When one of the world’s best paddles out at your home break, it’s only natural that someone would aspire to capture the action from a unique vantage point. So, when Jordy Smith paddled into idyllic conditions at South African surfer Brad Mommsen’s favored setup just south of Durban, Mommsen grabbed his drone, buzzing the lineup from high above the verdant, heavy waves.
While he was able to stack some solid surf clips, the scene he captured from the sky was quite a bit more precarious than the waves had let on.
“I’m usually out surfing and not doing things like this, but this day I knew Jordy was out there and I wanted to see if I could get a clip of him tearing up my favorite wave,” Mommsen recalls. “As I changed my drone’s camera angle to face directly below it, the glare from the reflection of the sun went away and I got to see right through the water. The first shark sighting was like ‘whoa’ and then I saw there were actually five different sharks all swimming around together. That was pretty gnarly.”
The footage above/below is indeed gnarly, as massive Apex predators swim underneath surfers in the lineup, apparently unaware of (or disinterested in) the sharks’ presence. We recently caught up with Mommsen and asked him to provide some context to this absorbing (and frightening) footage.
Is the area known to be relatively sharky?
Yes there have been numerous shark sightings over the years especially in this area and its surrounds.
Did the surfer’s know there were sharks swimming so close?
Apparently one of the guys said they thought they saw one shark so a couple of them got skittish. You can see in the clips a few of them huddle together and some scramble in on a wave. But I don’t believe any of them knew to what extent the actual shark activity was in the water.
Have there been attacks in the area?
No I don’t believe there has ever been a report or incident of a shark attack around these parts.
But you weren’t surprised to see the sharks when you were filming?
To be honest, it’s not surprising considering there was a huge shoal of sardines getting smashed by sharks about 50 meters past backline.
Did filming this make you hesitant to paddle out at this spot in the future?
No not at all. I’ve surfed here all my life. I’ve seen sharks here a lot. We all know they’re there. It’s like saying you’re never going to step into nature because there are wild animals there. On this particular day I decided not to go out because of how much activity there was, but I definitely would have paddled out if I hadn’t seen it with my drone.
I’m very stoked there was no negative aspect to this footage, a lot of the guys in the water are friends of mine and I was very concerned for them at the time. But looking at the footage a couple of times shows that there is a distinctive inquisitive nature to sharks and that they actually check us out a lot without us even noticing. If you look closely at the activity they look more afraid of us than we do of them. They dart off when someone moves or paddles and they keep a distance for sure. The general populations knowledge of sharks makes us indefinitely afraid of them but they’re possibly one of the most misunderstood creatures. I will always continue to be wary, but it won’t keep me out the water, especially when the surf is firing.