One thing we can be certain of and that is the fact that when it comes to shark attacks, Reunion Island is screwed up – the most shark-infested surf location in the world.

Innocent surfers, some of them children, are still being killed while the authorities do little about it except make surfing illegal, thus absolving them from legal repercussions in the result of injury or death from such attacks.

The latest report was of a British holidaymaker who was, according to many media reports, attacked while swimming inside a lagoon that has been classified as safe for swimming. It was reported that Richard Turner was attacked and killed by a shark inside the L’Hermitage lagoon, and it was only when his hand, still with his wedding ring on it, was found inside a sharks stomach, that it was actually discovered that he had been killed by a shark.

It was reported by International Business Times (https://www.ibtimes.com/reunion-island-claims-second-brit-days-following-shark-related-death-2864583) that four sharks, all measuring in excess of four feet in length, were found inside the lagoon, and one shark had devoured Mr. Turner’s hand and it was discovered in the shark’s stomach.  

Two days later there was a second death in the same lagoon that was previously thought entirely safe to go swimming in. Another British man, Olivier Angeloz, drowned in the same waters. It seems the second death wasn't a shark attack, but it is eerie that there were two deaths in the same, safe lagoon within days of each other.

DNA testing and contents of the shark's stomach confirmed the body parts were of Mr. Turner.

The lagoon at L’Hermitage is a strange place for a shark attack. It is a massive lagoon, and it is shallow. It is recognized by a very fierce channel that sweeps out into the ocean, and there is a framework hanging over the channel with chains dangling into the water, as a last gasp measure for people who get swept out. It happens, people get swept out and disappear. The only way to beat that current is to go with the sweep and to swim across to the coral reefs. There are two waves there, which are absolutely perfect on their day, with barreling lefts and rights winding towards that current. It is a tricky set-up, to be sure, and paddling against that current after a three-hour session is all about technique because there is no way that a tired set of paddling arms will beat it on an outgoing tide.

We reached out to Davey Stolk, former South African pro surfer and long-time Reunion Island resident, to clarify a few of the statements that are floating around there.

“The sharks were caught outside Boucon and not inside the lagoon,” said Stolk. “There were no sharks spotted inside the lagoon. The authorities don’t know if he drowned first before he got attacked.”

Stolk is well aware of the current sweeping out there, and of the danger of that current. “One thing is almost certain is that he got swept over the barrier or through the pass. It has happened when the swell is solid, and it was.”

Without wishing to detract from the absolutely dire situation in Reunion with regards to the untenable shark circumstances, it does seem there is definitely a little bit of shark media hoopla around this one. According to Stolk the situation with regards to surfing, is ok, considering.

“Everyone has been surfing everywhere, and there have been no problems,” said Stolk. “I had cooking St Leu yesterday arvo, and the crew was out till sunset.”

The famous left of St Leu was the same place that a surfer Kim Mahbouli was attacked and killed in May of this year.