Apart from mankind’s odd fixation on horror films, nothing has quite gripped our fears and dark fantasies, as the sound of John William’s ….Dum. Dum, Dum, Dum soundtrack, with the sight of a huge fin approaching through the water. In fact, let’s blame all the current furore about Great White attacks, on our friend Steven Spielberg. He should have stuck with the friendly little finger of ET. Instead he dragged us into our fear of the unknown and gave us that horror of horrors – Jaws.

 Remember the days of yore when the only GREAT White we knew was named PW Botha? Sad to say he was only a Krokodil and the closest he got to a Great White, was the fact that he lived in George. Ask any surfer of the longboard era, about sharks and the answer is pretty much the same: “We know they are there; we don’t bother them and they don’t bother us.”

This consensus of opinion prevailed even when the Strand Great White fisherman was hauling them in within spitting distance of Strand’s beaches. I remember lengthy surf sessions at Die Poort and the outer reefs off Strand. Teeming with sharks. We didn’t even have board leashes in those days and spared not a thought to monsters of the deep. At that time, my elder brother was playing with bang sticks, way below the surface and actually eagerly sought out blue pointers. That was where they were then – way below under the radar.

So, the easy way out is to lay the blame on the Oscar winning director for laying bare the fear which lurked in our subconscious. Who else do we blame? Should we run off at the mouth about hiring shark hunters or join the ocean huggers and proclaim that big blue expanse no man’s land? That is probably the only area that women wouldn’t change to “no-person’s” land.*

I have seen highly intelligent people, vehemently demand that the boys in blue be executed for daring to desecrate our beloved beach. I’ve heard experts, with many and diverse opinions on the subject of Great Whites, all contradicting themselves. My bet is the denizens of the deep are out there patrolling right now, without caring one way or the other about our speculations. Without a trace of cynicism, I merely suggest, we are but another bit of flotsam in their food chain. Nothing personal, just business as usual.

 Do I have an opinion or am I just sitting on the fence? Well, my theory (based on 42 years in and on the ocean) is that our planet’s problems all stem from over population. Pollution, overfishing and many more people in the sea. Throw some predators into the mix and you have the current situation pretty much summed up.

What to do? Either accept what is, is or at least, in the case of Fish Hoek, consider the Durban option. Of all the beaches on the False Bay side, Fish Hoek lends itself to anti shark nets.

 Too expensive, an indiscriminate killer of all sea life? Tell that to the victims. For myself – I saw the movie version of Jaws at Universal Studios. That scared the daylights out of me.The real thing? Sorry, I’ll stick to my pool and risk being attacked by algae.

 Phil Smuts

*(Some of us ‘women’ prefer the bright blue expanse to algae infested pools, Phil! You never know what lurks in that murk! – Eds.)