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. Bigfoot Bill

    I saw a show about a guy who invented a device that sent out sonar waves that repealed sharks it was the size of a pager with a wire coming off it. If a shark got within a 100 feet of a person it turned away. Why has this product not come out to the market for surfers and bodyboarders is beyond me. Did anyone else see this.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Spiff

      I'm guessing it's not on the market because it's a crock.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Iggy

      That shark repellant device never was proven to work.... Best defense is don't look like something the sharks feed on...SEALS

      April 20, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Jan

      Yes I saw this and it was demonstrated. I agree with you Bigfoot Bill but just like medication to cure deseases – FDA and all other agencies have to wait YEARS before they can put these fantastic ideas on the market

      April 20, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Williams

      Although the device does repel sharks under certain conditions, they tend to ignore it when they're feeding. And that's when you really need it.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lancem

      They are available. One version is called the "SharkShield" for about $600.

      April 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Crack

    Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin' bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', an' down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
    • School Mistress.

      Have you been smoking your username?

      April 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hmmm

    You have a better chance of being hit by lightning or getting into an auto accident because there's a much higher incidence of cars being on the road and lightning crashing out of the sky among heavily populated areas. Also, most people get into cars and most people are also subjected to lightning strikes. MOST people don't swim in shark infested waters, hence the lower probability. If we all suddenly decided it would be a great idea to swim off the shore of S. Africa, then those statistics would look very different.

    And to those saying sharks don't like the taste of humans, well maybe that's true, but they're still going to bite to find out what you are, and as this guy found out, all it takes is one bite and it's game over. So that "fact" about sharks disliking the taste of humans is irrelevant to basically anything.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Blondie

    Oh well

    April 20, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. Chris

    "MOST people don't swim in shark infested waters"

    I hate to break it to you, but the ocean is "shark infested waters". And 10s of millions of people swim in it each year.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Ilya

    What can you realistically expect when you step/swim into the sharks kitchen?

    April 20, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ken in NC

    I have resorted to surfing in my bath tub again and even there the Sand Sharks nibble at my feet.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. jason

    the odds of being attached by a great white in south africa as a bodyboarder are way higher than the average persons, so the stats dont add up – like lightning

    probably 10 000 times higher than the average person in the world

    1) you are in an area that has a high concentration of great whites – very few places have that
    2) water is cold, so you wear a wetsuit, so you look like a seal
    3) as a pro, he probably spent 40 hours a week in the water , average person probably spends 20 mins a week in ocean, if that

    April 20, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  9. Richard

    It is for this reason that I prefer to be beneath the surface of the water – so, I can see what is going on around me. I SCUBA dive, but I don't play in the surf at the beach, unless the water is no higher than my knees. I know what is down there and I want to see it before it sees me.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sarcasmo

    Swim with massive, indiscriminate predators. Get bitten.

    Isn't there an internet meme for something like this?

    April 20, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      "So it goes."

      ~Billy Pilgrim

      April 20, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. KM

    The father said he died doing what he loved. What? Getting eaten by a shark?

    April 20, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Kraut

      Isn't that the standard comment when your loved one crashes and burns? That goes for climbers, skydivers and racers, etc. You've got to make some sense of such a demise other than being raving angry at such a premature death. I probably would be pretty unforgiving...

      April 20, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • sam

      Don't knock it til you try it

      April 20, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Jess

      He died body surfing. Did you seriously not read that part of the article? Don't play dumb.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • pj77

      That is exactly what I thought!

      April 20, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Opal

      I was thinking the same thing. This statement only applies for certain situations. Being eaten by a shark is not one of them.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • 9141990

      Good catch. Hopefully we can inform the father and correct his mistake. Idiot -_-

      April 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • brandon

      Hell yeah, what a way to go!

      April 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jim

    The shark populations have exploded in recent years, thanks to the vigilance of animal activists efforts.
    Just imagine if those folks cared 1/2 as much about the welfare of their fellow human beings.

    Sharks are nuisance animals and killing one should never be an offense.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Wow, Jim, you are really a clueless individual. Iam amazed you figured out how to log onto the internet and find your way to CNN. Humans do not have the right to kill off all of the sharks to reduce the miniscule chance of being killed by one. If you don't want to be eaten by a shark, don't invade their territory. If you do, this is part of the risk you take.

      If you really care about saving human life then ban all cars. That is the number one way of dying in an accident by far.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Rocksor

      Wow blame the sharks for living in the water. Way to go!

      If anything humans encroach in areas where they don't belong. Sharks were in oceans hundreds of millions of years before humans decide to use the ocean for recreation.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Fact Finder

      Even Fox News has reported on the severe DECLINE in shark populations world-wide. Not that hard to be informed.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Williams

      Your ignorance is breathtaking.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrish

      You need to check your facts. Sharks are on the delcine and are an important asset to the ocean. They evolved for a reason and serve a purpose. A wiser person would know that. Humans were the last species to arrive on this planet, and this planet could along just find without us. We have contributed almost nothing to this planet unless you want to consider wars.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thermion7

      Jim-
      I'm guessing that this was at an attempt at humor?
      Your theory is that humans haven't engineered enough of the danger out of the natural world? That if we had a comprehensive policy of exterminating predators from nature... then human leisure activities would be safer?

      April 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • marragor

      If you are in their territory, you're a target. Terribly sad for his friends and family.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. American Pimp

    "Best defense is don't look like something the sharks feed on...SEALS"

    You mean sharks are feeding on U.S. Navy Special Forces operators? That's horrible!!!

    April 20, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Patrish

      Not too far off. As drivers, we were told, if you float around the surface, you look similar to a SEAL from a sharks point of view. So as an ex-diver, I felt safer down in the water, not ont he top because up there, you can't see it coming.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joe

    The ocean isn't some big swimming pool. The water is some of the nastiest, most highly polluted water on the planet. It is filled with apex predators. Not a swimming pool, a big sewer filled with things that will eat you.

    I had the opportunity to fly in a helicopter over a beach once, and was *surprised* how many sharks are swimming around and between people... and people are completely unaware of it. More sharks than you would imagine. But like a dog, sometimes they want to take a bite.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Kerry

    We need to respect these deep sea predators. We are invading their environment for surfing or for diving with sharks. If the waters had been chummed then it's only common sense that a hungry predator might confuse this poor body surfer for a seal. I'm sorry for the family's loss, but I hope the media blitz on this and other attacks in Australia will not lead to another senseless butchering of sharks.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
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