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The former pro surfer was paddling on his board at Sharpes Beach, Ballina, when he heard a “splash” behind him. Wilkinson said he was unaware the predator was so close, but then the drone operator told him to get out of the water ASAP.
“I got to the shore feeling a bit weird and the lifeguards showed me the footage, and I realised how close it came without knowing it was there,” he told NSW Surf Lifesavers.
“It looks like it’s going for my leg and it’s changed its mind.
“I feel grateful and pretty weird at the same time but happy it decided not to go me.”
The footage was shot by Surf Life Saving NSW on behalf of the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).
“The shark just came out of the deep water and into my sight. I’ve seen sharks before, but as soon as you see it coming close to surfers, especially when it’s turning around like that, it’s quite frightening,” drone operator Beau Monks told ABC’s ‘News Breakfast’.
“As soon as you see a shark in the area, you know there’s always a chance of surfers being in danger, so you just try to get them out as fast as possible.
“I’m not entirely sure why the shark decided to turn away at the last minute. It could have been something as simple as just bumping into his leg rope, or it might have been the drone. Marine creatures have been known to dart away when the drone does come over.”
Fanning was grabbed by the shark in the middle of the contest. The shark’s fin could be seen moving towards him before Fanning disappeared in the water and then punched the shark, which bit off his surfboard leash.
Wilkinson said he could see similarities between his situation on Wednesday and Fanning’s 2015 ordeal.
“When I saw the footage, I saw the similarities, like I had a yellow leg rope on and Mick’s board was yellow is what I was thinking about when I came in,” he said.
“I called my wife because I didn’t want her to see the footage before I saw it. She doesn’t want me surfing for a couple of days now.”