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. fearmonger

    People take risks. A freak accident happened. It's sad but it's an accident. Deal with it and get over it.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. doopleItela

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    April 21, 2012 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
  3. gsp

    Shark Wins Championship By Killing Body Surfer

    April 21, 2012 at 3:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. doopleItela

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    check out their site

    April 21, 2012 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
  5. hoosierdaddy22304

    This is why you should never surf or swim alone. Always take your favorite Chum with your. And send him in first.

    April 21, 2012 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. Rebel Without a Clue

    The shark was White !! I'm absolutely positive this was a racially motivated killing !!

    April 22, 2012 at 2:21 am | Report abuse |
  7. govspy

    Explain to me why surfing or body-boarding is "important."

    April 22, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  8. govspy

    Could the headline read: Great white shark kills championship bodyboarder; did flailing around in the water like a wounded animal attract beasts?

    April 22, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  9. govspy

    For everyone saying what the risk factor of being eaten by a shark is, I suggest you take another look at that statistic and ask, what is the risk factor of being eaten by a shark if you are a surfer. I bet the odds change quite dramatically. I've never been to the ocean, so I'm guessing my odds are pretty slim. But if you splash around like a wounded seal, don't be surprised when you're missing some essential parts.

    April 22, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Sevinthseal

      If you've never been to the ocean, then perhaps you should ask your mommy to take you some day. Sharks feed at dusk and dawn, unless encited to do otherwise. Chumming provoked this attack, and it was irresponsible to do so. A kid was killed and the best you can do is speculate from your farm in Idaho about shark behavior. Personally, I blame your mother.

      April 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tim

    I hate when people brush this off and say "do you know the minute percentage it is to get killed by a shark".. This 20 yo young man with a promising future, a son, is gone and died a horrible death infront of his loving parents.

    The things that should be asked, besides the chumming, is how can they better protect bodyboarders from these tragic lethal attacks.

    Prayers to the family, and the poor kid that lived his last minutes of life in horror. Christ is with him.

    April 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son.

      Where was Christ when he was being eaten?

      April 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. govspy

    "how can they better protect bodyboarders from these tragic lethal attacks."

    Tell them to find a new hobby.
    Take away their bodyboards.
    Tell them to stop swimming in shark-infested waters, you know, like the OCEAN.

    April 22, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • peter griffin

      How about research and development into shark repealing suits....electro-magnetics and whatnot

      April 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Wyatt

    This is really unfortunate but is a risk with body boarding and surfing. South Africa as far as shark attacks go is one of the worst areas. All sports have their dangers and this guy was really unlucky which again in unfortunate. I hope this doesn't spark a shark cull.

    April 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • LosCar727

      More shark attacks in florida...

      April 23, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. yahmez the mad

    My family used to chum the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, to catch and release sharks. We were ten to twenty miles from shore, and with an outgoing tide, before we would lower the buckets. It is very irresponsible to do it close to shore where there are populated beaches.

    April 22, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • 2tor

      Same, usually go 60-80 miles out in the Gulf.

      April 22, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Maui

    If there are sharks living there, it's because there is a food source – that pre-dates the chumming.

    April 22, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Quint

    Here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women.

    April 22, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
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