Mike Saunders took this aerial picture of the three-metre great white shark near an unsuspecting longboard rider while on a joy flight over Byron Bay yesterday.
Mike Saunders took this aerial picture of the three-metre great white shark near an unsuspecting longboard rider while on a joy flight over Byron Bay yesterday.

Shark swims with surfer

A SURFER at Main Beach in Byron Bay got a fright yesterday when he paddled into the path of a three-metre great white shark.

“The surfer came within a few metres of the shark, then paddled like a maniac once he’d spotted it,” said eyewitness Mike Saunders.

Mr Saunders was on a birthday joy flight over the Northern Rivers from the Gold Coast.

“I had just been saying to the pilot how I’d like to see a shark when he spotted it – a decent-size shark right next to a bunch of surfers in the break,” Mr Saunders said

The shark was about 20 metres off the beach, in front of the Beach Hotel, he said.

“We dropped from about 1500 feet to 600 or 700 feet and watched as one guy on his orange longboard paddled slowly straight to it and then turned away with a massive burst of pace,” Mr Saunders said.

“Presumably, he’d seen it and got the fright of his life.

“About 20 other surfers were about 150 metres further west of it, by the wreck.”

Mr Saunders said the surfer’s longboard was ‘10 or 11 feet’. His photograph shows the shark of a similar length.

The shark had ‘enormous pectoral fins and was unusually broad in the body’, Mr Saunders said.

Paul Mitchell, a pilot with the Shark Patrol, said it most likely was a great white.

“They are transiting up and down the coast in the cold currents all the time,” Mr Mitchell said.

He said the patrol had seen a great number of sharks last year.

“However, if they really wanted to take us we would have a fatality every day,” Mr Mitchell said.



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