Sharks won’t be the only reason why Margaret River may lose its iconic surf competition

If the Margaret River Pro is lost to Western Australia it is fair to say sharks won't be the only reason.

Margaret River is notorious on the World Surfing League tour as one of the more difficult locations, whose conditions favour a few surfers whose styles can adapt well.

There is certainly a perception that only a few surfers, who have grown up in similar conditions, can overcome the big, heaving slabs of water that the South West produces.

But a cloud has been cast over the future of WA's flagship surfing event following this year's cancellation after two surfers were attacked by sharks at a nearby beach.

Shark attack victim flown to Royal Perth Hospital

Sharks in the surf is nothing new. And it was interesting watching the Jeffreys Bay competition in South Africa play out last month.

The competition was stopped when a shark was spotted close to surfers on day two. The shark moved on and the event restarted a short time after.

Like Margaret River, J-Bay is notorious for sharks.

It is the place the now retired Australian surfer Mick Fanning famously escaped the grips of a great white in 2015.

External Link: Mick Fanning fights off shark

Fanning was plucked from the line-up again during a quarter final at J-Bay last year when a shark was spotted moving towards the surfers from about 700 metres away.

It was the second shark sighting in two days during the 2017 event.

"That is huge," Fanning said at the time.

"Look at that thing, that thing is a beast, at least they saw this one.

"I am glad they got us out of the water.

"Those things are just submarines, however long they are, the roundness of them as well … they are big, big beasts."

Different rules for different surf breaks

It is worth noting former world champion Gabriel Medina was in the water with Fanning in 2017. The Brazilian returned there for last month's event, and was back competing a short time after the shark was spotted.

Medina was the most vocal surfer calling for the cancellation of the Margaret River event this year, a venue where he has had limited success.

"I don't think I'm going to surf here in the contest again. They're still talking about next year, but I will probably not come," he said at the time.

"It could be the finish of this sport if something really bad happens."

Medina has some influence with the WSL with his big social media following, and the huge amount of surfing fans in Brazil.

Denmark resident Jason Longrass, who was not competing, was the second man attacked by a shark in Gracetown during the last Margaret River Pro.

All surfers would acknowledge there is always a risk when entering the ocean.

But it would be interesting to know how why Medina is okay with surfing at J-Bay and not Margaret River.

The risk was certainly heightened in the Margaret River region this year because of the mass beaching of whales at Hamelin Bay just a few weeks earlier.

The fact there were still whales carcasses in the area that hadn't been removed before the competition was a big oversight by authorities.

Hope plan B will keep event in WA

There is a plan B for event organisers to keep the competition in WA by moving it north to Kalbarri or Gnaraloo.

Aerial view of 3 Mile Camp on Gnaraloo Station

Gnaraloo station owner and manager Paul Richardson said if the event was to go move north it would be a game changer for the region.

"I don't see them coming just for the one thing, they would probably spend some more time in the region, which would be a great boost for all the local towns," Mr Richardson said.

"Carnarvon, Coral Bay, Exmouth — everyone would benefit."

The talks are preliminary, and there is already resistance from local surfers.

But it shows the aim is to keep a world tour event in Western Australia beyond 2019 when the current contract expires.

As is often the case with anything involving sharks, the argument inevitably turns political.

The future of the Margaret River Pro will no doubt be the same, both at local and state level and within the World Surf League.

Surfers catch waves at Kalbarri

Original Article

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