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13-year-old Zoe Steyn narrowly escaped a shark attack in South Africa. Photo: Veaudry

13-year-old Zoe Steyn narrowly escaped a shark attack in South Africa. Photo: Veaudry

The Inertia

When 13-year-old Zoe Steyn went surfing a few days ago, she didn’t expect her session to end the way it did. That’s because the way it ended isn’t at all common: a great white latched onto her board, knocked her off, shook it like a rag doll, and swam away.

Steyn was surfing off the coast of South Africa when the attack occurred. While she was waiting about 300 feet from the beach, she spotted the shark, which is estimated to be in the 10-foot range. “I just saw this huge black eye looking straight at me and a huge bang as it took my board and began shaking it,” she told The Sun.  “It latched on with its jaws just missing my leg and it tipped me backward and I fell in and I just saw the black shape of it in the water and panicked.”

That was when another surfer noticed that she was in trouble. JP Veaudry was nearby and immediately began paddling towards Steyn. “I heard another surfer screaming at me to get back on my board and I pulled myself onto it but was terrified of where the shark was and what to do,” the girl recalled. “Then I saw a surfer friend JP Veaudry paddling straight out to get me and he told me not to think about the shark but just paddle for all I was worth. He kept asking me if I had been bitten by the shark but I said I didn’t know as I was in a state of shock and adrenaline was just pumping through my body.”

Steyn shows where the shark bit into her surfboard. Photo: Veaudry

Veaudry, a 40-year-old adaptive surfing champion, remembered how it all went down: “I heard a death defying scream and saw loads of thrashing about in the water. Zoe was screaming and flailing in the sea as the shark had pulled the board out from under her. My first thought was to get out of there and onto the beach. But I couldn’t just leave her out there with the shark so I paddled straight out to get her and she had got back on her board and I paddled back in with her.


Soon, both Veaudry and Steyn made it back to the beach unharmed, and although she went surfing the very next day, she said that she probably won’t surf Nahoon Reef again. “I can’t thank JP enough for risking his life to paddle out and save me and get back to shore,” she said. It has taught me never to surf alone ever again.”

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