Surfer Matt Wilkinson almost had his career or worse ended recently. The 32-year-old surfer, who finished fifth on the World Surf League’s Championship Tour in both 2016 and 2017 had a 5-foot shark come within inches of his board, and the whole thing was caught on tape.
A drone that is part of an Australian shark warning system shot the video, and the alert may have saved Wilkinson’s life as it alerted him something else was in the water with him.
“I had no idea that it was so close. You kinda think that you’re more aware than that, so when I saw the footage … I was like ‘wow, that’s really close.’”
The drone sensed something wrong and sent out a warning to everyone in the area to head out. Wilkinson heard the warning, returned to land and was still visibly shaken when he spoke to an NBC reporter shortly after.
“I kinda looked back and I was like, ‘No, there’s nothing there’ and I had some weird vibes and just convinced myself that it was all good, as you always do when you’re out in the surf,” Wilkinson said.
Officials said the shark may have been deterred from attacking Wilkinson because of the “unfamiliar touch of a leg rope” that was hanging off the board or the noise of the drone flying above. Wilkinson told authorities he heard something as the shark first approached, most likely its tail. The drone is part of the $8 million investment Australia made to protect people on beaches, and it may have saved this surfer’s life.
“It was such a weird feeling to just know that half a second later I could’ve been in a chopper with one leg going to hospital or something. It’s a horrible thought but, I don’t know, I’m very grateful,” he said.