A shark attack at Jeffreys Bay this morning that miraculously left 16 year-old surfer Joseph Krone unscathed but with a torn wetsuit and his surfboard in two pieces has caused the organisers of the final event in the Billabong Polar Ice Junior Series to move the preliminary rounds of the contest 15 kilometres down the coast to St Francis Bay.
Krone, from Mossel Bay, had joined more than 30 other participants in the finale of the country’s most popular junior surfing series in the half to one metre (2-3 foot) waves at the Point at Jeffreys Bay for a practice session prior to the start of the first day’s proceedings in the three day event that will determine the 2003 series champions.
He was sitting on his surfboard in the water waiting to catch a wave when the shark appeared from below the surface and bumped him off the board into the sea. It then took a 30 cm deep bite out of the middle of the fibreglass surfboard, which subsequently snapped in half. Krone surfaced with a couple of holes in his neoprene wetsuit but no broken skin and swam to the nearby rocks to exit the water.
Having experienced the ‘fright of his life’, the teenager was not keen to comment on the incident but his coach, Mike Shepherd from Mossel Bay, commented that fortunately Krone was a quiet and resilient young man, not given to emotional outbursts, and did not appear to be traumatised by the episode.
After clearing the contest area of the balance of the free surfers, the event organisers convened a meeting with the competitors, their parents and coaches at which the decision was taken to move the opening heats of the event to the best available surf in the St Francis Bay area, more than a dozen kilometres away.
“We’re extremely thankful that nobody was injured in the incident, remarked event producer and Billabong SA marketing manager, Brad Bricknell, adding “Safety is our first concern and we have decided to move the opening day of the contest to a venue at the end of Cape St Francis, 15 kilometres away.
The huge entry of more than 130 competitors for this event means the competition has to be started today to have any chance of crowning the series champions on Sunday.
According to Bricknell there would be lifeguards and boats patrolling the Point at Jeffreys Bay for the rest of the day with a view to moving the contest back to the original venue for Saturday and Sunday.
“Obviously we will take the opinions of the surfers and their parents into account before using the Point for the rest of the contest, explained Bricknell, “If any of them object then we will not hesitate to move the event again.
“However, many of the surfers have traveled from as far afield as Durban and Cape Town and are really keen to compete at the Point because the waves are so good there, and there will probably be surfers free surfing there this afternoon.
This is the fifth and final contest in sixth annual 2003 Billabong Polar Ice Junior Series for surfers in divisions ranging from U/12 to U/20 boys and U/20 girls that started in Durban in February, followed by Cape Town in March, St Michaels on Sea on the KZN South Coast in April and Victoria Bay in the Southern Cape in May.
More than R100 00 in prize-money has already been distributed amongst the top finishers in the first four events and another R25 000 will be paid to the top eight U/20 boys and the top four in each of the other divisions in this event.
The 2003 series champions in all five divisions will be crowned on Sunday and the top three on the ratings in each division will share a series prize-purse of R17 500.