Way back in the dim mists of history, we were shooting “Endless Summer” and had just driven from Cape Town to Durban where, to our surprise, there were surfers; well, maybe only 10 or 15, but that was a lot compared with our experiences in Cape Town. And they were excited to see surfers from somewhere else. The surfing was OK, but the whole city limits of Durban were cordoned off in the ocean by these huge steel nets, the shark population there being quite considerable–and hungry. Seeing shark nets like that in the ocean can make you think a sec before paddling out.

The locals told us that the breaks outside of town were awesome, but we were apprehensive of the sharks–those nets weren’t made to keep the little jellyfish out. Asking around, we were told that “nobody has been attacked recently”, so we took a chance. The breaks were, indeed, awesome, and we got some of the best waves I had ever surfed. And we had an audience! The locals all sat on a nearby bluff (maybe this should have clued us in) and watched, applauding every time we rode a wave. So there was this constant, noisy accompaniment to our fun. At one point, the noise got a lot louder for no apparent reason but, when I looked at the peanut gallery, they were shouting excitedly and pointing up the beach. There they were. Two huge–2 to 3 feet high–fins moving steadily directly towards us. We all bee-lined for the shore, like anyone with a lick of sense would’ve done, and have never paddled so fast; I was flying over the water.

We joined the locals on the bluff and watched as two huge sharks cruised past, clearly visible in the crystal water where we had been surfing. The larger was about 15 feet, about a yard across. They continued along the coast and disappeared.

Our fans asked us if we were going back in for more surfing. “No, guys, we are going back to Durban.” That was enough excitement for one day. So now we knew why they had steel nets around the beach.

Nowadays, they’ve figured out how to capitalize on their massive shark population and they run tourist trips where they sit you inside a metal cage under water and you watch these huge monsters bash their heads against the bars trying to get at you. I guess in this game, you actually want them to come for you. That’s a little different than sharing the open sea with these bad boys.

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