocate Graham Broadhead

Close shave with shark at North Wall with kids in the water

SURFERS at Ballina's North Wall has a close encounter with a cruising bull shark yesterday.

Ballina surfer David Drinkwater said he noticed the shark cruising underneath him while he was out the back of the popular break with a scattered group of about 15 others.

"I just sort of noticed something moving underneath me, and I looked down and there it was," the father of two said.

The experience was enough make him feel "uneasy" but didn't immediately prompt him to paddle back in.

"I don't think it was in hunting mode," Mr Drinkwater said.

"If it wanted to grab me it would have."

But a few minutes later the same thing happened to a fellow surfer in the line-up, who was in the water with his teenage children.

It was enough of a shock to send the whole group of surfers back in.

Among the surfers were several young teens from Le-Ba Boardriders who surf at North Wall regularly before school.

As a father, Mr Drinkwater said he was concerned about the increased presence of sharks at the beach.

"At the moment there seems to be a lot of fathers and mothers in the water with their children," he said.

"When you're surfing with kids it takes it to a whole new level."

Alongside bull sharks, he said there had been two recent sightings of white sharks, one off North Wall last Friday.

The second white was seen this week jumping out of the water off Lennox Point.

They are believed to be returning to the area as the water temperature cools down, although there is no evidence that white sharks tagged last year in the DPI's tagging program are doing so.

Despite their fears, Mr Drinkwater and many other local surfers are sceptical about the planned eco shark barrier for Lighthouse Beach.

Surfers have argued the barrier will potentially pose a safety risk to surfers because it sits inside the take-off zone.

Mr Drinkwater said there were other technologies emerging that were worth investigation, like electromagnetic shark cables currently being trialled in South Africa designed to repel sharks via electromagnetic waves.

He also said the aerial surveillance being conducted didn't work for most surfers, because the helicopters didn't fly over until mid-morning while many surfers were in the water between 6-8am.

The NSW Government has committed to spending $16 million on mitigating the risk of shark attack of NSW waters, and considered several emerging technologies in a major summit last year before it opted to trial several of them.

The eco shark barrier has previously been installed at Coogee Beach in Perth.



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