Local surfer: Conditions right for sharks

VETERAN Byron Bay surf writer Ben Bennink says his "internal warning bells" over increased shark activity had been on for a few weeks before this morning's serious attack off North Wall.

Mr Bennink had already written about the issue in his surf column this week, the night before the attack.

"It's hard to pinpoint what it is, there's a mix of elements that come together when you tend to notice there's more sharks around," Mr Bennink said.

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"The people that know it tend to more careful.

"I've noticed there's a lot of fish around, I've noticed that fishy smell, and the water's a bit cloudy from all the rain.

"The bull sharks tend to like that.

"I've noticed a few small ones around and a couple of people I know have seen bigger sharks.

"The internal warning bells have been going on for a few weeks."

"Some of the fishos have also noticed they've seen a few more around."

The veteran surfer of 46 years said it was a "just a gut feeling" when there were more sharks around

"The guys who taught me to surf when I was kids told me trust my gut. We were taught when we were kids that dawn and dusk isn't that safe, murky water is not safe, and creek and river mouths are not safe, and steer clear of schools of fish."

Mr Bennink said it was a myth that dolphin's presence meant sharks weren't around, because there were often "plenty of sharks" hitting the same fish schools as dolphins.

"The idea they don't come in through the white water is another myth, sharks surf waves just like dolphins they just don't jump out, they stay just under the crest.

"I've seen them come through crowds at The Pass at high speed."

Another thing to watch out for was the presence of deep channels close to shore.

"Certainly around Byron at the moment the banks are such that there's a lot of deep water channels," he said.

"I'm pretty wary when we've got a few deep water channels in close, it just provides easy swimming for (sharks)."

Legendary local surf filmmaker, Californian expat George Greenough had said many times before the stretch from Ballina to Byron Bay was like a "shortcut" for bigger sharks because it stuck out into the ocean.

Mr Bennink said he suspected shark attacks were mistaken identity because of they weren't, sharks would attack more than once.

"I've always accepted it's a lottery, I've always believes it's a risk going in the water, and I've always trusted my judgement, (but) that doesn't mean I won't end up in the paper as a victim.

"The thing that concerns me more is the crowds, just go and ask Byron Hospital how many surf related injuries they get in there, they're stitching up people all the time.

"The flipside is you should always surf with other people because it cuts the risk down."



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