April 9, 2008 : – – A shark sighting by a competitor at the infamous Southside break, Margaret River, Western Australia, has derailed the third day of competition at the Drug Aware Pro Margaret River presented by O’Neill. Amee Donohoe (McMasters Beach, NSW) saw the shark as she was paddling back out to the line-up after catching a wave in the ninth heat of the morning’s action.
Donohoe, who was leading the heat at the time, saw what she described as a “massive fin and a wide girth” and quickly came in. “I was paddling back out through the channel and saw this massive fin, it was really wide. I got a pretty good look at it – good enough to not want to stay in the water.” Currently rated fourth in the world, Donohoe alerted her fellow competitors and event organizers, signaling a swift end to competition.
“I’ve surfed all over the world with dolphins hundreds of times before and at places like Ballina on the East Coast, so I knew when I saw the fin it didn’t belong to a dolphin,” she said. “The width and the girth of the shadow was massive,” she said.
Locals have reported a spate of shark sightings in recent weeks. Allegedly feeding on the large abundance of salmon in the Margaret River area, today’s sighting is not out of the ordinary, but is concerning nonetheless, both for competitors and event organizers. ASP World Tour Head Judge, Perry Hatchett highlighted that the competitor’s safety is the prime concern.
“We have to adhere to the safety protocol which consists of keeping the water clear of all competitors,” he said. “At this current point in time we have water patrol moving around the area making sure the competition area is clear and safe. From here we will meet again to make a judgment on whether the surfers will return to the water today based purely upon safety,” he stated.
Based upon ASP rules, the heat will be re-started and all scores will still remain. As a matter of safety, jet skis will patrol the competition area to keep the situation under control and provide the surfers with a hasty escape from the water. “As long as they are more content with salmon as opposed to the surfers I’ll be happy,” Donohoe said.
“I’m still a bit rattled, but I trust everyone’s judgment and have full confidence in the event staff to look after the surfers,” she said.
Perfect conditions for the top seeds
As the 6-star prime-rated ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) event for Men and 5-star Women’s event continued with the inclusion of the top seeded surfers, outstanding surfing from some of the world’s best was what resulted.
Current World No. 4 four-rated surfer and the event’s top seed Jeremy Flores (FRA), was in devastating form. Flores, who has been outstanding with some impressive results to begin his 2008 campaign, enjoyed the excellent 2.5m conditions. “It was really good out there this morning. It’s about six foot and awesome,” he said. “I just want to take this event heat-by-heat and have fun.”
Nathan Hedge (North Narabeen, NSW) was also in awesome form. “This is really good Margaret’s today,” he said. Aiming to return to the top tier of surfing on the ASP World Tour, Hedge is looking at this week’s event with an eye for qualifying for the 2009 Tour. “I’m just going to hit the WQS as hard as I possibly can this year. I want to be back on the Tour this time next year.”
In the women’s competition, teenage dynamo Sally Fitzgibbons (Gerroa, NSW) won her second round heat and advanced in the competition. With the swell set to continue to rise considerably, the rest of the week looks to be epic.
As well as intense action in the surf, Saturday, April 12 features a massive ‘Party on the Point’. From 2.30pm, there is free entertainment overlooking the ocean at Surfers Point, with The Simon Kelly Band, Operation Beehive and The Remedials performing live on stage, plus vert ramp aerial demos by BMX rider Chris Jones and pro-skaters Darren Pryor and Cliffy.
Major sponnsors of the 2008 Drug Aware Pro Margaret River include Healthway / Drug Aware, EventsCorp and O’Neill. Support sponsors include SupaShake by Brownes, Nova 93.7, Department of Sport & Recreation, Surftech Australia, Odyssey 2020, The Sunday Times, Margarets Beach Resort, Leeuwin Estate, Corona, Pump Water, MR Law, Tracks Magazine, Shire of Augusta Margaret River, Tracks, Surfersvillage.com, Surfing WA and ASP Australasia.
Visit DrugAwarePro.com for further details and to view the live webcast. The event website will feature live scores, heat by heat results, daily news as well as photo and video galleries updated daily.