Whenever anyone starts talking about sharks, I can’t help but regurgitate my best shark story.
Once upon a time there were two boys, Sean and Julian, twins who learnt to surf shortly after learning to walk. They were stereotypical surfer boys: blonde with blue eyes, freckles, and long lean limbs, not to mention bad hair cuts.
When Sean and Julian were in year 11 they went to a couple of elite private schools in Launceston. They invited a friend, Dean, to their family home near Scamander one holiday. This was a real novelty for Dean, who wasn’t a surfer.
Sean lent Dean a spare surfboard and the three of them went surfing with the twins’ father, Jim. This particular day they surfed off Shelly Point, a beach near the twins’ home. The trick to surfing is to paddle out lying on your surfboard past the breakers, then turn around and catch a wave, timing and balancing yourself on your board so that the wave carries the surfboard into shore. Dean, being a novice, was learning the art.
Someone spotted a shark swimming towards the surfers; the alarm went out! Shit! Jim, Sean and Julian caught the next wave in to shore, leaving Dean, the novice, alone at the mercy of the shark. This shark was hungry, eyeing off the surfboard that looked like a tasty tuna fish. Dean, terrified, clung to his board while the shark lurked threatening nearby. At the last minute Dean threw himself off the board, just before the shark bit into the fibreglass, leaving a toothy impression as clear as a dentist’s mould.
Dean swam in the deep water, more vulnerable than before. Attached to the surfboard by a leg-rope, Dean used the leg rope to haul the surf board back, climbing on board and paddling for shore.
The first I, Sean and Julian’s half-sister, heard of the story, I was visiting friends and saw my brothers on the news on TV. Dean was alive and unharmed but not interested in surfing again. Jim, as an abalone diver and surfer with many years’ experience, spoke with authority on the subject of sharks; he was quoted on TV and in newspapers.
Several years later, at our sister’s graduation dinner, Sean continued this story. Dean was studying at Duntroon Military Academy, planning to enter the army. There was some laughter and joking on the topic of the navy at this, but Sean went on. While Sean was in Canberra visiting Dean, Dean had an assignment to jump out of a helicopter into a pool of water. Even though it was inland, Dean had developed a phobia of water. When asked, ‘What are you afraid of? Sharks?’
The answer was ‘YES!!!’