SHARK hysteria seems to be gripping Australia from the beaches along the WA coast all the way to Newcastle.
Only in the past few weeks, we had shark feasting on a dead whale at Broulee and only last week the young spear fisher was bitten on the hand at Mollymook.
Then there was the tragic fatal attack at Tathra only last year.
Respect must go out to fellow ocean swimmer Christine Armstrong who died what she loved doing when she was taken on her regular morning swim in April.
It’s swim I personally love and have enjoyed regularly over the recent years, so it was great to swim it again in the annual Tathra Wharf to Waves event on Sunday.
It was the first organised swim at the location since the attack and sharks were on everyone minds, if not all the swimmers then the organisers.
An email was sent out to previous competitors in the lead up the event asking if swimmers would be willing given the recent tragedy – the response was an overwhelming yes.
Despite this, “You’re swimming the Wharf to Waves? – good luck, I hope you survive” or “Don’t be last in the pack” or just plain “You’re crazy” were common reactions to those who planned to swim.
And on Sunday 220 swimmers in the various age groups took the water for the annual ocean swim.
Sharks are always out there and we have to share the water with these awesome predators. It’s all about risk management and the risk was indeed well managed on Sunday.
A big well done to the Wharf to Waves organisers who together with the Tathra Surf Life Saving Club had the water well and truly covered, literally.
There was a flotilla of inflatable boats, lifeguards on rescue boards and SUPs, the big NSW Water Police boat from Eden, a NSW Maritime boat, a fixed wing aircraft and the Westpac Lifesaver 3 chopper did several overflights.
One gets a certain sixth sense when looking over the water – things to avoid are the presence of baitfish, dirty water and overcast days, while swimming in groups also offers a sense of security.
Other than the Tathra attack, the only other serious attack by a great white was the one on Eden abalone diver Eric Nerhus in January 2007, and he survived.
For those of us that love the ocean, the risk of ocean swimming is one well worth taking if the conditions are right.
The ocean winter swimmers the Narooma Numnutz and Bermagui Blue Balls, surfers, scuba divers, lifeguards and tourists will continue to take to our beautiful, pristine, more often than not crystal clear waters with relish.
Bring on the 2016 Tathra Wharf to Waves and in the meantime the winter swimming season starts in May.