A kayak fisherman has gone from being in awe of New Zealand’s wild nature to moments later fearing he could land in the jaws of a great white shark after it almost sent him tumbling into the waters off the Eastern Cape.
The juvenile great white twice crashed into the bottom of Greg Potter’s 4m pedal kayak as it hunted a seal in the Gisborne region last Sunday, about 8-10km off the coast of Waihau Bay.
The second impact as the shark lunged from below almost knocked Potter clean into the water.
Potter says the experience was “breathtaking” and he was fairly calm in the moment. However, he also has “chills” thinking back to the potential consequences.
“If it had managed to get me out of the kayak, that that could have been a pretty disastrous ending,” he said.
“I was dressed in full black, pretty much ... I can only imagine what the shark would have made of my legs thrashing around.
“That does give me the chills thinking about that.”
A regular kayak fisherman, Potter said he was looking for tuna when the amazing encounter began.
He said he’s already seen plenty of incredible sights from his kayak, having hooked 100kg marlin and sighted orca whales and giant sunfish.
And so when he saw a disturbance in the distance he began pedaling towards it, thinking it was tuna.
But about 200m away, he realised it was a shark chasing a seal and so stopped pedaling, thinking he could get footage of the chase from where he was.
While some might think it “wasn’t the smartest idea” to have pedaled towards the commotion, Potter said he was still so far away he wasn’t scared or nervous.
Instead, it was “breathtaking seeing what you’d usually see in David Attenborough documentaries up close in the flesh”, Potter said.
But then it all changed in seconds.
Once the seal was about 50m-100m away, it seemed to lock in on Potter’s kayak and the chase started zooming his way.
“They were moving fast man ... like just flying through the water,” Potter said.
He said his camera didn’t pick it up well, but the seal kept trying to use the kayak as shelter, leading the shark to leap out of the water “literally just metres” behind Potter.
“Then when the seal hid under the kayak, the shark came crashing up from underneath and smashed into the bottom of the kayak.
“Then they did another few laps around the kayak, and then a second time, the shark again smashed the underside of the kayak.”
The second impact was really strong and “almost knocked me out” of the kayak, he said.
By that stage, Potter had begun making his own waves pedaling out of there.
“Once it did start getting a bit up and up close and personal, I realised this probably isn’t the best place to be,” he said.
“The adrenaline was running afterward... and I was happy to be back on dry land.”
Still, he said he was in “awe” of the experience and as someone who loves the challenge of hooking big fish from his kayak has already been back out on the water.
The Herald earlier wrote about a then 25-year-old Potter in 2019 when he set himself the challenge of catching his first ever marlin from a kayak.
Little did Potter know he would become just the third New Zealander to hook a marlin from a kayak, and the first to officially weigh and record the catch at 94.2kg.