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Shark attacks off Sydney, Australia, not much of a deterrent for surfers

March 2, 2009 | 11:42 am


While two ASP World Tour surfing contests are underway on Australia's Gold Coast, surfers in the Sydney area, 300 miles to the south, are venturing boldly back out in the aftermath of  the third shark attack in as many weeks.

Several area beaches remain closed after the attack just after dawn Sunday on Andrew Lindop, 15, as he surfed with his father off Avalon Beach.

Lindop was bitten on the leg and endured four hours of surgery, but doctors are confident they saved the leg. And Lindop is already telling friends he's eager to get back in the water.

Why isn't there "Jaws"-like hysteria? Australia is a surf-crazed nation. Instead of panicking, surfers and swimmers are ignoring warning signs (see photo  below).

Said Don Norris, who runs the RealSurf website, to the Sydney Morning news: "In a surfer's thinking, perfect waves trump sharks every time."


Surfers have the same mentality off Southern California. In fact, surfers in the Solana Beach area were scared from the water only briefly after the fatal attack on a swimmer last April, by what was believed to be a large great white.

I paddled out exactly one week later, just a mile up the beach, and was a lot more comfortable riding waves than I was sitting and waiting during the many long lulls.

But that's what surfers do. They go back out and try to put attacks behind them; it's either that or quit doing what you love and succumb to fear. If surfers exercise common sense -- don't paddle out alone in  known shark waters, especially at dawn or dusk -- they're a lot safer than they are on the freeways.

As for surfers in the Sydney area, there seems ample reason to freak out. Three attacks in three weeks, in an area not known for attacks, is a lot. But chances are good (knock on wood)  that years will pass before another attack occurs in the area.

Fortunately, none of the three attacks was fatal. Unfortunately, one victim, an Australian Navy diver, lost a hand and part of his leg.

--Pete Thomas

Photos: Great white shark (top). A great white is believed responsible for at least one of three attacks during the last three weeks in or near Sydney, Australia. Credit: Discovery Channel. Lower photo: A warning sign is ignored. Credit: Jon Reid / Sydney Morning Herald