A major surf contest in Western Australia was called off after two people at a nearby beach were attacked by sharks.
The decision for the World Surf League to cancel the Margaret River Pro was announced Tuesday evening “as a result of exceptional circumstances surrounding this seasons event regarding sharks and the safety of our surfers,” according to a news release sent out by WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt.
Both shark attacks happened on April 16 at Gracetown, about 3.7 miles away from the contest site. A beached whale attracted sharks to the area and contributed to the aggressive behavior, the release stated.
“The WSL puts the highest premium on safety. This cannot be just talk, and it cannot be compromised. Surfing is a sport that carries various forms of risk, and is unique in that wild animals inhabit our performance environment. Sharks are an occasional reality of WSL competitions, and of surfing in general,” Goldschmidt wrote.
She wrote that the elevated risk during this seasons Margaret River Pro has crossed the threshold for what is acceptable.
The Margaret River Pro event draws the top men and women competitive surfers from around the globe.
The only remaining Orange County surfer in the mens contest was Kolohe Andino. Fellow San Clemente surfers Griffin Colapinto and Pat Gudauskas, and Huntington Beach surfer Kanoa Igarashi, had been knocked out of the event.
Kanoa Igarashi (JPN), had already been knocked out of the event when the call was made to cancel the Margaret River Pro. Photo: WSL
Rookie Griffin Colapinto (USA) surfing at Margaret River, WA, Australia. Photo: WSL
Last years runner-up Kolohe Andino (USA) was still in the running when the decision as made to cancel the Margaret River Pro. Photo: WSL
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After the attacks, and multiple shark sightings in the area, a few pro surfers took to social media to voice their concerns. Some surf fans supported their statements, while others said sharks sharing waters is an inherent part of the sport.
Its not the first time surfers have had to grapple with sharks. In 2015, Mick Fanning faced a shark during his heat, punching his way to safety before being plucked out of the water by a rescue team. The contest was canceled after that incident.
A shark sighting at Trestles in 2016 prompted organizers to temporarily halt the Lowers Pro contest, but surfers resumed the contest after the shark was believed to clear the area.
The surfers who remained in the contest will receive point distribution, however, the contest could resume later this year. Organizers said, as of now, theres no plans to return to Margaret River in the future.
“We appreciate that not everyone will agree with this decision, but hope that they will respect it,” wrote Goldschmidt. “Athlete safety will always be our absolute priority and we thank the local community, our partners and our surfers for supporting the decision.”
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