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Teen's near miss with shark
Written by Kate O'Neill - Northern Star Newspaper 30 October 2009   

LUCKY: Zahli Lowe’s paddleboard was bitten by a shark at Lennox.ZAHLI LOWE didn't see the shark approaching.  The morning was overcast, the water was murky and it hit her from behind.

 

But the chunk it took out of her paddleboard has left her with no doubts that she's a very lucky 17-year-old.

 

The Xavier College student was training in front of the Lennox Head Surf Club about 7am on Wednesday when the attack happened.

 

She and about 15 others were on their last paddle for the day and Zahli was about 20 metres from shore.

 

“It felt like someone had run straight into the back of me, but when I turned around there was no one there,” she said.  “I felt a bit spooked.”  Zahli kept paddling a little while longer before catching a wave back to shore.  “Then I noticed a big chunk missing out of the back corner,” she said.

 

Her attacker had left a bite mark about 15cm across in the fibreglass paddleboard.

 

Zahli's dad Darren and her coach Lou Wilson were on shore and her dad's first thought, like Zahli's, was that she had run into another board.  “I think he was a bit shocked when I told him what happened,” she said.

 

Her mum Teena couldn't believe it either.  “It wasn't until later that I started thinking how lucky she was,” Teena said. “I said to Zahli: 'If you were on the downward kick when it bit, your whole foot could have gone'.”

 

Southern Cross University senior lecturer in marine biology, Danny Bucher, said it wasn't unusual for sharks to take chunks out of surf craft.  “A lot of surfers report bites out of their board or getting a nudge while they're in the water,” he said.“Most of the time it's an exploratory bite to see whether what they're going for is edible or not and whether it's going to put up a fight.  “If they come away with a mouthful of fibreglass they're probably going to give up.”

 

Mr Bucher said it was likely to be a smaller shark, such as a whaler, mako or small tiger shark, rather than something like a great white.

 

Zahli said the attack would not put her off surf lifesaving - a sport she has been competing in since she was five.  “This morning I stuck to the lake (Ainsworth), but I'll be back in the water tomorrow,” she said.

 

Her mum Teena approves. “Sharks are everywhere and that's just part of the risk you take when you're in the water,” she said.

 

Lennox Head Surf Club coach Lou Wilson was yesterday playing down the attack.  “We don't know what it was. No one saw a shark,” he said.

 

The paddleboard was yesterday being repaired on the Gold Coast.

 
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