Brenden Allen

Shark warning for contest

ALL Girls Surf Showdown organisers have been warned by Northern NSW lifeguard co-ordinator Stephen Leahy to keep their competitors clear of shark-infested Ballina beaches.

Leahy yesterday warned of a heightened shark presence as heavy run-off from recent rain has caused dirty water full of nutrients, debris and fish to flow out of the Richmond River.

As a result the lifeguard co-ordinator has advised against entering the water at South Wall, North Wall, Lighthouse Beach, the Richmond River near the Ballina township, and Shelly Beach.

The warning comes only two months after Wollongbar 16-year-old Peter Edmonds was killed by a shark at North Wall while bodyboarding.

The All Girls Showdown is due to start tomorrow and is usually based at Lennox Head. It concludes with the finals on Monday.

However, it is a mobile event that has regularly been switched to North Wall when the swell has not suited at Lennox.

"The conditions should be fine at Lennox," Leahy said. "It should also be fine at Sharps Beach but it is always hard to say how far the dirty water will extend.

"Sharks are after fish being flushed out of the river but what's making things worse is that it's mullet travelling season.

"I've been speaking to the (NSW) Fisheries guys and they said there are a lot of animals in the water at the moment."

Asked if animals meant sharks, Leahy replied: "Yes."

Leahy said people should consider remaining out of the water in the areas mentioned until the risk had been reduced.

Anyone who believes they have sighted a shark should contact the police service on 000.

Surf Showdown contest director Rachel Bonhote-Mead said organisers were unlikely to venture into Ballina.

"We're hoping for a good swell at Lennox and that's where we want to stay," she said.

"We did hold two days at North Wall last year but we won't be doing that this year because of the conditions.

"Sharps (Beach) would be unlikely as well because of the lack of amenities.

"We could go to Flat Rock, but our preference is Lennox."

According to The Northern Star's surfing columnist Phil Roxburgh, a south-westerly off-shore wind is predicted for tomorrow with a swell of about one metre.

A rising southerly is predicted to sweep up the coast and by late Sunday afternoon a 1.5-metre swell is predicted at Lennox Head. Monday has the potential to grow a further foot to a solid two metres.

If only the Showdown had started yesterday.

As the above pictures captured by The Northern Star show, there was plenty of clean water and great waves at Sharps Beach yesterday afternoon.


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