The Margaret River Pro event is temporarily called off due to two separate shark incidents. WSL states, “The safety of our surfers and staff is a top priority.”
Before this incident, John John and friends were on a surfing session in West Oz when they saw a splash and they too decided to put their session on hold. It turns out to be a good decision as they were able to spot a couple of sharks on their drone.
On April 16, the first attack happened near Gracetown, WA. Alejandro Travaglini, a resident of Margaret River was bitten at around 7:45 a.m. Photographer Peter Jovic states, “A shark popped up and pretty much ended up knocking a surfer from his board. There was a lot more thrashing around. After that, it was hard to see what was going on. [I] saw the guy who had been attacked get separated from the [surf] board and then start to paddle for an inside wave, which he managed to body surf all the way in. They got him to shore and started working on him to stem the bleeding.”
ABC reports say Travaglini suffered injuries to his legs that required emergency surgery. He’s now recovering in Royal Perth hospital. “I just want to thank all the legends who helped me up the beach,” says Mr. Travaglini.
Just hours after the first attack, another incident took place. Mr. Longrass surfed despite warnings about a shark that was roaming around. “I don’t always surf the place. But it was uncrowded. I didn’t know why. I heard there’s a shark around… I thought, ‘aw yes, yes there are sharks in the ocean,'” he told reporters.
Tim Harriden, a witness to the scene says he was shocked to see Mr. Longrass still in the water despite the warnings. “We just stood on the beach waiting for something to happen and didn’t really expect it to happen but it did. The shark came up and nailed him, knocked him straight off his board and it was a big shark, really big fin, I was surprised at how big it was. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Firstly that he didn’t get out of the water and secondly how big the shark was, and that it was really having a go — it wasn’t just swimming around having a look.”
Mr. Longrass suffered minor injuries to his legs. Paramedics say he was very lucky.
The incident was 15 kilometers away from the Margaret River Pro event, which is why the competition was put on hold, but then resumed an hour later. “We are confident, we wouldn’t have resumed if we didn’t feel that way”, WSL commissioner Kieren Perrow said. “After discussing with local authorities, the Water Safety Team and surfers, the WSL Commissioner’s Office has decided to resume competition for the Margaret River Pro at Main Break at 10:40am, following a one-hour hold prompted by reports of a shark incident at Gracetown – approximately 15 kms away from the event site. Surfer and Staff safety are top priorities for the WSL and when competition resumes, further enhanced safety measures, including ski and drone presence, will be added to the event’s mitigation protocols. We look forward to a great completion of the event.”
But after sending back athletes in the water just an hour after the attacks, the League revisited their action and decided to temporarily call off the competition for the day. In a statement, they say, “The WSL continues to assess the current situation at the men’s and women’s Margaret River Pro where there have been two confirmed shark incidents near Gracetown in the last 24 hours. We have actioned our well established safety protocols and are gathering all the latest information to determine next steps. We will continue to liaise with all involved, most importantly the surfers, their safety remains paramount. Today’s competition (Tuesday in Western Australia) has already been called off and all surfers have been advised not to surf in the area. We are constantly evaluating the situation, and will update as soon as possible.”
This incident is prompting the WA Government to start the trial of SMART (Shark Management Alert in Real Time).
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