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1983 Cowaramup Bay Shark Story by Tom Hoye

Preface to Tom Hoye Shark Story by Chris Warrener.

In 2012 Tom and I sat together at his place in Margaret River to do some interviews for the purposes of compiling “Hoye Stories”, which is the title to a ‘book’, I have not completed.

Over a 2-year period we had a number of ‘sit-downs’ to record his musings on matters related to surfing, shaping and Tom’s general history.

There are so many stories, some tragic, some enlightening, and many funny stories of his exploits, fun times, and people he has encountered during his journeys on planet Earth, and always well told by Tom!

The following ‘story’ is an account of an experience Tom related involving a very big white pointer shark in Cowaramup Bay, which when you think about it makes your skin crawl!

Thanks Tom, enjoy

Chris

Photo: 2008 Chris Warrener and Tom Hoye enjoying an ale at Settlers Tavern in Margaret River. Chris Warrener pic.

1983 Cowaramup Bay Shark Story by Tom Hoye

Back in the summer of ‘83 we had this long flat spell when I was living in the Bay (Cowaramup), and working in my shop ‘PE Surfboards’ in Margaret River.

I was coming home after work each day about 4:30, 5:00 and launching my sailboard on this south-easter, grovelling out through the Bay, then sailing between North Pt and South Pt on the outside, not much wind, it was really hot.

So on the 3rd day coming down the hill I looked at the Bay and thought ‘ah there’s not enough wind today’, then I looked at it a while, and it looked similar to yesterday so I rigged up my big sail and launched.

Then about half way out I thought “I should just turn around there’s no wind out here today and I’m just barely moving”, then this gust of wind came along and picked me up and I thought it’s going to be like yesterday and the other days, so I charged on out to where I was just outside the rocks at South Point.

And then it just went ‘boof’ – no wind, so there I was trying to sail down wind, mast forward, grovelling.

As I looked down toward Left Handers, I noticed the wind had gone offshore and light, and I went “oh no I’m gunna be in here till night trying to get back into the Bay because you have to tack and I’d be falling off because of the light wind.”

Photo: 1986 Tom Hoye carrying his windsurfer to the waves at Surfers Point, Margaret River. Tom Hoye pic.

I thought I would be swimming the rig back in, and I was just concentrating on trying to find a place to jibe with the rhythm of the chop, I had my sunglasses on so no glare, and I went across this sand patch, and I thought: “shit I thought it was about a 100’ deep out here”, and I thought “no it must be the sunglasses”, it was really still, with no swell.

I went through this slow motion jibe, wobbly and weird, and something just made me look over to the left, and I saw the silhouette of a shark, a perfect silhouette just coming round really fast up underneath me horizontally and it looked to be about 6’ long.

Then my mind just screamed HUGE, and then it went down the other side, and I looked at it and I thought it was only 6’ but it looked bigger because it was so close to me.

So I made the decision to just go straight in and try to crash land somewhere along the back of North Point.

I didn’t want to jibe with that ‘guy’ swimming around.

I was then pretty much convinced he was gone so I’m just chugging along and then I looked down, and there he is right underneath me going exactly my speed just going with me, “oh fuck”, he was following me, then he arced around and went behind me.

I could only see 180º ahead because if I tried to look behind I would wobble and fall over, so I started looking for him just below me, and I was freaking out. Then he came underneath me again, I see his nose first and as he comes into full view I realize, “oh shit he’s bigger than 6’ he’s 8’, he went along with me for a while and then circled around behind as before.

He continued to do the same thing, just swimming along with me but getting closer, and then on the 4th pass when he was underneath me I thought “holy fuck he’s longer than my board he’s a monster”, and when he started to arc around this gust of wind came across the water so I thought if I can hook into this gust of wind and squirt away from him, he’ll leave me alone.

I hooked into the wind, the sail filled up and I got into my harness, and then the wind just let me down and I got stuck in the harness, I rounded up into the wind while he was swimming around me I looked right into his eye, and there was a “full eye to eye hello, I see you, you see me”, just total recognition.

So now I’m down to my waist in the water, my sailboard’s pointing straight up, and I went right to the back of the boom and the sail fell over and I held it up from the back till the sail brought the nose around.  That’s like superhuman you can’t do that, not in a light wind, it just falls over but I just strained “ayarrh”, and grabbed it and got myself going again.

So I thought “fuck he’ll hit me for sure the next time”. I was really freaking out thinking to myself the next day’s headline – “surfboard shaper eaten by shark!”

By this time I was coming to the outer shelf at North Point. I knew exactly where he was coming from and I was looking at the spot where he had appeared before, then I saw this fish swimmer glimmer about 2” around, just a little flicker in the water. It went from a flicker to a shark’s head wider than the foot strap area in a “click” just like that, and he was coming up so fucking fast. Not coming up jaws-like, but coming up on that same plane that he was doing before but really fast.

It was just getting bigger as it came up thru the water and I shut my eyes.

I went all woozy and I don’t know how I didn’t fall off. I thought I was going to pass out, expecting the BANG, then nothing happened and I opened my eyes.

It looked like there was no water between us. I felt like I was on his fucking back, I think he was touching the bottom of my board with his dorsal fin, he was really close.

My sailboard was an 8’ 6”x 21½’’. The tip of his nose was a good solid 3’ in front of my board and there was 18” of shark exposed down either side of the board’s rails. His pectoral fins came out right where my straps were, his tail was out behind me.

Then, he slowly moved out from underneath me in the same pattern as he had been doing disappearing out the back.

By then I was over the reef and I landed on the rocks you launch from. I rammed the nose of my board into the back of North Pt, stepped out of the straps, walked up the board and onto the point dragging everything by the mast across the rocks crunch, crunch, crunch. I turned around to see where he was but I couldn’t see him.

Then I felt a little bit weak so I sat down on the rocks because the whole ordeal took about a half hour. I started shaking, and laughing uncontrollably as soon as I sat down.

I couldn’t stop myself shaking with this high-pitched hysterical giggle for what felt like about 10minutes. Then I sort of calmed down and sat there a while looking at the ocean, then put my gear on my head and started walking back to the car which was at the bottom of South Point.

About half way round the Bay I thought to myself I’m not even going to tell anyone about this because there was no one else there and it’s just too bizarre, no one would’ve believed me so I put my gear on my car and pulled up in front of the Gracetown Store to get some beers on the way home.

Remember now that 10 mins before this I’d told myself I wasn’t going to tell anyone about it.

As I opened the car door I started shouting the story out at the closed screen door of the store – there wasn’t even anybody in view.  I walked into the store about a quarter the way thru shouting out the story. There were 3 people standing in the store. They had this look of ‘what the fuck is this guy on about?’

The next morning when I got to my shop there was a fishing boat parked in the driveway, the guy wanted a boat repair. I asked what kind of fish he was catching and he said: “I’m a shark fisherman”.

I told him about seeing a shark yesterday afternoon, and he said “ah well if you saw one that big he’ll take one of our baits”.

About a week and a half later there was a picture of a big shark caught off Cape Mentelle in the paper. I instantly recognised him, I said to myself “oh that’s the guy who came by, I felt sorry for him.”

The shark measured over 4.5metres long and weighed one tonne.

Cheers

Tom Hoye.

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  • Steve Merrick

    Far out what a ripper story!! Half a bloody hour of waiting for this big fella to strike. Cant imagine the dread and adrenaline! But I guess it just goes to show they are curious creatures just like dolphins and more often than not are happy to buzz around you and not necessarily go all ‘Jaws’ on ya as Fanning could confirm after that one came up to say hello and got caught up in his leggy and freaked out trying to release itself. Keep these coming such great reads