Great white escape: Shark charges man in tinny
A BYRON Bay fisherman has survived a terrifying encounter with a massive great white shark after it charged his tinny off Julian Rocks, knocking him into the water.
Robbie Graham was fishing alone close to the Byron landmark on Wednesday morning and was reeling in a tuna when the unthinkable happened, according to friend and fellow amateur fisherman Hoss McGrath.
"This huge shark about 15ft (4.5m) came launching into the side of the boat and knocked him off his feet into the water," Mr McGrath said.
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The shark struck the back end of the boat, propelling it forward and Mr Graham - who was standing, rod in hand and almost directly above the shark - was sent backwards into the ocean.
Despite copping some heavy bruising to his ribs in the fall overboard, he got out of the water "real quick", Mr McGrath said.
The shark was almost as long as the lifetime local's tinny, but it thankfully never returned for a second "look".
"He was very lucky," Mr McGrath said.
Seriously shaken by the freak incident, Mr Graham returned immediately to shore and notified lifeguards, who promptly closed Main Beach for the rest of the day despite almost perfect swimming conditions.
Local dive and kayaking companies cancelled daily trips, while Byron Bay High School also cancelled its regular Wednesday afternoon snorkelling and surfing activities according to principal Peter King.
Mr McGrath said his son had observed a large white shark cruising just 30m from Wategos Beach behind two manta rays.
Last week two professional fishermen working the reef directly off Lennox Point had an astonishing 30 mackerel taken from them in the one session by what they believe was a pair of great whites.
"They said there must have been two of them because they were taking them off two boats at the same time, and these guys were pros," Mr McGrath said.
"You can tell a great white straight away by how round they are; their big barrel body and the huge head on them."
Local surf reporter Ben Bennink said he had seen a couple of big splashes while surfing off Wategos this week "which definitely weren't dolphins".
"It was something turning near the surface at speed," he said.
Mr Bennink warned surfers not to be complacent about sharks.
"Some people, myself included, get complacent at times and treat surfing a bit like a theme park, and it's not; it's a wild environment," he said.
"Just accept them for what they are; they're a top level predator, they're going to do 'sharkie' things.
"I agree with the theory that they're very curious, but the problem with their curiosity is they test things with their teeth.
"It's too late after they spit you back out saying 'that's not good for eating'."
Mr Bennink said his complacency vanished in an instant seven years ago when a bull shark "chased him" out of knee-deep water at The Pass.
LOCAL fisherman Hoss McGrath has had his fair share of great white encounters and says he's not surprised to see great whites around at this time of year despite popular wisdom they are more frequent in the winter months during the whale migration.
He was fishing in the Bay with Mr Graham in 2011 when a big great white circled their boat for several minutes while they were burleying the water with a tuna head.
They filmed the incident, and spotted two more whites on the same day.
"I reckon they're out there all time, I don't believe in the theory that they're only here when the whales are going past," he said.
"You get a lot of kingfish and mackerel and snapper coming into the Bay; they're following them for a feed."
Before the ban on fishing for great whites about 10 years ago, he used to target them on occasions.
"We used to catch them all times of year."
Great whites have also been known on occasion to charge boats, especially moving propellers which they either mistake as prey or want to investigate - with their teeth.
There are many videos on YouTube showing other Great White Shark attacks on fishing boats. (Note - these are not from the encountered in this story above)