Great white shark kills championship bodyboarder; did chumming attract beasts?
A great white shark like this one killed bodyboarder David Lilienfeld.
April 20th, 2012
11:42 AM ET

Great white shark kills championship bodyboarder; did chumming attract beasts?

South African championship bodyboarder David Lilienfeld, 20, was killed by a great white shark Thursday in Kogel Bay near Cape Town as he caught waves with his brother, according to local news reports.

A shark estimated to be between 13 and 16 feet long bit off Lilienfeld's right leg, the reports said.

Witnesses saw the attack from the rocks overlooking the bay, which is part of the larger False Bay.

One of them was Lucille Bester, who said she saw the shark about 20 to 30 yards from Lilienfeld and others in the water but was too far away to catch their attention, according to a report from the Cape Argus on the website Independent Online.

"The next thing we saw the shark come from under one of the guys and grab him. The shark shook him and then let him go. The surfer was screaming – it was terrible!" Bester is quoted as saying.

“Then it took him again. And that was it. It took him under. The first time it took him, there wasn’t any blood. But the second time there was," Bester told the Cape Argus.

Fellow surfer Mat Marais saw the attack from the beach, according to the report.

"I saw this big dorsal fin, and after that I saw him getting attacked. He was off his board and in the water. Then the shark turned around and attacked him again. Just before it attacked him, he tried to put his board between him and the shark. He was pushing the shark’s head with his board.

“But within two seconds, the water turned from turquoise to red," the Cape Argus quoted Marais as saying.

Lilienfeld's brother, Gustav, got his body to shore, according to a report in the Cape Times.

The bodyboarder's father, Dirk Lilienfeld, gave police a statement for the gathered media, according to the Cape Times.

"This was his life, and he died doing what he loved,” police said the father told them.

Lilienfeld placed third in the South African Bodyboarding Association’s 2011 pro rankings and competed for South Africa in November's world games.

“It’s a humongous loss to South African Bodyboarding. He was a well mannered boy and did his best for South African Bodyboarding," the vice chairman of the group, Pat Harris, told local Eyewitness News.

After the attack, witnesses reported that the shark that killed Lilienfeld was one of six spotted in the area, Craig Lambinon, a spokesman for the National Sea Rescue Institute, told the Cape Times.

Some pointed a finger at researchers and documentary filmmakers who were working in the area earlier in the week and using chum to attract sharks to their cameras, using Facebook and Twitter to protest.

"Why does a kid have to die before we start talking about the negative effects of chumming the coastline?? Pisses me off!!" wrote Karen Zoid under the hashtag "sharkattack" on Twitter.

"Chumming must stop and the exploitation of our wildlife in Africa must stop this is all about greed and money," according to a Facebook posting under the name Monica Rogers.

Documentary maker Chris Fischer defended the filming on the Facebook page for the show "Shark Men," seen on the National Geographic Channel, saying the crew had left the area three days earlier.

"During our 24 hrs of work (Sun afternoon to Monday afternoon) there we chummed 24kg (53 pounds) of pilchards (sardines). Less than the daily allotment for each of three cage diving boats working daily," the post said. "We have been east of Cape Agulhas (160km east of Seal Island) since Monday evening until we arrived in Walker Bay(80km East of Seal Island) this morning."

"We are terribly sorry again for the loss of this family and at this time our thoughts and prayers are with them," it read.

Fischer's group had a government permit for the chumming and filming, but it was revoked after Thursday's attack, according to the local news reports.

In a news release dated April 11, researcher and great white photographer Dirk Schmidt warned that chumming could bring sharks to the area and keep them there.

"A sharp increase in the number of White Sharks may be noted during and after the filming has been completed, as these sharks, initially attracted by volumes of chum to the Seal Island area, find their way around the bay.  The dispersal of a massive chum slick, given on-shore winds, may further increase the number of inshore sharks which cruise the chum slick in search of food," Schmidt wrote.

CapeTimes columnist Tony Weaver, a surfer and diver in the waters where the shark attacked, on Friday called for an end to chumming.
"Could there indeed be a link between chumming and shark attacks? Does chumming bring sharks closer inshore? Does it make sharks go in search of easier prey?" Weaver wrote.

"Until we have a scientific answer, chumming in False Bay must be banned," he wrote.

National Geographic issued a statement saying Fischer's current work was not part of any project for the network.

“We have not renewed the series, have no plans to at the moment, and are not filming new episodes at this time. Therefore, the filming mentioned is not for National Geographic Channel, or future episodes of Shark Men,” the network said, according to a report on the South African website ITweb.

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Filed under: Animals • Sharks • Sports
soundoff (482 Responses)
  1. noodles

    Just 20 years old. That is a genuine shame. Wish he could have eventually become an old timer standing on the beach by a nice home watching the young generation surf. May he be accepted into the afterlife with smiles and love.

    April 20, 2012 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  2. spockmonster

    God Bless this young man and his family.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Locode

      where was his imaginary friend when he needed him? Oh right, IMAGINARY!

      April 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. soulcatcher

    Sad, my prayers to the family. Why don't people have lookouts anymore in places like these? Isn't it worth bringing a friend with a bullhorn along?

    April 20, 2012 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
    • JudgeDB

      No one saw the shark until it was about 30 yards away from people in the water, and by then there isn't much you can do. You would need someone patrolling in a helicopter to spot these assassins of the sea before its too late.

      April 20, 2012 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      uh.... Great Whites own this water area... there is 100% one in the water when u r out there.

      April 20, 2012 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  4. USA401

    Not only is a human life lost but a bunch of idiots are going to jump on boats and start killing any shark they see.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
    • J

      You have to hunt down the shark that committed the act because it will now actively hunt humans after its first taste.

      Humans aren't their natural food but can catch their attention if they look and behave like other mammals such as seals.

      Anyway, onto the statistics (Quoted): "Cape Town has some of the richest shark waters in the world – combined with the highest number of water users. So it may come as a surprise that in the last 50 years, only 7 fatal accidents have occurred in the Western Cape. In the U.S., the country with the highest number of attacks worldwide (5 times more than South Africa), your odds of drowning at a beach are 1 in 3.5 million. Your odds of dying from a shark bite are less than 1 in 264 million. In 2007, of the 601,133 deaths in South Africa, two were from sharks. Compare that to 6,153 deaths from vehicular accidents, 5,648 deaths due to assault and 49,722 deaths due to influenza and pneumonia, and there are far more rational things to be worried about."

      April 20, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Amom

      Have you ever eaten shark? It is surprisingly mild. Delicious.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • californiarestinpeace

      J – please dude....some decent statistics pulled from the 'net and your own interpretation of animal behavior based off a Hollywood movie. Jaws in this case. There's zero evidence or reason to believe a shark gets a taste for human blood and becomes a human predator, my friend. Zero. George Burress of my alma-mater, Univ of Florida still has the most plausible explanation based on science for why sharks bite humans, from time to time. Its never a good idea to kill sharks, the scenario where humans kill sharks will lead to disaster for all, but especially our species.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. mparr22

    So sad, this kid had more brass than I do, I'm scared to death to go surfing for this exact reason.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff

    I certainly hope people don't use this as an excuse to blame sharks for these kinds of attacks. It is tragic what happened but the shark was doing only what comes naturally to it. It most likely mistook the surfer for prey because the shape of bodyboards, boogie boards, surfboards, etc. are similar to their natural prey of seals and walruses.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      seeing how these waters have the most Great Whites than any other and highest attacks from them due to that fact u have to be pretty ignorant to not get it

      April 20, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  7. ForGoodOfAll

    I am so sorry for this poor man and his family. What a terrible and sad story. RIP

    April 20, 2012 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
  8. wildone

    If you swim where the sharks swim, prepare to be their dinner.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. Dixie Normous

    Now we have a shark out there pumped on steroids...God help us all..

    April 20, 2012 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
  10. chorne

    RIP dude. I pray for his family.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. Evangenital

    If I am in the water and I see a fin, I will be dead before the shark gets to me.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  12. Scott G

    Sad the man lost his life, but if you swim with sharks, prepare to be eaten. in this instance, it is not cliche'

    April 20, 2012 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  13. Sickofidiots

    You swim in the ocean you risk being eaten by a shark. Same as if you ride or drive a car you risk dieing in a wreak. He knew the risk.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. Hogarth

    If I hear one more grieving parent, friend or lover use the phrase "died doing what he loved", I'm going to scream. No – he died doing something he did NOT love, being torn apart by a shark. This is a lousy way to die, and he suffered terribly. He was not doing something he loved.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Melodykari78

      I second that!

      April 20, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • You're an idiot

      "Died doing something they loved" is a common expression. Did he love dying or being eaten by a shark? NO. Use some common sense. He was bodysurfing and died doing it. Jeez.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Agrav8td

    So people who study sharks say once they bite into a human and realize they're not a seal, they'll just go away...yeah right!! They'll kill & eat you if they want to. Poor guy, what a way to go.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Moi

      It is said Sharks do not like the taste of human. But the witness accounts the man was not bite on the first pass, only knocked into the water. The second pass drew blood. If the boys brother was able to get the body to shore then yes the shark did just go away.

      April 20, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
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