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Understanding the Apex - Part 2

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Understanding the Apex - Part 2

Understanding the Apex

Part 2 - Dustin's story

By Dustin Hollick - Surfer + Writer + Filmmaker

Instagram @dustohollick

Photo: Matt Draper @mattdraperphotography

Photo: Matt Draper @mattdraperphotography

It felt weird to turn around and walk back up the beach with perfect waves rolling through un-ridden in the background. The back of my wetsuit was sweaty from standing on the hot sand for an abnormally long amount of time.

The helicopter hovering overhead had by far the best view of the whole scene. Confused beachgoers milling around the foreshore; a gravel car park full of spectators and two boats. An Aluminum runabout further out and smaller zodiac closer in just behind the breakers.

A deckhand on the small zodiac was throwing a very large baited hook out repeatedly to try and catch the shark that was causing the commotion. The mission was to tag and release. Within 10 minutes the shark was hooked and dragged out to deeper waters to be worked on. I wondered how they would get the hook out…

Even after the shark was hooked and dragged further out to sea I didn’t go out for a surf. And despite the fact I have been surfing regularly and trying to rely on my instincts to warn me of any pre-imminent danger, this was just the latest in a series of events that have caused me to ponder: “just what has changed?”

"...despite the fact I have been surfing regularly and trying to rely on my instincts to warn me of any pre-imminent danger, this was just the latest in a series of events that have caused me to ponder: just what has changed?” - Dustin Hollick. Photo: Angie Davis

"...despite the fact I have been surfing regularly and trying to rely on my instincts to warn me of any pre-imminent danger, this was just the latest in a series of events that have caused me to ponder: just what has changed?” - Dustin Hollick. Photo: Angie Davis

Of course there are plenty of sharks in the ocean, and yes the area we live in is abundant with marine life, what scientists call a “healthy” part of the ocean. So why, if there is abundant marine life in our corner of ocean here, are surfers, swimmers, and body-boarders suddenly on the menu? I don’t have the answers to this question but there are many theories being put forward.

Dustin at home, enjoying his time in the ocean. Photo: Angie Davis

Dustin at home, enjoying his time in the ocean. Photo: Angie Davis

Personally I will continue surfing, I surfed twice today, and I get too grumpy if I don’t surf. But until we get some answers as to why the sharks are trying to feed on us or about the oceanic climate changes, or until some preventative measures are put in place, I will not let my four and seven-year-old boys surf or swim in the ocean. I believe after my 25 plus years spent in our Earth’s marine environment I should be able to recognize any signs of danger and react in time; if not my life has been amazing and I have no regrets. But to see a young child get mauled would not be a good thing at all. It’s sad that the ocean in this area has lost its innocence for so many beach goers; I hope we find some solutions soon.

Dustin having a chat between sets with Kelly Slater at Ballina's Northwall Beach, location of the controversial eco shark net system that was set to be installed this month but has been delayed.

Dustin having a chat between sets with Kelly Slater at Ballina's Northwall Beach, location of the controversial eco shark net system that was set to be installed this month but has been delayed.

To be continued - Part 3 - Tadashi's attack from the eyes of Brooke Mason.

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Understanding the Apex - Part 1

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Understanding the Apex - Part 1

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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Human Interaction

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Human Interaction

Markets are generally the domains of hippies and trinket merchants that want nothing better than to lighten your wallet. Or so I thought. As what could be classified as a fairly modest consumer, I never really had an urge to go to the local market. Under the guise of supporting partner has been the only exception, with the only purchase I ever indulged in being that of the instant gastronomical type.

As a somewhat concerned earth/human race survivalist, I try and make conscious decisions that will have a less detrimental effect on future generations. But, as with most of us, my brain wasn’t connecting the dots on several tiers regarding the excessive packaging and ridiculous amounts of transportation that your every day trip to the grocery store encourages.

Introducing my next-door neighbor Rhian Slapp, and his weekly ritual of grocery shopping at the local Farmers' Market, followed by a cuppa at the local cafe, where he sits and drinks his brew in an actual cup - farewell the throwaway!

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Now on a simple level local market shopping (and a non-throwaway coffee!) is fantastic in that it reduces packaging. Simply take a basket or grab a cardboard box and pop the fresh produce straight in there; no need for styrofoam or plastic wrapping. Transportation is as simple as the diesel it took to drive the trusty old rattler down the hill; no extravagant freight liners or massive semis involved here.

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But at a deeper level there is something else that seems to be increasingly lost from modern society: face-to-face interaction with other human beings. Not your boss, your family or your direct peers, but strangers from all walks of life. And here is the really shocking part, to acquire your goods you will have to talk to them! You may even find you exchange knowledge, and this is not only the case at the Farmers' Market, but across all local transactions, whether it be getting a book from the library, or picking up a new hand-crafted surfboard.

Increasingly our transactions are being carried out online. Shopping, health-checks even friendships are now primarily achieved in Cyber Space. Believe this isn’t so? According to The Public Relations Institute Of Australia, “Australians spend one in five minutes (3.6 hours) a day on social media”.

But we do have the ability to decide otherwise. Choose with your feet and make the connection between the excessive greed that drives the increasingly destructive and influential multi nationals of the world, and instead support you local community. Head to your local market, go and see the surfboard shaper down the street, pop into you local timber yard, or say "hi" to the local seamstress.

In return for keeping the cash in your local community you will be rewarded with intimate knowledge of a product the vendor is passionate about, and you'll be contributing toward rebuilding the trust and accountability that cannot be garnered online.

 

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Sharks - are we missing the point?

Sharks - are we missing the point?

Last Tuesday’s attack at Lighthouse Beach, better known by locals as North Wall, tips us upwards of a dozen shark attacks along a 20-kilometre stretch of coast since February. Call it perception or what you will, but that’s a bloody high number of attacks...