CLOSE ENCOUNTER: This photo shows the tip of the shark’s fin after it circled the anchored board at a big wave spot south of Evans Head. The white water to the right is where it surfaced. BELOW: A photo taken of Mick McGillivray surfing a left-hand barrel on the same day at the same spot shortly before the encounter with the suspected three-metre great white.
CLOSE ENCOUNTER: This photo shows the tip of the shark’s fin after it circled the anchored board at a big wave spot south of Evans Head. The white water to the right is where it surfaced. BELOW: A photo taken of Mick McGillivray surfing a left-hand barrel on the same day at the same spot shortly before the encounter with the suspected three-metre great white. Contributed

Perfect wave fun turns to shark fear for lone surfers

JUST a fortnight ago Mick McGillivray and fellow Evans Head local John Plenkovich lived to tow each other into remote big waves, until they had an up close and personal experience with a three-metre great white at one of their favourite spots.

The pair were surfing alone in the middle of the day south of Evans Head and, with a perfect wave approaching, Mr McGillivray was about to jump from their jetski on to his board.

But moments before he jumped, a shark appeared from the depths below, nudging a back-up board they had anchored beyond the reef a few metres away.

"He wasn't scared of us; he kept coming up like he was going to bite (the board)," Mr McGillivray said.

"He was 100% white pointer."

The shark proceeded to circle the board repeatedly.

"By this time we're just feet up on the ski on the seats going 'what the hell is going on'," Mr McGillivray said.

"The wind was pushing us toward the board, and we literally drifted almost right on top of it. We were convinced if there was someone sitting on that board he would have had a go."

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The professional fisherman said it was "pure luck" that he hadn't jumped in before the shark appeared.

"It was my turn to get a wave," he said.

"I would have been jumping in next to it.

"I have not surfed since."

Describing going in the water for a paddle as "Russian roulette", he said he had no plans to return any time soon.

"Every day there's a sighting at the moment, between here and Kingscliff," he said.

"I'll probably give it three or four months of no sightings and then I'll think about it. I'm just rattled.

"I've got kids and to me it's not worth it.

"If the waves were really really epic, I would probably seriously consider it but I don't know whether I would enjoy it. It would be on your mind the whole time."

The 41-year-old said great whites were "thriving right now" thanks to their protected status.

"I don't know about how you go about counting them (but) there's clearly a lot more of them around," he said.

"I don't know that my nerve will come back."



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