South Africa’s waters are sharky. One even made an appearance during the recent Corona Open J-Bay that the commissioner had to call off the competition between event winner Filipe Toledo, Julian Wilson, and Jordy Smith in Round 4. It was not even shy to show itself to a 13-year-old surfer.
Zoe Steyn was surfing Nahoon Reef near East London when she came face-to-face with a 10-foot Great White. Steyn was reportedly waiting to catch a wave, when the shark bit her board (luckily missing her leg) and shook it, knocking her off.
“I just saw this huge black eye looking straight at me and a huge bang as it took my board and began shaking it,” she told The Sun. “It latched on with its jaws just missing my leg and it tipped me backwards and I fell in and I just saw the black shape of it in the water and panicked.”
Fortunately for Steyn, surfing champ JP Veaudry was nearby and paddled to get her. “I heard another surfer screaming at me to get back on my board and I pulled myself onto it but was terrified of where the shark was and what to do,” Steyn recounted. “Then I saw a surfer friend JP Veaudry paddling straight out to get me and he told me not to think about the shark but just paddle for all I was worth. He kept asking me if I had been bitten by the shark but I said I didn’t know as I was in a state of shock and adrenaline was just pumping through my body.”
For the 40-year old Veudry, paddling to safety was his instinct but couldn’t bear to leave the young surfer behind. “I heard a death defying scream and saw loads of thrashing about in the water. Zoe was screaming and flailing in the sea as the shark had pulled the board out from under her. My first thought was to get out of there and onto the beach. But I couldn’t just leave her out there with the shark so I paddled straight out to get her and she had got back on her board and I paddled back in with her.” Both Steyn and Veudry reached the shore miraculously unharmed.
Considering that Steyn had only been surfing for three years and had never seen a shark before the attack, paddling back and escaping unharmed is quite a feat. And though it’s taken a few years for three-time World Champ Mick Fanning to recover from his shark attack and to get back on tour, Steyn was surfing the following day.
“I can’t thank JP enough for risking his life to paddle out and save me and get back to shore. It has taught me never to surf alone ever again.”
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