Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Taking a dip in the wake of a shark attack

Friends Joseph Wilson (left), Charlie Cartwright and Aaron Fell had a swim at Bethells Beach despite the attack. Photo / APNZ
Friends Joseph Wilson (left), Charlie Cartwright and Aaron Fell had a swim at Bethells Beach despite the attack. Photo / APNZ

Beachgoers have been slowly returning to the water today following the death of Adam Strange, 46, who was savaged by a shark while swimming at the Muriwai Beach west of Auckland yesterday.

Visitors were scarce at Bethells Beach, about 3km south of Muriwai, today.

Four surfers, undeterred by the tragedy, took to the large swell.

One of them, who only gave his first name, Tony, said there were usually many more surfers out when the waves were this good.

"It's sad but, you know, people die on the roads every day. Should you stop driving? I was a bit wary but the waves were good so I think he [Adam Strange] probably would have wanted that."

Friends Charlie Cartwright, Aaron Fell and Joseph Wilson had a quick dip, but didn't want to go deeper than chest-height because of the news of the shark.

"We thought because the waves were stirring up water the shark wouldn't want to come in that close ...

but we're just guessing," Mr Cartwright said.

"I was looking for sharks the whole time," Mr Fell added.

A group of Henderson Intermediate students, some of them eagerly chatting about the shark attack, were on a school trip at the beach today, but would only be swimming in the safety of the lagoon.

Elise Henry, 12, said she would be reluctant to swim in the sea at the moment because of what had happened.

"If they actually knew that there were no sharks around here, then yes, I would - in the safe areas."

Kent Hyland said he was more concerned about rips than sharks.

"You only go out so far anyway. Sharks don't come into the beach, eh."

At nearby Piha, dozens of people took to the water today.

"There's really no point in worrying about sharks. If you're rational about it, there's a far greater chance you'll drown, or be killed by a car on the way to the beach," said beachgoer Tim Harding.

"I think it's purely psychological. I remember when the film Jaws came out, I was terrified of sharks - everyone was terrified of sharks - but that's not the reality of the situation at all. Generally they'll keep out of people's way.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking for shadows in the water when I was swimming, though."

Natalie Stettler said she has always been afraid of sharks, and was no more afraid now.

"I'm from Canada and it's the same there with grizzly bears. People go into their habitat and they're surprised when they're attacked. I think you just have to respect them."

Graham Spence said he saw a fin, which he thought was a shark's, when he was fishing at Muriwai about two weeks ago.

"They're out there, alright," he said.

"Let's not get too worried about it. It's just so bloody sad that someone was killed."

* Is there anything you would like to know about sharks? NIWA fisheries scientist and fish biologist Dr Malcolm Francis is New Zealand's foremost shark researcher. Email your questions for Dr Malcolm Francis here and we will publish the best ones on Monday.

- APNZ

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