Australian summer of surf heads for wipeout as shark attacks mount

Tue Aug 18, 2015 6:57am EDT
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By James Regan

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A spate of shark attacks in Australia has left some of world's top surfing beaches deserted and many people having second thoughts about taking a swim as the summer approaches.

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere typically draws tens of thousands of surfers and other beach lovers to the warm Pacific waters of eastern Australia's New South Wales state.

But there have been 11 shark attacks in the state this year, compared with only three in both 2014 and 2013, according to the Australian Shark Attack database, and many folks will be staying out of the water.

"To be honest, I'm rethinking taking my kids to the beach

this year, it's too risky," said Malcolm Reeder, 50, who has vacationed near Sydney's Bondi Beach every Christmas since his two teenaged daughters were old enough to swim.

"A couple of years ago they got surf boards for Christmas. Maybe this year it'll be hiking boots," he said.

In waters along hundreds of kilometers of coast north of Sydney, helicopter patrols regularly spot Great White sharks lurking near the few surfers still brave enough to catch the waves.

Former boxer Craig Ison of Evans Head was knocked from his board and mauled by a Great White on July 31. After coming out of a coma, he vowed never to go in the water again.   Continued...

Surfer Arlen Macpherson sits on his board, which has an electronic shark repellent device installed, at Sydney's Bondi Beach in Australia, August 18, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray