A New Zealand kayaker knew his heart skipped a beat when he realized he was being investigated by an 8-foot great white shark.
Steve Dickinson was fishing 874 yards (800m) in off Stanmore Bay Point in Aukland, dragging a burley (chum) bag that releases a scent to attract fish . . . and sharks.
It was just a few weeks before New Zealand went into coronavirus lockdown.
As the editor for NZ Adventure Magazine, Dickinson is no stranger to sharks and has dived with them in Fiji, Tahiti and even photographed whites in Tasmania. While he respects sharks and the role they play, this adventure was unlike any other.
After hearing water splashing, he turned to see a great white shark approaching his kayak from the right-hand side. “ . . . I slashed at him with my rod accompanied by a range of expletives,” he said in the April edition of his magazine. The slashing had no effect on the large shark.
“It was like being approached by a couch; his length was less intimidating than his girth.”
The water was crystal clear and Dickinson watched as the estimated 8-foot-long (2.5-3m) shark swam behind and under his kayak. When he lost sight of the shark, he felt it moving underneath his kayak.
The shark’s dorsal fin popped up on his left and as it swam toward the kayak it began pushing it with its nose. “As I was anchored at the back of the kayak, he pushed the nose like the hands of a clock for about 2 to 3 meters (6-9ft) with enough force for me to start taking water over the side,” he said.
After smacking the shark with his rod and cursing, it disappeared again. But, the shark was not finished and surfaced again, rubbing its body against the side of the kayak.
Dickinson used his handy knife and cut the empty chum bag. The shark did a minor breach and took the bag in its nearly 2-foot wide head and began gnawing on it. While the shark was busy, Dickinson cut his fishing lines and grabbed his paddle, but the shark still was not done investigating Dickinson’s kayak.
The white shark came at the kayak again, hitting near Dickinson’s thigh.
“I then smashed on top of his head several times with the paddle – still made no difference. What was concerning was his level of interest and he would not be put off; he was just unrelenting.”
The shark was acting erratic with bits of the chum bag still hanging from its mouth. During a short break in the interaction, Dickinson cut his anchor line and began rapid paddling toward the shore.
The shark stayed right beside him as he made his way back to shore, darting toward the kayak until finally submerging out of sight.
“That was an ‘oh f*ck’ moment, I had a vision of being like one of the seals who gets hit from below in the Discovery Channel.”
He heard the large shark break the surface several times while he rapidly paddled toward shallow water. Once he felt secure, he called his wife and told her of the incident.
“I now have a kayak for sale and will be buying a boat and a lottery ticket,” Dickinson told his readers in his story “Encounter with a Great White,” found in the April online edition of his magazine.
While this encounter is quite unusual, there is a lesson to be learned. It can be dangerous to adventure into the ocean alone. It is always safer to go with a friend or group of paddlers—not because of a rare encounter with a shark, but for typical dangers such as a quick change in weather or an accidental capsizing.
The location of Dickinson’s adventure has been marked on the 2020 Shark Attack Map.