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. BlAstED

    I think the shark was just trying to help the struggling surfer to the shore, but the sharks jaws were too sharp.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Roger Poot

    Look if that surfer had half a chance he would have bite that shark, so no I dont blame the shark, he was just protecting his home.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Shark Expert

    Sharks attacks have risen 314% in the last year, the ocean is trying to tell us something...

    April 20, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. AZ Shark

    My condolences to the family of this kid. Anytime you are floating on the water you are asking to be investigated, unfortunately when a shark investigates it cause incredible damage to our frail bodies and with that the chance of death is always present. Maybe the law should be changed so that when shark research is being done the beaches are off limits. Research trumps play time in the water.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tim

    Now, if I knew that there was one shark in the area, not to mention six, I wouldn't put so much as a toe in that water without knowing that there was some really secure shark netting between them and me. Actually I probably wouldn't get in at all. I hope these young people didn't think, "hmm, that's a lot of sharks, but I think that I'll surf anyway and just hope for the best".

    April 20, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jk

    National Geographic poses as an ecological company. In fact, it will tell any lie, promote any falsehood, and conduct any cheap stunt for money. It associates with all sorts of P.T. Barnums, fills its magazines with corporate ads, its educational books with lies, and, it turns out, surfer waters with shark chum. What jerks.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • shrkba8

      You are correct that the NG television network side is just like the other silly programing channels.
      The connection to NG magazine is only in the name... it surprises me that they allow their good name
      to be sullied with ratings driven programing...

      April 20, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • jmsbois

      Are you actually blaming the National Geographic for this?

      April 20, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • sharky

      Surfer waters?

      Surfers don't live in the water. That is where sharks live. Humans need to understand this, we are in THEIR world. Take the risk or stay out completely.

      April 20, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. nutz

    Sharks gotta eat too. They are and in this case – we are – in the food chain.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lindalou

      Not only that, they were in their natural environment..the surfers were not.

      April 20, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • michael


      April 20, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gav

    Social Darwinism? Are you kidding me? I guarantee you when David wasnt surfing professionally he spent his time beating off girls with a stick. He probably got more tail in his short 20 years than the rest of us who post on here have combined.

    Unless of course women have gone off pro-surfers/body boarders, and now get there kicks chasing dudes who sit on computers all day in the safety of their living rooms.

    He was obviously of young man of passion and talent, i'm sorry he had to leave the party so early.....

    April 20, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Magic Jew

      Evolution doesn't act on individuals instantaneously, it acts on populations over time. If we were all professional body boarders and some of us had say a skin pigment that makes it difficult for sharks to spot us and others didn't, those without that skin pigment would more frequently die off before spreading their genes than those with the skin pigment, so the skin pigment would become more prominent in our population over time.

      This is an example of a random effect that can also influence the evolution of a population. Not natural selection at work. People think evolution is all about survival of the fittest, when in reality the environment plays a huge factor, but random death and migration also plays a significant part.

      April 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big G

      Right on Gave... you hit the nail on the head.

      April 20, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. BRod

    Oh please! Stop blaming the shark attack on anything but being in the wrong place at the wrong time! South African coastal waters are extremely dangerous. Everyone knows this. White sharks are there. White sharks have ALWAYS been there. Stuff like this is going to happen occasionally. Especially to people who spend a lot of time in the water. He knew the risk he was taking. Rest in peace.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • sharky

      Chumming did NOT cause the sharks to be there. Sharks are in THEIR WATERS. Sharks follow food sources, they were always in that area, chumming did nothing aside from bring them to the boat to actually then research and do whatever. If no chumming happened, it wouldn't make them go away.

      April 20, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jason

    I suggest that they go find and kill the sharks in the area. You don't want a shark that likes to eat humans on the lose.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carrie

      It's that kind of logic that leads to the endangerment of some of the world's greatest top predators. People with the view that you stated need to gain some perspective and knowledge. I do not care what you believe, but the world was not created to just serve humans.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Philip

    Did chumming have anything to do with drawing-in this Great White, the headline asks. No. Throwing bucketfuls of dead meat and blood into the water probably just scared-off the smaller sharks. Ge'e'e'e'e'e et a clue. 🙂

    April 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave

    Why are some people so self-destructive? Why would anyone in their right mind go into water where there are large animals ready to kill and eat anyone? You have to respect nature.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Do you drive?

      April 20, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kana

      you have a better chance of dieing from electric shock than being killed by a shark. Yet you still use electric devices.

      April 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. HadItComing

    The shark was simply retaliating for all the shark finning that takes place in the world oceans. No harm, no foul in my humble opinion. This shouldn't even be on CNN. This stuff is certainly not news worthy.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Fred54

    Sharks have to eat and they are much more of an endangered species that Humans. Whats the problem??

    April 20, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Philip

    @Dave 6:54. You seem to be under the impression that it's safer for a surfer dude to skateboard through south central Los Angeles than to surf the worls's oceans. (Or for a young boy growing up in compton dreaming of swimming with dolphins) Even here in Colorado I guarantee you those Bull Elk and Mountain Lion are friendlier than the 5 points district in Denver even today.

    April 20, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
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