WHAT the hell was that?

The Sunshine Coast's ironmen and ironwomen were asking themselves that question yesterday after sensational video, purported to show a shark surfacing during last weekend's Newcastle round of the Nutri-Grain series, emerged on the internet.

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Series organisers said they believed it was a pilot whale, but stressed they were not certain.

The YouTube video, titled "Huge shark leaps out of water during ironman race in Australia", showed a large dark object breaching the water during the board leg of the women's race at Newcastle last Sunday.

While it appears to have a more rounded nose than a shark, it is too large to be a dolphin.

The video is sure to generate debate and already has competitors' tongues wagging on Twitter.

Unfortunately for officials the timing could not be poorer after a shark attack on a surfer in the lead-up to the series round on the NSW central coast.

Additional safety measures were implemented for the Newcastle race, including extra inflatable boats and jet skis in the water.

No sharks were sighted on the day.

"It was only brought to our attention after the race. It was only this morning," series media director David Lyall said yesterday.

"People involved in the series, including producers, think it was a pilot whale. It's not something we can really do anything about now."

The image came to the organisers' attention only after Kawana-based ironwoman Kirsty Holmes caught sight of it while watching a television replay.

She said she would leave any discussion about what it was to the experts, adding it had to be recognised that shark sightings were a fact of life for surf lifesavers.

"I can't say that it's a shark, because I don't know," Holmes said. "It's either that or a pilot whale. I'll leave it up to the experts to decide what it is. But whatever it is, it's pretty big.

"But we're in their environment. We should expect to see those things every now and then."

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