Paddled out to catch a few fun waves at Teahupo’o before sunset, as I do most evenings, and like usual, there was nobody else surfing. The long paddle around the reef was glassy and beautiful. There were blacktip reef sharks hunting in the lagoon, and schools of bonita jumping in the channel – it was pleasant.
After catching a few good head-high drainers I noticed a big bird pile diving on bait fish that were moving toward the reef from way outside. Before the next set hit, the birds had already moved in about 50 yards from me. As I was watching them crash into the bait ball I couldn’t help but notice a sturdy dorsal fin and the back of a big shark break the surface. It was one of the biggest shark fins I’ve ever seen surfing, and was moving steady as a submarine across the surface.
I’m not usually scared of sharks, see them all the time surfing and diving, but without anyone around outside the reef pass, the shark being so big and close, and figuring there were probably a bunch more under the bait (common for schools of sharks to hunt the same bait ball), I quickly turned and paddled hard toward the exposed coral reef. Just before I got to the dry section, a set finally came through, picked me up, and dropped me onto the coral. I’ve never been so relieved to get thrown up onto the reef, and I stood there a while checking my cuts, and watching the frantic birds and fish attack the bait, but never saw the shark again.
My adrenaline was still going as I paddled through the lagoon, and when I made it to shore I told a friend what happened. He said he’d heard of a tiger in the reef pass that freaked his buddy out of the water onto the coral once before.
I love sharks, and am not sure if it was a tiger but am assuming it was due to it’s size. Even though I knew it probably wanted nothing to do with me, my instincts still had me moving without a second thought.
Surf Photos: John Maher taken by Domenic Mosqueira.