Nineteen-year-old Nat Drummond was competing in a kayak-like surf ski race off the coast of Adelaide, Australia, when a shark bit a hole through his vessel, tossing him into the ocean.
“My ski just kind of lifted above the water, and the next thing I knew, I was in the air,” Drummond tells Richard Wood of 9News. “And then I was in the water. I saw this figure just fall back into the water. It was a big shark.”
Drummond, a “surf life saver” water safety volunteer since he was six years old, quickly disconnected himself from the leg rope that tethered him to his surf ski. He swam toward his competitors, who raced to help.
“All the paddlers in this event are surf life savers,” Craig Burton, the South Australian Ocean and Surf Ski Paddlers race director, tells the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Imogen Hayne. “When something like this happens, they turn into rescue mode, and it was fantastic the way they got him onto their surf skis and safely returned him to shore.”
Drummond was unharmed, though he tells reporters he was lucky—the shark had bitten the ski right where his legs were, writes the Washington Post’s Jonathan Edwards. Officials don’t yet know the size and species of shark, though they suspect it was a great white. They sent off samples of tooth and flesh collected from the surf ski for analysis.
Fellow competitors pulled a 19-year-old to safety and his surf ski after a Great White Shark took a bite out of it, showing just how close it got to the teen.— 9News Adelaide (@9NewsAdel) October 23, 2022
He was attacked during a surf ski race, off Adelaide’s Seacliff Beach.#9News pic.twitter.com/wo3UJbDUc2
Shark bites are incredibly rare, and deaths from sharks are even less common. The odds of an American dying from a shark are about 1 in 3.7 million, Christine Mai-Duc wrote for the Los Angeles Times in 2015. That chance is much smaller than dying from a lightning strike (1 in 79,746) or from a fireworks-related incident (1 in 340,733). In 2021, there were 11 shark-related fatalities, with nine classified as unprovoked, across the globe. The average is about five unprovoked deaths per year.
Sharks are not even among the world’s deadliest animals. Globally, mosquitoes kill the most humans out of any other creature, because they carry diseases such as malaria, dengue, West Nile, yellow fever, Zika and chikungunya, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Elephants, hippos, snakes and scorpions all cause more human deaths per year than sharks do, per BBC Wildlife’s Leoma Williams.
The surf ski event “was an absolute freak accident,” Drummond tells 9News. “One of those one-in-a-million things that happened. I might go and buy a lottery ticket.” He tells reporters the incident shouldn't put others off from going out on the water.
“We really don’t see this very often,” marine scientist Lauren Meyer tells Kimberley Pratt of 7News. “I’m surprised. It’s not that common.”
Still, Surf Life Saving SA writes in a Facebook post that “it’s a timely reminder to always swim where surf life savers can assist and to always be in the water with a mate in case you get into trouble.”