In an incident Mick Fanning would find eerily familiar, a 6-to-8 foot crocodile came uncomfortably close to a surfer during a WQS event in Costa Rica on Wednesday. The reptile popped up just five feet from California surfer Tyler Gunter during the first heat, prompting organizers to put the event on hold.
“I was sitting there, in between sets, and I saw this big thing swim by,” Gunter said. “It went under then came up five feet away and I looked at it in its eye. I was like, ‘holy crap, that’s a crocodile.’ I still wanted to win my heat but the thing popped up again. Then I went in, I didn’t care if I lost anymore.”
After Gunter beat a hasty retreat to the shore, the other surfers in his heat, Facundo Arreyes, Charly Quivront and Tad McCardell, followed, though the next heat’s competitors were in the water and slow to realize what was happening.
Organizers resumed competition 20 minutes later, after assist-jet skis buzzed the lineup in hopes of scaring off an apex predators.
The Essential Costa Rica Open Pro (QS 3,000) was being held at Esterillos Este, a remote surf spot down the Pacific coast from the famous tube-hunting grounds of Playa Hermosa.
The incident follows a crocodile attack on an American surfer last summer in Tamarindo, resulting in the loss of the victim’s right leg below the knee.
“Three competitors from the last heat allegedly saw a croc in the competition zone, and since security is our main concern, we put the event on hold and sent the jetskis to scout the zone and try to scare the animal out of the place,” said event director Diego Naranjo.