13-year-old surfer killed in Reunion Island shark attack

Story by Craig Jarvis

A 13-year-old surfer named Elio Canestri was killed in a shark attack at Les Aigrettes, Reunion Island this morning. It's believed that the attack happened during an official coaching session at the righthander, shortly before 9am.

The shark attacked Elio’s right arm, right leg and abdomen. A boat was checking buoys for information on tagged sharks in the area, and removed him from the water, but Elio did not survive his injuries.

Reunion-raised surfer Jeremy Flores payed tribute to Elio on Instagram: "ANOTHER shark attack in Réunion island this morning. 13 years old Elio was one of our best up and coming surfer. Words can't describe how sad and angry i am. So young !!! Heart breaking News. RIP."

Red flags have been raised at beaches along the west coast, and several commercial fishing boats are attempting to find and capture the shark.

The island is still under a total surfing ban, a response to the high number of attacks that was extended in February this year. As Stab detailed a few weeks ago, there were new measures put in place to get surfers back in the water: Reunion had initiated protected surf training sessions for the elite surfers on the island, wherein surfers in the session are protected by divers with spear guns. But it appears that there were no divers present for this training session.

This morning’s coaching session was for elite young surfers who were chosen as having potential to become French champions. Elio was reported to be one of the great hopes of the current young surfing crew.

“It’s another terrible tragedy,” said local surfer and Stab friend Davey Stolk. “Condolences to the family and friends in this terrible time.”

This is the 16th shark attack in Reunion since 2011, seven of which have been fatal. The last attack occurred at L’Etang Sale on February 14, when a 22-year-old girl was killed while swimming.

“I don’t know why they don’t just get in a helicopter and sniper the thing,” said a clearly frustrated Stolk. “Nothing is really being done!”

This attack could be the final rattling of the Reunion surf and tourism industry, already brought to its knees by the recent spate of shark attacks.

“Hopefully now the French Government will implement and follow through on an effective protection program, and follow advice from South Africa and Australia,” said Stolk. "These countries have 40 years experience in this stuff, or longer. The shark attacks have been around since the 60s in both these countries. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. I seriously just wish that the French Government would get their shit together!”

Stab wishes sincere condolences to family and friend of Elio. Be careful out there.