Ken Gerke and his fishing mate Dave Barwise are still shaking their heads over their close encounter with an enormous shark.
The men were kayaking off Wenonah Headland, just south of Urunga, on the NSW mid north coast, on Saturday.
They’d launched off the beach at 6am to do some fishing, but what they caught was some amazing footage of a great white shark that seemed fascinated by Ken’s pedal-powered Hobie kayak.
The men were 3km offshore and sitting in calm water about 20m deep, not having much luck with the fish, when the shark came alongside Ken at about 11am.
Ken said it was larger than his 4m kayak – possibly as big as 5m – and probably an old female given its size and the scarring that could be seen on its dorsal fin.
Initially he was more excited than scared, having loved sharks since he was a boy.
“It had circled me once, and that’s when I stumbled to get the camera out,” Ken said. “To make sure I got some of it on film.”
He started pedalling and paddling towards his friend Dave in order to feel a bit safer, but the shark chased him, and in the footage you can hear an edge of panic entering Ken’s voice, along with some colourful language.
VIDEO: carries a language warning
“It was just curious to see where I was going. But it obviously got the heart rate up a little,” he said.
However, he doesn’t think they were actually in any danger, and although the shark could have tipped his kayak over, he said that’s not the sort of thing they normally do.
“I think it was just used to coming up to fishing boats and having a look. A lot of fishing boats have had encounters before in the area where we were fishing.
“After it had a good look it decided to go away, which was a bit of a relief.
“But at the same time it was an awesome experience. Not a lot of people get to witness that in their life.”
The second part of the footage shows the shark swimming underwater, and it was taken by Dave, who was repeatedly dunking his GoPro camera in the water without being quite sure where the shark was.
“We couldn’t see it because of the sun’s reflection,” Ken said. “It was only after we got in the car and had a look at the footage that we realised we’d caught it on film. It was pretty special.”
When posting the video to social media, Ken made a point of requesting no comments about the need to cull sharks.
“I don't condone the killing of any sharks,” he said. “We’re very aware that when we go fishing it’s their domain. And the great white is a protected species. It was a huge buzz to have a close encounter like that.”
Ken lives north of Coffs Harbour in Korora, and works in Macksville as a HR manager at Lifetime Connect, an aged care provider in the Nambucca Valley.
He and Dave are keen competitive fishermen and he said they often encounter juvenile bull sharks in the Kalang, Bellinger and Clarence rivers.
“People have watched the video and said, oh, I’ll stick to the rivers, but over the years kayaking here on the North Coast, Dave and I have seen more sharks in our rivers than in the ocean,” he said.
“Sharks are everywhere, they travel around. People get a bit silly sometimes.”