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. Philip

    Michael! Good to see you. 🙂

    April 20, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. msadr

    This is one of the most tragic things I've heard of in a long time. That he should be so young, and, that his brother would have to carry his body back to shore... it's just awful. so said. i feel so sorry for this family.

    April 20, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Josh

    Love it when they say, "he died doing what he loved". He loved being eaten by sharks?

    April 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lonnie

    well, they are swimming in the sharks domain. think about it. you have to use your head while in the salt water. there are things besides sharks that can hurt and kill you.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lonnie

    oh and stop saying, " I can't believe that happened", OMG he was swimming in there Casa and your gonna say " I can't believe that happened".. Now if he was attack by a moutain lion, then yes , you can say "omg I can't believe that happened!"

    April 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Denver

    I just love it when people say, sharks are not dangerous. Really? didnt you all watch that one show (Shark Week) that showed the marine biologist getting his calf ripped in half by a shark? This surfer deserves what he got. You play in the water with a shark, its going to eat you PERIOD! still think sharks are not dangerous? Go ahead and swim in this same spot where this silly got killed. Sorry, but serves em right. What did you think was going to happen?
    Duh! Darwinism

    April 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • KN

      Yeah, and you usually hear about every shark attack that happens world wide. However, you almost never hear about the fatal car accident that occurs every day in your city. Yet people still get in cars and drive around knowing that they can be killed by any idiot in oncoming traffic.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      denver: "This surfer deserves what he got. You play in the water with a shark, its going to eat you PERIOD!"

      So if you die from, say, choking on your food, should we laugh? Should we say you deserved it? Should we say who cares? I mean, after all, you knew the dangers of eating, right?

      April 20, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joseph

      Wow...you are so ignorant

      April 20, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Forrest

      I hope you don't drive cars, you risk your life far more getting into one of those every day than if you go in the ocean every day.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • fangpi

      Using your logic, anyone who suffers injury or death by any one of dozens of hazards that surround us every day "deserves" said injury. To wit:

      – A cyclist hit and killed in a traffic accident "deserved" to die. Driving around cars is dangerous!
      – A hiker stomped by a Moose, or bit by a rattlesnake "deserves" injury or death.
      – An experienced climber whose ropes fail and falls to his/her death "deserves" it.
      – A boy scout who fails to get off a hillside with a thunderstorm approaching "deserves" death by lightning.

      My guess is that most avid surfers and boarders are aware of the risks they take. Frankly that's part of the thrill of sport. Likewise, I don't think many of them are mad at the shark for engaging in its normal behavior.

      I DO think that maybe you have some anger issues, though.....might want to look into that.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • idiotamongus

      darwin's new species, the idiot among us who thinks humans should trade a life of living for a keyboard smeared with a whopper and fries. heart attack? duh-darwinism

      April 23, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bob

    It is always interesting when the news runs a "shark kill" story like this. When you go surfing, swimming, or body boarding in the ocean, you are always taking that small chance that a shark will attack. We get these stories periodically here in California. Not really news, though.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lucien

    i hate stories like this. it's not that sharks fault, you enter the sharks domain you put yourself at risk for attack. such is life we are animals and we are not above the laws of nature. my condolences to the family of the person that died but this is life. no need to make people panic.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Attila, The Hun

    They have to eat, too!

    April 20, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mr. Obvious

    Sharks are at the top of the food chain in the water. Lots of sharks around S. Africa. Prolly a bad idea to go in the water there and imitate a seal. Jus' sayin.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Serenity

      Exactly. If a wild animal gets into your cabin in the woods and you feel threatened, what is the first thing you try to do? Annihilate it! I feel sorry for the dead man and his family, very much so. To expect a wild animal to suddenly have human reasoning and actions in its own natural territory (where we don't belong) is pure stupidty.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ruth A Farella

    I am so sorry to hear that young man passed away. Just get away from the water. Used swimming pool, that is better play safe. I will talk to Jesus Christ and pray for him in Heaven.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chuck D

    Sharks like open water swimmers first, then body borders and then surfers. The more of your body in the water, the greater the chance a shark will attack you.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. t

    II hate when people say 'at least he died doing what he loved'.

    right, like that makes it so much better in the final moments!!!

    April 20, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roger

      But wait, he loved being eaten by sharks...

      April 21, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mrdifficult

    You know what attracted them? Idiots splashing around in their home.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dumont Dermon

    How about you morons quit playing in the waters where big sharks eat? You idiots who ski where avalanches are likely. You baloonists that insist on flying in areas of power lines and towers. You redneck drivers in cars going 200mph 12" from each other. You base jumpers. Clearly you are free humans and can do anything you choose but when it leads to catastrophe, You earned it. You take dumb risks for the thrill. These exploits enrich no one. The don't feed the hungry or help solve the problems of the world. They only boost your ego. You get injured, you are maimed, you die, you got what you deserved. Try putting these efforts toward helping others instead of seaking personal glory. Grow up.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • justin

      i hope you live a long safe life sitting on your couch eating cheeto's. live fast fight hard die young

      April 20, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
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