In the heat of the moment as surfers were being munched just down the road from Main Break, WSL attorneys and beancounters’ fingers and eyeballs would have been smoking as they tore through actuarial tables to figure out liability ramifications should one of the great whites bellying up to the West Oz buffet decide to sample a WCT competitor.
There’s clearly not a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to shark sightings in a contest area, but it’s not clear how much shark activity is too much shark activity.
They’d better be, actually, because being unprepared for the reality that 1) sharks exist, and 2) surfers may still want to surf events despite the presence of sharks, seems to have blindsided the WSL this week.
Based on what’s happened at Margies this week, there’s no way to justify continuing with the contest at J-Bay, when it rolls around in a few months, if sharks are seen in the area, as they always are.
But after this week’s cancellation–without an actual competitor being threatened–what happens next time somebody spots a fin darting around during competition somewhere near J-Bay, or Bells, or hell, at one of the hundreds of ‘QS contest sites around the world?
It’s hard to imagine the WSL had a plan in place for aggressive shark activity near the event, outside of shark spotters on jet skis.
Is a head-first collision with the shallow reef at Pipe–which has actually killed some of the world’s best surfers–considered a safer risk than the small-percentage chance of being bitten by a shark during a heat? It shouldn’t be.
A vote among the surfers would probably tell the real story about whether or not there was a palpable sense of shark fear running through the locker room.
Until there is such a plan in place, the WSL will hold contests in a weird kind of grey area when it comes to sharks-odd, considering sharks are present in every ocean on earth.
Read more here: Surfer Mag