Warrick Smith and his daughter Ella Smith of Auckland, had
a close encounter while boarding. Photo / Alan Gibson
A large shark that came within centimetres of swimmers
sent people scurrying from the surf at Papamoa Beach yesterday.
Beach-goers who had close encounters with the bronze whaler -
one noticing it just half a metre from where he was swimming
- estimated its length at between 2m to 3m.
Two hours later, a shark splashing around in the shallows and
observed by the Herald gathered another crowd. It was unclear
whether it was the same shark.
Aucklander Warrick Smith was boarding among the breakers when
he saw people fleeing from the water.
"I saw everyone running from the water and I wasn't sure it
was a shark until it came out beneath me."
Mr Smith had been trying to work out where the shark was when
he saw its fin pass under his board, sending him scrambling
toward the shore along with his family.
Craig Nicholls, 21, didn't spot the shark until it was less
than 1m from where he was body surfing.
"I was swimming around, just looking for the next wave, and I
had a look in the water and noticed a dark shadow going
past," he said. "It looked between 2.5m or 3m long ... and I
decided I didn't want to be in the water any more."
Mr Nicholls said if he hadn't been close enough to
distinguish the shark's sleek features, he wouldn't have been
Maketu resident Marion Claridge was enjoying a day in the sun
with her grandchildren, who had been in the water shortly
before the shark appeared.
"I was lying under the umbrella when I heard my husband yell
out, 'shark'," she said. "Then I looked and there it was,
dark grey, and five to six foot, easy." Nearby, 13-year-old
Sam Murphy ran to get a pair of binoculars.
"I saw it was a reasonably big shark, and then I saw it was
heading toward a boat filled with these two kids," he said.
"They looked really scared - one was paddling at the back of
the boat frantically, trying to get in as fast they could."
With his siblings and cousins, Sam dashed down the beach
shouting warnings. The children in the raft were carried in
by a wave, and were glad to be back on shore, he said.
Sightings of bronze whalers are common along the stretch of
beach, especially over summer, Papamoa Surf Life Saving Club
Captain Shaun Smith said.
"It's a daily occurrence. The advice we give people is if
they see a shark, to hop out of the water for their own
*Commonly found around northern New Zealand.
*Can grow to 3.3m in length, and large pregnant females can
weigh up to 200kg.
*Often lured close to shore by school fish.
*They do not pose a threat to humans, says Department of
Conservation marine scientist Clinton Duffy: "They can
generally tell between a fish and person, because their teeth
aren't designed to eat anything as big as a human.
- Jamie Morton