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. TL

    Anyone that surfs knows there is a risk of sharks. Then again, anyone that drives a car knows there's a risk of an accident. Or crashing in an airplane, hitting a tree skiing, drowning while swimming, falling while hiking, getting hit and going paralyzed playing hockey/football, and on and on. In other words, you can either participate in life and do the things you love, take some chances, or you can sit in your parents basement, on the computer, playing video games or watching Jerry Springer, alone, and be perfectly safe the rest of your life. Personally, I will take my chances with life.

    I feel sorry for the pain the family is feeling, but they can take some comfort in knowing that their adult son died doing what he loved.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |

      Died doing what he loved? He didn't die from surfing. He died from class IV hemorrhaging due to a severed leg associated with a Carcharodon carcharias bite.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  2. tony

    Of course, if he had been a gun carrying NRA member, he would have been able to "Stand his ground".

    April 20, 2012 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      The shark just wanted some skittles and iced tea, he didn't do nuthin

      April 20, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. Duane

    Ok that gave me the chills in such a bad way. I used to surf when I was younger and this was always a fear. I could not imagine his last moments in life, so very tragic. The sea can be cruel and she showed this to remain true

    April 20, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • David in Corpus

      I quit surfing for the same reason. All it took was that one time a mako rubbed up against my leg from out of nowhere. Felt like sandpaper and just about gave me a heartattack. I couldn't even paddle in for fear, just laid on my board with all my appendages out of the water and let the surf push me in.
      No more than waist deep now, lol.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  4. Idol Girl

    @Pedo Bear,

    I'm just getting the point across to you and others who make humorous posts that laughing about someone's death is a mean hearted thing to do.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |

      So you are admitting my remarks are humorous? I guess that makes you a hipocrite for laughing at such remarks as well. 😛

      April 20, 2012 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
    • David in Corpus

      Although I do agree girl, in general, life is supposed to be cruel, just like the sea. There is an old saying here in Texas, 'sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying'.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  5. TL

    @Pedo Bear – Try getting out of your parents basement and do something useful with your life, other than talk about assulting little kids with Zombie MJ. Maybe you both need to be reported?? Pathetic trolls

    April 20, 2012 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |

      You're post a little off topic, but I will still appease. Please point to one instance of when I mentioned anything about assaulting kids.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. bklynbridge

    those who swim in water where there are sharks are taking a serious risk just like those who camp where grizzly bears live take a serious risk. Most times you don't encounter the predator in their environment but when you do, death is a very real possibility. I'm sure he knew this so RIP and my condolences to his family and friends.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. Chris

    Caused by cage diving, chumming and shark tagging? Search facebook for the 'Shark Men' page. Disgusting

    April 20, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  8. Vladi

    But what about the board, is the board ok?!

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

      An international search and rescue effort is underway in the hopes of saving the lost board.

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

    @ PEDO BEAR, it didnt say he died FROM surfing, they said he died DOING what he loved to do which WAS SURFING! Looks like that care bear convention is happening none to soon dude!

    April 20, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |

      Perhaps you should re-read my post:
      "Died doing what he loved? He didn't die from surfing. He died from class IV hemorrhaging due to a severed leg associated with a Carcharodon carcharias bite."

      Surfing was his love, not bleeding out from a shark bite.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  10. CAsch

    Died doing something he loved? What, screaming and fighting off a shark is something he loved?

    April 20, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  11. Guest

    Sharks do that.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. Idol Girl


    I don't find them funny at all. I find them mean and am certainly not laughing at them.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  13. Idol Girl

    @Pedo Bear,

    I'm rolling my eyes in disgust at your comments.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |

      You're welcome.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  14. Justin

    That shark literally had a Breakfast of Champion

    April 20, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |


      April 20, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Austin

      He died doing what he loved: screaming while being devoured.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • T. Lee

      Sooooo infantile.

      Maybe because your mommie didn't have her maternal iodine deficiency tended to while you were forming.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Big Shark

      lol good one!!

      April 26, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. GoldenGod

    What a horrifying way to go. It is a risk all surfers are aware of, but still – horrible way to die. As an avid Scuba diver and spear fisher I certainly have a healthy respect for the wildlife and the power of the ocean – no mercy down there.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
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