Two shark attacks prompted the suspension of the Margaret River Pro surfing competition
The World Surf League’s (WSL) international surfing competition held in Australia was put on hold temporarily when a surfer was bitten by a shark at a nearby site. Alejandro Travaglini was enjoying a day at the beach in Gracetown, Western Australia, when he was attacked and bitten on the leg by a shark.
Eye-witnesses detailed the incident, explaining that the surfer managed to make his way to shore where he was quickly air lifted to a hospital.
"[I] saw the guy who had been attacked get separated from the [surf] board and then start to paddle for an inside wave, which he managed to body surf all the way in," he said.
"They got him to shore and started working on him to stem the bleeding."
Initially, the WSL temporarily halted the Margaret River Pro surfing competition after receiving news of the attack on Travaglini. The competition resumed shortly afterwards after “enhanced safety measures” were put in place to ensure competitors were safe.
The resumption of the competition was short lived, however, when another surfer, Jason Longrass, was attacked by a great white shark one mile away from the original incident. Mr. Longrass was also attacked in the leg, suffering injuries that resulted in one of the shark’s teeth becoming embedded in his leg. While there is a history of shark sightings in the region, the presence of two beached whales in the area may have caused the aggressiveness of the sharks, to account for the two attacks mere hours apart.
Several professional competitors expressed concern about participating in the event, and welcomed the cancellation of the event. Gabriel Medina, a Brazilian professional surfer, claimed that Margaret River was the most dangerous place in the world to surf.
Sophie Goldschmidt, the CEO of WSL justified the cancellation of the event based on the double attacks, stating that while sharks are a “reality of WSL competitions” the “elevated risk” at the time of the competition “crossed the threshold for what is acceptable.” The WSL has not ruled out the possibility of returning to the Margaret River location in the future, but no dates have been announced as of publication.
Mr Longrass and Mr Travaglini are recovering from their injuries.