Stab Magazine | The Journalist And The Great White Shark

The Journalist And The Great White Shark

Veteran journalist Fred Pawle gives us the lowdown on his recent North Coast shark investigation for The Australian national newspaper.

Words by stab

Yesterday (Monday), veteran journalist from The Australian national newspaper, Fred Pawle, started publishing his six-part series about the shark problem on the NSW North Coast surf region (an area that encompasses Ballina, Lennox Head and Byron Bay). As you’re probably aware, that 70km stretch of coast has become one of the world capitals for shark attacks. In the past three years, there have been at least 11 attacks, including two fatalities. Fred was also the former feature writer for Stab (during which period his profile of West Australian gay surfer, Matt Branson was nominated for a Walkley journalism award). He has also been a surfer for 40 years. Here, in an exclusive for Stab readers, he outlines some of the key takeaways from his investigation.

Stab: What were the big takeaways from your investigation into the shark situation on the NSW North Coast?
Fred Pawle: The locals are sick to death of being ignored. They have been putting up with frequent attacks and almost daily sightings for three years, and all they want is to go surfing. The ones who still surf have developed their own ways of dealing with the fear. Some of them are fatalistic, some are superstitious, some are just plain determined not to let a bunch of politicians and scientists stop them from surfing. Anybody who hasn’t developed resilience to the fear has simply given up surfing, which is tragic. Also, the region has a geopolitical divide. Byron is full of trippy conservationists who oppose nets and resent any attempt by mankind to influence or control the natural environment; Ballina has more families who just want their kids to be safe while playing in the ocean. Also, neither side is ever going to persuade the other. This debate will never be resolved.

ScaleWidthWyIxMjAwIl0 Evans Head Panoramic Main

What was your experience with that area prior to doing this? Totally chilled. I’ve always absolutely loved that stretch of coast. One of my favourite beaches in Australia is Whites, behind Broken Head. It’s totally idyllic. However, I’d never surf it now because the only way out is a long walk through the bush. Even a minor attack there could easily be fatal, given that you’d lose so much blood before you got to hospital.

What did you find most surprising in the process? How spooky the beaches at Ballina are. I was expecting them to be deserted, but I didn’t realise how much that would creep me out. You walk along the sand, and all you can think about is what might be swimming past just 100m away. You see fun, empty waves, and it gives you chills.

How are local people and business owners getting on through all this? The towns still look prosperous enough, but some businesses are suffering a lot. Ask me the same question in 10 years, after a generation of kids have grown up without surfing as their main distraction.

ballina lighthouse beach 3 900x600

Who seemed least concerned out of the people you spoke to – surfers, families, business owners, fishermen, authorities? Conservationists. They will never concede that human life is more important than a turtle’s.

Who seemed most concerned? Le-Ba president Don Munro. That guy has fought the good fight for years. He has the determination of a bulldog and the patience of a saint.

Having finished the investigation, do you have an opinion on what is the most rational solution? I’m still researching some of the finer details, but with a bit of luck I’ll have some major conclusions soon. Stay tuned!

Follow Fred’s North Coast Shark series here.

Comments

Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up

Advertisement

Most Recent

E.A.S.T. Musician Hobo Dave’s Inspiring Journey Through Brain Injuries, Mental Illness, And Surfing

His film ‘Suburban Wilderness’ is a feel-good, core lord hit.

Jul 30, 2021

Episode 2: Vans Stab High, Central America, Presented By Monster Energy

Bring an ice pack, the space cadets have been wounded.

Jul 30, 2021

Does Anyone Else Notice This Ladybird’s Resemblance To Dane Reynolds?

Caity Simmers surfs with a familiar tenacity.

Jul 29, 2021

How Did A Billabong Logo End Up On Italo Ferreira’s Olympics-Winning Surfboard?

Clever marketing team finds legal loophole.

Jul 29, 2021

Son Of Metallica Bassist Scores 11 Year Old’s Straight Air Waco Edit

Ryji Masuda rocks and rolls in Waco.

Jul 29, 2021

Ben Howard Knifes South Coast Nuggets In ‘153624’

Ben Howard chooses the double black diamond approach to tube riding.

Jul 29, 2021

What Did We Learn From The Olympics?

The biggest takeaways from a writer who watched every single heat.

Jul 28, 2021

Covert Jr. Editor Virtually Slips Through The Heavily Guarded Gates Of Olympic Surfing

Better watch now, this won't stay up for very long.

Jul 28, 2021

Neal Purchase Jnr Shapes The Feeling He’s Searching For

Great artists hide themselves in their work.

Jul 28, 2021

You Could Fit Your Neighbor’s Sprinter Van Inside Of These Puerto Escondido Tunnels

Mexican Pipeline continues to churn out the goods.

Jul 27, 2021

Where Are We At With Sustainable Surfboards?

Hello, elephant in the room! Let's hear from some industry innovators.

Jul 27, 2021

Italo Ferreira and Carissa Moore Are Surfing’s First-Ever Olympic Gold Medalists

Here's how they won.

Jul 27, 2021

Everything You Never Knew About Italo Ferreira

A window into the gold medalist's meteoric rise.

Jul 27, 2021

John Florence Listed As Questionable For The Remainder Of The CT Season

“I’ll most likely make the decision in the next two days or so.”

Jul 26, 2021

The Flamboyantly-Dressed Man Who Got Surfing Into The Olympics Details His Experience

ISA President Fernando Aguerre opens up to Stab the day before the gold medal match.

Jul 26, 2021

Steph Falls Off Her Horse, Andino Triumphs Over John, Gabs Potentially Spells End To Jules’ Career Outside Contest Area

Big-ish waves, sharp surfing and no shortage of drama on day 2 of the Olympic…

Jul 26, 2021

Do You Talk In The Lineup?

The Misc: Half-spoken rules

Jul 26, 2021

Shizunami’s Provocative Chlorine Ramp Continues To Tempt Us

The Volcom Japan team dips its toes in the world’s most desirable wave pool.

Jul 26, 2021
Advertisement