A man was chomped to death by a shark yesterday. I had just bought a can of baked beans at the road pantry when Graham texted me: Shark attack in WA. My first thought was fuck Adrian surfs. It’s a weird reaction that I suspect we all have. Like we’re listening to Gold 104 and it says an elderly couple have been involved in a four car pile up and we sift through the details to eliminate the chance that its our folks. So when I heard shark attack I got Graham on the blower
– Where was it?
– Did they say who it was?
– Some 31 year old from the eastern states
– Oh good. My sister’s husband is in Margaret River but he’s 37. Fuck
– Fuckin great white. Reckon it bit both his legs off. They tried to save him but he lost too much fuckin blood
– Fuck…we going surfing next Saturday?
– I reckon
– Our chances just improved
In 1916 there was a heat wave in America and everyone took to the beach. This ended up in a situation known as ‘The Jersey Shore Shark Attacks’, when in a 2 week period four people were killed by shark attack. There must have been a hefty dose of ‘The Fear’ floating around. ‘The Fear’ is that eery feeling that can come over a surfer and convince them that somewhere underneath their little fiberglass paradise is a demon. It fucks with your peripheral vision so that whitewash looks like fins. Its usually when its overcast or getting late and your brain is dehydrated. Playing tricks on you. Graham tells a story of the time he was surfing in Indo and a massive fish flew vertically out of the water metres from where he was surfing and logic told him: something big is chasing that fish. There is advice on avoiding shark attacks. They say not to surf near seals. They say avoid surfing whilst menstruating. Don’t surf with domestic pets. Wear a fluoro wetsuit…They say a lot of things. But the chances of being eaten are so slim. There’s more chance of dying being hit by a bus, a melanoma or the realisation that your life is shit. The odds are something like one in 264.1 million for people that go to the beach. This would increase for surfers who from below appear to be seals to hungry sharks.
But surely a shark would choose Graham over me? He eats Kentucky Fried Chicken and I eat kale. Then again my family does appear to have a nature curse upon it. My sister was bitten by a deadly snake walking the dogs and kids in the bushland behind my parent’s house in Perth. Her blood started to coagulate but she somehow made it to emergency and got shot up with the anti venom. Another time a spider laid eggs in my Dad’s fishing jacket, they hatched and all bit him as their first act in life. Am I destined to be shark bait? Maybe bad nature things happen in threes? Or does my other sister treading on a sea urchin at Rottnest count?
Earlier this year there was some sensationalist tripe on tv about shark attacks. About how sharks are getting hungrier for humans because the world fish stocks have been depleted by overfishing and pollution. They talked about attacks in Sydney Harbour (which I had never really thought of as shark infested more as rife with ballerinas and dickwads) and they interviewed a deep sea diver who had punched a shark. My boyfriend at the time seems to have quit surfing as a result of that documentary. It dredged up his deep seated conviction that he is going to die in the bloody jaws of a shark. When he was a kid somebody gave him an encyclopedia of sharks. He showed it to me. One photo stuck in my mind of a Papua New Guinean fisherman who had survived having his head inside a shark’s mouth. Two nights ago there was a David Attenborough thing on tele and there was this bit where over a hundred sharks attacked a school of fish. It was coldblooded premeditated carnage. There was shot of the ocean from above with more sharks than I’ve ever seen in one place. I remarked to my housemate ‘that freaks me out a bit’.
Either way Im going surfing next Saturday.