Surfers have been known to curse the rotten clubbies for their regimented approach to beach life and sticking up flags in front of good banks, but Matt Wilkinson was thanking them yesterday.
Surfing at Sharpes Beach in Ballina Wilko was momentarily stalked by a large shark. (8ft approx) Footage shows the shark approaching from in front and then U-turning in behind Wilko. Just as it looked set to strike his legs it veered away at the last moment. Wilko explained the shark's last-second change of mind in his typically witty fashion. “It must have thought my feet stunk,” he told the ABC.
No doubt the shark specialists and scientists will be looking closely at the footage and trying to fashion a hypothesis for the shark’s decision to abort the attack on a human target.
"I heard a little splash behind me, looked back and there was nothing there, and then the lifeguard’s drone came down and said that there was a dangerous shark in the area," he said to the ABC shortly after the incident.  
Wilko also made mention of his yellow leg rope, suggesting that he immediately thought of the yellow board Mick Fanning had been riding when he was attacked at Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa, back in 2015. Ironically Wilko had a monopoly on the WSL’s yellow leader’s jersey for much of 2016 and 2017. It will be interesting to see if the WSL considers dropping the colour as the running symbol for leading the rankings on the CT tour.
Wilko when Yellow was his colour on the WCT.
Meanwhile, the shark issue continues to run hot on the NSW North Coast. Thankfully Wilko was not hurt, but it will be interesting to see if the involvement of a high profile surfer in an incident prompts any kind of response or action from local and state governments.
Surfers survey the mauled carcass of a whale that washed up on Casuarina on the NSW North Coast earlier this week.
Whatever transpires surfers perhaps have a new-found measure of respect for the clubbies and their shark- spotting drones. The drone wouldn’t have been any use in if the shark did decide to attack ( save accelerating the response time) but the incident with Wilko suggests they can play a role in preventing attacks by providing a warning.