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. TheRightCoast

    Sorry to hear about this. Only surfers and beach locals can understand why enjoying the ocean is worth the risk. I feel sorry for others who don't have the ocean, or who live their lives through TV and video games. RIP, surfer.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. Richard Evans

    here's a novel idea check this out... "there are sharks in the area" ...... DON'T surf there.

    thats like walking into a lions cage then being surprised you get attacked.

    yeah blame the shark photographers cuz someone was bitten. that makes no sense at all.

    you know why i haven't been killed by shark? cuz i don't swim or surf where there are sharks. problem solved!

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

    Seems to me there should be some kind of notification made on the beaches, twitter, etc. "Dear Surfers, be advised that we issued a permit to chum the coastline. You may want to stay out of the water for a while." After all, what is the purpose of the government issuing chum permits if they don't use that information to warn the public about potential risk to swimmers in the area?

    April 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. armut

    I have say to him dont go to far away

    April 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BoyHowdie

    I'm very glad they didn't kill the shark for acting like a shark in the shark's own habitat.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grandpa RD

      Agreed, BoyHowdie. This example is the main reason I stay out of the house of stuff that will eat you alive. Going into the water with the knowledge that the area was recently chummed was rather unsafe, and this tragedy could have been avoided. I don't go into the ocean anymore because I refuse to be eaten. I'll use a nice swimming pool anytime, but the house of sharks and stuff? UHHH, no thanks!

      April 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • NorthropP61

      Well, grandpa, the ride to and from that "nice safe pool" is more likely to kill you than a shark is. Drive carefully.

      April 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chris in NC

    Hopefully he quickly lost consciousness from loss of blood.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Richard

    Yes, that's right. Blame everyone but the GUY who went out in the water knowing there was potential for sharks to be there. No one is ever resposible for their own actions in the "Blame Culture" of the West.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank Nigliazzo

      No one here is "blaming the shark," for doing what apex predators do in their own habitats. It is truly amazing to see one contort himself into a knot in order to prove the erroneous inferences he has made about the beliefs of others.

      April 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      TOTALLY AGREE!! BLAME everyone and everything besides the one that chose to enter the sharks habitat!! Typical "bubble-wrap" society we live in...PATHETIC HUMANS trying to play god!

      April 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Steve

    Sharks DON'T eat people! Yes people die from shark attacks but most of the time it is because of massive blood loss and note because they were eaten by the shark. Sharks will bite humans and once they taste them and notice it's not a seal they don't continue to eat. Sharks are one of the most important animals on earth and they cannot be killed off because somebody gets attacked once in a blue moon by one. RIP

    April 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Steve

    If I'm not mistaken more people are killed by vending machines than sharks in a year

    April 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Surfman Dave

    It's pretty disappointing to see all of the negative comments about people who die doing any type of extreme sports or water sports. He was a pro, so he was technically at work when he died. On average, 6 people died in car crashes during that same period of time? Were they doing what they loved? These brave people do great things that sometimes end tragically. Isn't that life well lived?

    April 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Katie G

    Surfing/bodyboarding in those waters means you have to be aware of the sharks. False Bay/Seal Island have some of the largest great whites recorded and they're constantly present. It's very tragic what happened, but that's the risk of being in the ocean. Has chumming played a role in any other shark attack? I think it's just a sad coincidence.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JJ

    " ...the crew had left the area three days earlier." And this moron thinks sharks leave the scene of heavy chumming just like that, eh? They they don't continue to hang out nearby? IDIOT.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. MotoJB

    Dang...that's horrible. You'd never catch me bodyboarding in well-know great white waters!!! Dang!

    April 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Totes@MyGoats

    The odds of dieing in a shark attack are astronomical. Mosquitoes kill more people each year than all the other animal/insect related deaths combined, just food for thought. But the whole chumming near the shoreline is pretty stupid.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • FFFF

      While I agree with you. Its not dieing that is the problem. But getting bit by a great white is almost going to enusre a loss of that appendage (Leg, Arm, Etc..

      April 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • TJ

      I suppose the odds go down when you are 1) In the ocean and 2) there is chumming nearby.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • JMB

      But if you know ahead of time they are chumming, why would you body board or surf there ??? That to me just seems seems plain stupid.. you are asking for it ?? I am certainly not advocating chumming the shorelines but knowing this and then body boarding is just poor planning with fatal consequences.....

      April 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. andrea

    you take the chance when you a human gets into an ocean with 12 foot animals with teeth that will eat a human. chumming ya right, call it unintentional suicide rather

    April 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
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