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Shark caught on camera as mat surfer desperately swims for shore

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A Melbourne surfer has had a close encounter with a shark, which he filmed on an action camera.

Roger Essig was mat surfing at Gunnamatta Beach on the Mornington Peninsula when he looked down and saw a 1.8-metre sevengill shark right beside him.

“All of a sudden, it’s not like I saw it approach, the shark was just magically there, almost like a magic trick,” Mr Essig said.

“The first thought was, ‘It’s obviously targeted me and it’s snuck up on me. This shark clearly knows what it’s doing. It’s a predator with millions and millions of years of evolution’.

“That was the first half-a-second of thought, then it was just panic from there.”

The shark “magically” appeared while Mr Essig was 10 minutes away from the beach.(

Supplied: Roger Essig 

)

Mr Essig said he urgently wanted to get back to the safety of the beach.

“You can hear in the video I’m dropping f-bombs like crazy.”

A long way from shore

Unfortunately for Mr Essig it was not a quick paddle to get out of the water.

“The waves at Gunnumatta, they get big out that back, so I went really far out the back waiting for the set,” he said.

“It was just me and my mate Andre out but he was about three minutes closer to the shore in paddling time.”

It took Mr Essig three minutes to get to his friend and all up roughly 10 minutes to get to shore.

“It’s a long time to be realising you are out in the water with a shark.”

Surfing like ‘a pelican’

Mr Essig says mat surfing is similar to surfing on an inflatable mattress.

“[It’s] a high-performance lilo made with modern materials — in many respects [it’s] the fastest surf craft on the waves,” he said.

“I compare it to a pelican. There is hardly any surface area touching the wave and you’re just flying like a pelican coming down low on the water, its tummy just barely skimming the surface.

Mr Essig said he was able to capture the whole encounter thanks to his action camera.

“I had a 360-degree camera on a big mount on top of my surf helmet,” he said.

“It looks ridiculous. It was my second time heading out with this set up.”

As for whether the face-to-face encounter has put Mr Essig off mat surfing, he says, “No damn fish is going to stop me”.

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