Two of South Africa's best professional surfers are lucky to be alive after a terrifying encounter with a giant great white shark while riding the waves near East London on Saturday afternoon.
Greg Emslie was circled several times—and even charged—by the four metre shark while world tour campaigner Rosy Hodge watched helplessly from the rocks at Queensberry Bay.
"I am glad I stayed calm and still… if I tried to paddle away I think it would have gone for me," a relieved Emslie told the Dispatch yesterday.
During the nerve-wracking encounter, Emslie maintained "full eye contact" with the beast from the deep for most of the terrifying three minute-plus ordeal – sitting with both feet on his board waiting for a wave to catch to the shore.
"When he came up next to me like a submarine, I thought I was dead. It came straight at me three or four times … it was so close, I could have touched it with my hands," he said.
Emslie, who recently decided to call it quits after 10 years on the world surfing tour so he could spend more time with his wife, Chante, and two toddlers, said all he could think about was not saying goodbye to his family before hitting the waves.
Chante, three-year-old Dave and one- year-old daughter Taylor were sleeping at the family's Queensberry home after attending a kiddies' birthday party earlier in the day. Emslie told the Dispatch he hoped the recent spate of shark attacks at nearby Yellowsands and Port Alfred was not the beginning of another bad year on the Cape coast.
Natal Sharks Board spokesperson Geremy Cliff said the fact that Emslie did not panic probably saved his life. "It is important that Greg did not panic and alter the shark's behavior from inquisitive to aggressive."
Emslie said: "The only time I closed my eyes was to pray… when I opened them a wave came straight at me and I took one stroke and caught it.”
For the full story, head to The Daily Dispatch or head to a full feature on the shark encounter by Zig Zag magazine here.