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  • 2018-04-18
  • World Surf League: Margaret River Pro Cancelled Due to Shark Activity

  • The WSL canceled Margaret River Men’s Pro and Women’s Pro due to shark activity on April 17. WSL said the safety of surfers & staff is a top priority.
    It is the first time in the event’s 33-year history that the entire tournament has been cancelled but organisers have moved quickly to confirm the event will return to Western Australia next year.
    On April 16, two surfers were attacked by a four-metre Great White shark.
    First a Brazilian surfer was airlifted from Cobblestones reportedly being hit by a four-metre Great White. The 37-year-old at Cobblestones was bitten on the lower leg just before 8am and managed to bodysurf back to shore. Friends a leash as a tourniquet. He was flown to Royal Perth hospital where he remains in a stable condition and will have surgery.
    A second shark attack at Lefthanders beach in Gracetown about 2.30pm, 41 year old Justin Longrass was bitten by a shark estimated at four-metres long.
    A witness Brett Newland told ABC News, “It swam under a couple of guys and came around and bit a third person… It was a large shark and from the way it was behaving, it would have been a white pointer. All the other surfers swam to him, helped him get away from his board and leg rope and helped him get on a wave, and luckily [he] caught a wave onto the reef. The surfers that helped him in got tourniquets on his legs as soon as they got on the shallow reef, and then other people came down from the carpark and put him onto a surfboard and carried him up to the carpark.”
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    WSL said in the statement;
    Today, the WSL has made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the Margaret River Pro, as a result of exceptional circumstances surrounding this season's event regarding sharks and the safety of our surfers. This decision has been reached after many hours of consultation with a variety of stakeholders and experts.

    The WSL puts the highest premium on safety. This cannot be just talk, and it cannot be compromised. Surfing is a sport that carries various forms of risk, and is unique in that wild animals inhabit our performance environment. Sharks are an occasional reality of WSL competitions, and of surfing in general. Everyone associated with our sport knows that. There have been incidents in the past -- and it's possible that there will be incidents in the future -- which did not (and will not) result in the cancellation of an event. However, current circumstances are very unusual and troubling, and we have decided that the elevated risk during this season's Margaret River Pro has crossed the threshold for what is acceptable.

    On April 16th (local time), two separate shark attacks occurred at nearby Gracetown - approximately 6 kilometers away from the primary event site at Main Break. The presence of beached whales in the area has attracted sharks and contributed to the aggression of their behavior, which, experts agree, has increased the possibility of further attacks. These findings have resulted in nearby locations being closed to surfing and swimming.

    We are committed to being as prepared as possible for what nature throws at us. The WSL maintains strong and constantly-improving safety, monitoring and support infrastructure and protocols, and we would normally have a high degree of confidence in our ability to protect our athletes. However, the threshold has been crossed for the organization and if we decided to continue the event under the current circumstances, and something terrible were to take place, we would never forgive ourselves.

    We are painfully aware that this decision will have commercial ramifications for the local community, and will disappoint some of our partners, fans and athletes. We sincerely regret that.

    Our competitive structure allows for points distribution in the event of a cancellation. However, we are not giving up yet on somehow completing both men's and women's competition this year, and will communicate our thoughts on that when we know more.

    Margaret River is a special venue, with incredible partners. It has produced many memorable moments over the years, and at the moment we have no plans not to return in the future.

    We appreciate that not everyone will agree with this decision, but hope that they will respect it. Athlete safety will always be our absolute priority and we thank the local community, our partners and our surfers for supporting the decision.

    Thank you for your understanding,
    Sophie Goldschmidt
  • source : World Surf League
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