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. LH2O

    Schmidt wrote, "The dispersal of a massive chum slick..."
    53 lbs of chum was used, hardly "massive"!

    April 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • beelzabarber

      when you consider a shark can detect a drop of blood among thousands of gallons of seawater, 53lbs goes a long way. Hundreds of miles perhaps

      April 20, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Techsupport

    I hate it when people say someone died doing what they love... I doubt they would see it that way. I don't know anyone who loves getting attacked by sharks, or burried in an avalanch, or falling from a cliff... They died after something horrible happened, while doing something they loved, but that's really not the same.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hero and inspiration

      Try being the parent who voiced those words. Easy for you to say....this father just loss his son and saying what he did most likely helped him through those few minutes. This didn't come from the news or a person who did not know him. You are COLD!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • billx

      he died doing what he loved – bodybording in the sea – with all its known dangers.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mendrys

      Why would you hate it that others find some small comfort that a loved one died doing what they likef as opposed to dying in a drive by or dying from a protracted bout of cancer?

      April 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • baytay

      i agree that is wrong

      April 20, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dixie Normous

    I doubt the shark ever existed..The should look into his "friend" that witnessed it...

    April 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Lol..
      Your username made me laugh...

      April 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      My comment was meant for the original Dixie, not the humorless one.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • mlv

      what? do you really think the "friend" bit off the man's leg?

      April 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I think Dixie meant it as tongue-in-cheek...and as a way to get that username published.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      What? Nice joke. Why do people say things like this when they are sitting behind a keyboard? Not trying to be all righteous and all, but making light of any situation like this is uncalled for. You didn't know this person, none of us did. When tragedy hits you or your family don't get offended if people make jokes about how it happened.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • I Am Self Righteous

      It is a tragedy for his family, this is true. It is also a tragedy that you do not posses the cognitive thinking that would help you understand gallows humor. It's the internet. Put your big-boy pants on and grow up. If stupid stuff like this offends you, you need to log of this site now!!!

      April 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BRODY

    Me old chum is me maitee.

    Arrrg!

    April 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • I Am Self Righteous

      Jon disapproves of jokes. Better watch it.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Skeptic

    Chumming (feeding) wildlife encourages begging. It's like feeding foxes in the National Parks and you will start seeing foxes begging by the road side. Unfortunately, shark does not care whether it is fish or it is your leg, they both taste good.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Barangha the Great

    My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. As a skydiver, boxer, and life long surfer I can honestly say that getting attacked by a Great White would be my worst nightmare. My heart really goes out to my fellow ocean brother, it's a nasty and scary way to go out. I hope it was quick. His brother displayed great courage in getting his brother's body to shore. I'm real sorry man, I hope you're in a better place.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marie R.

    I was just saying to my husband very recently this new "shark tourism" is very dangerous for those who go into the water for sport, and I'm no expert on animal behaviour. It's common sense. The waters off of South Africa are already a haven for great whites, so much so that they have put up safety nets in certain areas so that people can go in the water for a swim and not get bitten, so when these boats go out and chum to bring them around for some idiot who paid to get into a cage in the water for the thrill of getting close to a great white, the fish are eventually going to figure out that humans mean food. When an animal begins to associate humans with food naturally there are going to be consequences for the humans. I think it needs to stop or attacks will increase.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ewas

      I always thought it would be fun to go cage diving because having the chance to see these wild animals up front would be a fascinating and inspiring experience. I didn't know that the industry acted in a way to increase risks to surfers and other, and it does change my opinion on doing it. I guess I'm glad I read these posts.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JMB

    But a young man is dead because he decided to body board with great white sharks.. seems like a pretty stupid decision to me... its survival of the fittest.. not survival of the infinitely stupid.. move on..

    April 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Guest

    Is it just me, or is swimming, or surfing, or tubing, whatever... in an area that, even without the chumming, is known to be a virtual feeding ground for Great White sharks...isn't that kind of, you know, stupid? I wouldn't set a toe in that water if you had a gun to my head. Everybody knows those things are killing machines and will bite you in half in a New York minute, which they can and will do as demonstrated here, because they can pick up a scent from miles away. People say sharks are very primitive and stupid...I'm thinking that anybody who thinks they're special and won't get killed would be the stupid one, and this is not to say I don't feel bad that this guy got killed. But it's just dumb to set yourself up as a meal for a beast like one of those things, just because you're doing "what you love."

    April 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Surf4Days

    I found NatGeo's comments left a bad taste in my mouth. Going out of their way to distance themselves from any filming going on just seemed like b.s. marketing spin.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • You are spot on...

      I totally agree with you....National Geo was immediately covering their back-ends to look good and looked horrible! National Geographic should be ashamed! Cold!

      April 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyn507

      right? way to pass the buck NatGeo.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tamars

    Karen Zoid seems to have it twisted asking "Why does a kid have to die before we start talking about the negative effects of chumming the coastline??" Isn't the more relevant question why ere people bodysurfing where they knew there had been chumming? Face reality here. Sharks were there first, sharks versus human on surfboard has the same probablity as skateboarder versus car - the human will nto come out well in the encounter.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyn507

      I'm going to guess that the people that live there & surf/swim in those waters know them much better than we do. Nearby isn't a block away, it's many miles. Any time you go in the ocean you're taking a certain amount of risk. Either assume it or stay out of the water. But i highly doubt they knowingly went into chummed waters. It's was days before, miles away.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BangStick

    The sharks were not lured to the area because of the chumming.

    Pro Tip: The sharks were already in the area.

    That is why the researchers put chum out. It is to lure the sharks closer to the boat.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. YouHaveToBeKiddin

    “It’s a humongous loss to South African Bodyboarding"

    How ridiculous is that statement. It's like saying it's a huge loss to Eastern Indiana basket weaving. Other than a VERY small group of people, no one cares.

    It's a horrible loss in terms of people – but come on – no one cares about the boarding part.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Thank you for demonstrating how little minds think of the least significant elements of n article, then how they process those little thoughts.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. belladonna

    I'll say a prayer for the boy and his family, but any Floridian will tell you, if you enter a body of water that isn't chlorinated, you're entering the food chain, and you are no longer at the top, either.

    April 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. lrod

    I haven't read all of these post, so I may be speaking out of turn...but you would no more jump into a pit bull's backyard where he lives, so why would you just into the shark's backyard and expect him not to get you? I hope no one is blaming the shark. He's just being an animal whose main purpose in life is to "swim, eat and make little sharks".

    April 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
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