Former elite ultra-distance athlete Nick Bester admitted he was shaken up on Monday, after he and two friends emerged virtually unscathed from a shark attack incident in Plettenberg Bay.
Bester, who won the Comrades Marathon in 1991, said he and Ronald Pronk were paddling on either side of Ben Swart at Keurbooms Lagoon, around 400 metres from shore, when they heard a loud crunch as a shark took a chunk out of Swart’s surfski.
Swart was thrown in the air, and around 30 seconds after he landed in the water, Bester spotted the shark.
“We were worried it would come back, so we tried to put Ben back on his surfski and pull him to shore,” said Bester, a former ironman triathlon champion.
“But it wasn’t possible because we had to use one hand to balance his ski and the other to paddle.”
After nearly 10 minutes, Bester left Pronk with Swart and went to shore on his own to alert the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), before heading back out for another rescue attempt.
While trying to tow the broken ski towards the beach they were hit by a “big wave” and Bester dislocated his thumb.
The trio were then taken aboard sea rescue crafts, according to the NSRI, and while Bester confirmed he had received medical treatment to his hand, all three paddlers were otherwise unhurt.
“If the shark had been 30 centimetres to the right he would have bitten Ben across his hips,” Bester said.
“Fortunately we stayed calm, and Ben also stayed calm, and the NSRI were very quick in their response.
“It was a frightening experience and we’re glad everyone is ok.”
Marc Rodgers, station commander of the NSRI in Plettenberg Bay, said photographs of the surfski, measurements and an account of the incident would be sent to research authorities to determine the size and species of the shark.
Initial reports suggested it was a white shark, around four metres in length.
“The NSRI are urging the public, paddlers and bathers to be cautious,” Rodgers said in a statement.
“NSRI coast watchers monitoring the coastline have noted shark sightings along the Plettenberg coastline following this incident today and caution is advised.”