Drone footage has captured professional surfer Matt Wilkinson’s narrow escape from a 1.5m great white shark off the coast of Ballina in northern New South Wales.
The world championship tour surfer was paddling on his board near Sharpes Beach on Wednesday when a shark swam quickly up behind him.
“I heard a splash and a noise and looked around and couldn’t see anything,” Wilkinson said, according to a statement from Surf Life Saving NSW.
Surf lifesavers were operating a drone overhead and were able to broadcast a warning from the aircraft’s speakers.
“The drone came down and told me that there was a dangerous shark in the area, return to the beach,” Wilkinson said.
“I got to the shore feeling a bit weird and the lifeguards showed me the footage and I realised how close it came without knowing it was there. It looks like it’s going for my leg and it’s changed its mind.
“I’ve been surfing with sharks my whole life and I understand they’re there and know enough about them to know they have not too much interest in humans. I’m just glad today the shark reconsidered at the last second,” Wilkinson said.
Following the incident, the beach was evacuated and closed for the day.
Wilkinson was also competing when Mick Fanning was attacked by a shark in South Africa in 2015.
“I feel grateful and pretty weird at the same time but happy it decided not to go me. When I saw the footage I saw the similarities, like, I had a yellow leg rope on and Mick’s board was yellow is what I was thinking about when I came in,” Wilkinson said.
“I called my wife because I didn’t want her to see the footage before I saw