Tyson Royston, 10, was attacked by an eight-foot bull shark in the middle of his heat at the annual South Carolina Governor’s Cup of Surfing on Folly Beach, South Carolina. The shark’s presence at The Washout isn’t exactly a surprise as locals will tell you they’re around, but they’re not usually a bother. Until Sunday afternoon. Attacks in the area are extremely rare, but despite their infrequency, the bull shark bit into Royston’s board and the two met eye to eye–an alarming moment for any surfer. With remarkable presence of mind, Tyson Royston ripped the leash from his ankle and swam hard to shore saving himself from a potentially gruesome incident.
Two surfers and five lifeguards helped him to shore as he was obviously stirred up by what had just transpired in the water. He sustained no physical injuries. However, coming face to face with an animal like that at The Washout on Folly Beach isn’t something he will soon forget, especially during Shark Week.
Contest Director Nancy Hussey canceled the rest of the event with the remaining heats to be made up September 7th. She told Charleston’s paper, The Post and Courier, “No prize money, no trophies or anything on the line would have moved me to put another person in the water…This was a big incident that had a very happy ending.”
As someone who lived in nearby Charleston, South Carolina, for five years and surfed The Washout on a regular basis, I have to wonder about this attack. There is plenty of sea life in Charleston area waters, especially during the summer months, and there is a known shark breeding ground close by. While bull sharks tend to be an aggressive species, and also tend to hunt in shallower waters, the clarity of the water at The Washout isn’t very high. With murky conditions, plenty of little fish, and a hungry predator, it stands to reason that this was a case of wrong place, wrong time.
Watch and listen to Tyson Royston tell CNN about the shark attack here.