Recently we published a feature article 'Understanding the Apex' in Japanese surf + lifestyle magazine: BLUE.

The issue has been so well received in Japan, so we're going to share it with you in a blog-series here on The Switchboard Network blog.

We took on the piece after Angie witnessed the death of Tadashi Nakahara from a bite sustained to both legs whilst surfing here in Lennox Head/Ballina. The article was a way for us to search for answers on the blow-up of shark activity here on the north-east coast of Australia, and collate a number of opinions and science on the subject. We welcome your comments and opinions below.

Understanding the Apex

Part 1 - Angie's story.

By Angie Davis - Surfer + Writer + Filmmaker

Instagram @angelahelendavis

Photo: Matt Draper @mattdraperphotography

Photo: Matt Draper @mattdraperphotography

The sun had well and truly risen when I arrived to the top car park at Speeds, in East Ballina, after dropping my kids at school and day care. It was one of those memorable end-of-summer mornings, where the sun is shining bright and the only wind a moderate offshore helping head-high clean peeling A-frames reel in over the shallow reef and adjacent sand banks. Instead of going straight to my car boot to get changed, grab my board and head into the surf, I couldn’t help but want to nab a quick iPhone photo to throw up on Instagram to tease my followers. When I held my phone up to take a wide shot, I was shocked at what I saw through the lens; what seemed like an injured, unconscious surfer being carried in over the rocks, his head limp between the arms of two male surfers carrying out the apparent rescue.  

Speeds, shortly after the attack. A beautiful part of the Lennox/Ballina region. Photo: Angie Davis

Speeds, shortly after the attack. A beautiful part of the Lennox/Ballina region. Photo: Angie Davis

Adjusting my eyes now to the frantic scene unfolding below, I noticed a trail of blood following the path of the rescue attempt and saw the injured surfer’s legs were missing from above the knee. Horrified, I knew instantly the cause of the injury, a shark attack. As I ran down to the shore other surfers were screaming out to call an ambulance, which I did as the surfers finally got the victim to the beach, with others pulling off their leg ropes to tourniquet the victim’s legs in an attempt to stop the bleeding. The group rallied together and CPR was started immediately, while I stayed on the phone to the ambulance urgently requesting their assistance at the scene.

Just metres away, innocent young families who had been out basking in the sun and frolicking in the adjacent natural rock pools were witnessing something not quite short of a horror film. It took a good half hour for the ambulance to arrive, and as the team of brave surfers continued with revival attempts I began to familiarize myself with the lifeless face lying on the beach at our feet…Tadashi Nakahara.

Tadashi was well known in the community, a friend of my ex-husband’s, and someone I had shared fun waves with in the past. A hard worker who always wore a warm smile, Tadashi was respected in and out of the water and his death rocked the community. For those of us at the scene, we would each take that day into our nightmares.

Angie consoling a friend and member of the Japanese surfing community at the scene of Tadashi's attack.

Angie consoling a friend and member of the Japanese surfing community at the scene of Tadashi's attack.

Tadashi's memorial service at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina, NSW.

Tadashi's memorial service at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina, NSW.

I personally tried to view the day as a one-off, very unlucky “wrong time wrong place” incident, but as the months went on and our local waters were tainted with more shark attacks, it became apparent that the surf was not as safe as we hoped, and changes in our local environment were resulting in a massive increase of sharks, particularly Great Whites, and encounters with humans. In an attempt to understand what is going on, I decided to chat with a number of local surfers to gauge their opinions, and correlate professional data and research from shark experts and marines scientists. The result is this feature, which I hope will shed some light on our current marine environment here in Byron, Lennox Head and Ballina, and a greater understanding of Great Whites and their behavioural patterns.

Angie surfing later in the year at Northwall, Ballina. Photo: Matt Tibbey.

Angie surfing later in the year at Northwall, Ballina. Photo: Matt Tibbey.

*Out of respect we have chosen not to publish a photograph of Tadashi Nakahara. We remember him in our hearts as a positive, cheerful, enthusiastic member of the community. His last wave on this Earth was a barrel.

To be continued - Part 2 - Dustin's story. 

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