(NBC) – A great white shark circled to within inches of a pro surfer before darting away in a chilling encounter.
Officials say the five-foot shark might have been deterred from attacking Matt Wilkinson by the unfamiliar touch of a leg rope on its snout or the overhead noise of the drone.
The 32-year-old surfer from Sydney said he never saw the shark while he was paddling his board but heard a fin or tail break the water’s surface during the recreational surf Wednesday.
Moments later, Wilkinson heard the overhead drone broadcast a recorded warning that a dangerous shark was nearby and everyone must leave the water.
The drone operator said he was frightened when he saw through the drone camera the shark rise from the deep, turn and quickly close in on Wilkinson.
“Yeah, I’m pretty happy that I walked over here on two legs. That’s a nice feeling. But yeah, I’m pretty grateful that thing changed its mind at the last second, for sure,” Wilkinson said. “You know, it was such a weird feeling, because I like had no idea that it was so close, and you kind of think that you’re more aware than that, and so when I saw the footage, I just, like, saw it kind of coming around me and I was like, ‘whoa, that’s really close’ and then when it came up behind me.”
“I just went straight to the northern end of Sharpes Beach to start my routine flight, and almost immediately, as soon as I got out past the break, the shark just came out of the deep water and into my sight,” said drone operator Beau Monks. “And I’ve seen sharks before, but, yeah, as soon as you see it coming close to surfers, especially when it’s turning around like that, it’s, it’s quite frightening.”
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