'Sick or Hungry' Great White Shark Attacks Man in Kayak Over 2,500 Feet From Land

A magazine editor has described his experience of being chased by a "sick or hungry" great white shark off the coast of New Zealand.

Steve Dickinson, director of Pacific Media and editor of Adventure Magazine, wrote about the ordeal for a free online edition of the magazine after being pursued by the 8.2 foot white shark around 2,500 feet away from the New Zealand coast.

Dickinson was in a kayak fishing in Stanmore Bay Point, North Island at the time of the encounter, which occurred in early March before the country went into lockdown.

"I heard him before I saw him," he recalled.

He told Newsweek the day was quiet with little wind. The sea was "like a pond" and the water "crystal clear." The shark appeared to have been attracted to the contents of his berley bag, which contained fish oil and flesh for bait.

"It goes into the water and creates a trial of fish delicacies to attract fish. What I didn't expect to do was attract such a big shark," he said.

The shark approached from the right—"at which point I slashed him with my rod accompanied by a range of expletives," said Dickinson.

But the jabs and the swearing made little difference. The shark moved towards the kayak and dove below the surface of the water. Dickinson remembered being able to feel its movements in the water before it broke the surface and turned to approach the kayak from the front, forcefully nudging the tip with its nose.

The shark went under and re-emerged on Dickinson's right, where it began pushing against the side of the kayak. To distract it, Dickinson used a knife to cut off the (now empty) berley bag attached to the kayak and chucked it into the water.

Dickinson described the moment the shark's 2.5-foot wide head broke the water to engulf the bag as "like a scene from Jaws."

The shark's behavior became more erratic, Dickinson said—it started nudging the side of the kayak and Dickinson grabbed the paddle.

"My overwhelming concern was that he would choose to chew the kayak and tip me in which would not have ended well," he said.

Dickinson "smashed" the shark on the top of his head with the paddle as hard as he could, still unable to deter it. "It was like jamming a spade into the dirt," he told Newsweek. "He was just unrelenting."

When the shark turned away from the kayak, Dickinson used the opportunity to make a break for it. He lifted the anchor and started paddling to a shallow reef, with the shark following on his left-hand side.

As Dickinson got closer to the shore, the shark disappeared and not knowing where the shark was, he paddled "like Fred Flinstone runs." Dickinson made it to the beach where he called his wife to explain what had just happened.

This is not the first time Dickinson has come close to sharks. He has been diving with sharks in Tahiti and Fiji and he has photographed them underwater in Tasmania. He has seen bigger sharks from a boat, but felt far more exposed in a kayak. But, he said, it was the first time he had felt pursued by one.

"It was like being approached by a couch; his length was less intimidating than his girth," he said.

Though Dickinson says the shark was more interested in the bait than it was in him: "It was a shark investigation of something," he told Newsweek. "I was literally floating in his kitchen, dripping fish oil and guts."

According to the Florida Museum Shark File, there are thought to be around 70 to 100 shark attacks each year worldwide, though the true number is not known because not all are reported. There are roughly five fatalities related to shark attacks each year.

In the past, the death rate has been higher but according to the Florida Museum, improved access to emergency services and better medical treatment has improved survival rates.

In New Zealand, the number of attacks has increased in recent decades in line with population increases but remain relatively low. According to the Florida Museum, three were recorded between 2000 and 2009.

Dickinson told The New Zealand Herald he spoke to a friend who runs a company offering a shark free-diving experience in Tahiti about the encounter. According to his friend, the behavior was very unusual.

"He thinks he was either sick or hungry," said Dickinson. "Normally if you're banging on the water they'll go 'Oh nah', but I was whacking that thing as hard as I could."

"They are pretty spectacular creatures," Dickinson told Newsweek, describing the white shark. "Lots of people said to me, Oh, it might have been terrifying but it must have been a great experience to see the shark that close. No, it wasn't."

But the experience has not deterred him entirely. In fact, Dickinson has already returned to the water, without a berley bag and before the quarantine.

"Originally when I wrote the story I said I'm going to sell the kayak but I've got over that," he said. "If I can survive that big boy, I'm pretty sure I can swallow pretty much anything."

This article has been updated with comments from Steve Dickinson.

Great White Shark
A white shark breaks the surface of the water. Steve Dickinson described his close encounter with a shark last month. Images supplied.

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