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Drone Operators in Australia Help Pro Surfer Stave Off Potential Shark Attack

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 10/7/2020 Meena Thiruvengadam
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Volunteer drone operators in Australia helped pro surfer Matt Wilkinson narrowly avoid a potential shark attack on Wednesday, catching the close call on camera.

Wilkinson was surfing off the coast of Sharpes Beach, about 450 miles north of Sydney, when volunteers at the Surf Life Saving NSW spotted a shark coming up behind him. “Within 10 seconds, it was at the surfer, and five seconds later, it was gone,”  drone operator Beau Monks said.

It’s unclear what kind of shark it was.

Monks was operating a routine surveillance flight — his seventh of the day — when he spotted the shark nearing Wilkinson, an experienced surfer who has spent more than a decade competing in the World Surf League and was ranked number five in 2016 and 2017. Surf Life Saving NSW used the drone’s speaker to warn Wilkinson, who hadn’t realized just how close the shark had come.

a man flying through the air: Volunteer drone operators caught Matt Wilkinson’s close encounter with a shark in a terrifying video. © Surf Life Saving NSW / YouTube Volunteer drone operators caught Matt Wilkinson’s close encounter with a shark in a terrifying video.

Video: Drone footage shows world championship surfer’s close encounter with shark (Reuters)

"I was surfing out the back at Sharpes Beach and just cruising on my own and I heard a splash and a noise and looked around and couldn't see anything," Wilkinson said in a statement released through the organization.

It wasn’t until the drone footage was shared with him that he saw what a close encounter he’d had. “It looks like it’s going for my leg and it’s changed its mind," he said.

Surf Life Saving NSW flies drones over the coast of New South Wales to help lifeguards protect swimmers and surfers. A few weeks ago, the team spotted a large shark near Cabarita, delaying the start of a surf competition.

So far this year, Australia has seen six fatal shark attacks, according to Taronga Conservation Society Australia, CNN reported.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.


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