Two Port Alfred surfers didn’t think twice about taking on a great white shark when it attacked their friend and fellow surfer Dusty Phelan off East beach this week. Phelan is recovering in hospital after the Wednesday 10 July incident.
Speaking to Grocott’s Mail the day after, Philip Britz said they’d gone to catch a wave on Wednesday morning.
“It was nice conditions, myself and a bunch of friends. We’d been surfing for a while and everyone had caught a wave except me and Dusty – we were right at the back,” said Britz, who is a former competitive surfer.
It was mid-morning – around 10am when everything changed.
“Dusty was sitting on his board and he slipped off his board.”
At first Britz thought his friend was messing around.
“Then I saw the shark’s fin, and its tail thrashing and I realised what was happening and I saw the shark at Dusty’s leg.”
Britz didn’t hesitate – he quickly paddled up to the shark.
“The shark circled a bit and I pointed my board towards it while I pulled Dusty on to his board.”
Phelan was obviously shocked and Britz tried to push him on to the wave [to catch it]while he turned towards the shark – a juvenile great white.
When Phelan reached the shorebreak, Joao Felizardo, Thomas Vos and Eden Young were among those who ran to help.
One of the bodyboarders on the beach used his leash to strap Phelan’s thigh, by now bleeding heavily. Someone had already called the ambulance and soon Phelan was being carried off on a stretcher and rushed to hospital.
“Dusty was conscious the whole time,” Britz said. “He has lacerations through some tendons, and the shark bit into the muscle on his thigh and lower leg, but he will recover.”
Phelan is in his mid-20s.
Later Phelan’s sister, Sam Divett, posted on the Kowie Boardriders Group, “To anyone I know in the surfing / ocean-loving community, my lil bro Dusty Hugh Phelan was attacked yesterday by a shark whilst doing what he loves most: surfing. His life was literally saved by Phil Britz and Joao Felizardo.
“He is out of theatre and stabilized but his injuries are serious. We are busy setting up a crowd-funding platform for his extensive medical bills and I will update according. “
Family and friends are driving the bid to raise R140 000 for Phelan’s hefty medical bills through GoGetFunding: https://gogetfunding.com/help-dusty/
“It would be great if anyone can contribute who can,” Britz said.
Britz estimates that the baby great white was around 2.5m.
“We’ve seen a shark at East Beach earlier this year, but there wasn’t any serious encounter,” Britz said. “A guy was bumped off his board once, but no one was sure what it was.”
While the beach was officially closed for swimming, Britz had heard surfers were out and back on the waves the next day.
Having seen the attack first-hand, would he think twice about going back into the water?
Britz, who now describes himself as a passionate free surfer, said matter-of-factly, “Nope. I’ll surf when the waves are good.”