COMMENT: Making the decision on surfing with sharks

WITHOUT even thinking about Jaws, hearing the word 'shark' anywhere near the water is enough to invoke an adrenaline-filled flight response in anyone who isn't Mick Fanning.

And despite the impending trials of non-lethal shark-deterrent technologies (which I am greatly anticipating) on the NSW North Coast, the number of recent shark attacks, near misses, and beach closures in the Northern Rivers suggest not much is going to change in the short term.

I absolutely commend the actions of Ballina mayor David Wright and MP Tamara Smith, who have paid for extra aerial patrols and volunteer lifeguards giving up their time to help keep people in the region's waters safe.

But with the abundance of secluded beaches and surf spots on the east coast, especially in the Clarence Valley, there is only so much that can be done on a government level.

Ultimately, the responsibility is on the individual who chooses to get into the water, and it's not a decision made lightly.

The recent spate of attacks and my own close encounter with a shark while surfing at Angourie Point earlier this year certainly makes me think twice about putting on a black wetsuit and thrashing around like a seal each time I go in.

But as an ocean lover it also brings an element of respect for the apex predator and the ocean in general.

For me, it is best summed up by Hunter S. Thompson: "Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top."

Just try not to think about it when you're bobbing on a board like a sitting duck.

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