We get a lot of customer submitted content but recently we received something we haven’t gotten from anyone else previously. TJ Varner is an avid paddler and like any other normal day he pumped up his 10’ inflatable SUP and went for a not so ordinary paddle. What he saw next is some people’s worst nightmare but for TJ he was calm and collected while he filmed the shark underneath his board. After watching the video we had some questions for TJ and wanted to know a little bit more. Listen to how TJ describes that particular day in the interview and then watch the video at the bottom of the page.
*This picture was taken right in front of where the hammerhead shark was spotted.
Can you describe that day on the water leading up to the shark sighting?
We were at Destin Beach in Florida on Wednesday July 29th. It was around 10:00 A.M. that we saw the shark and the water was really calm. I went out early that morning with my 4 year old nephew so we could hopefully see some cool sea life. Luckily there was no shark at that time. We came back to get some breakfast and headed back to the beach around 9:00 A.M. We were hanging around the beach when a helicopter started circling the water maybe 40 feet out “This was a clue something cool was in the water”. I was about to head out and debated if it was worth “getting eaten by a shark”. We saw a huge shadow in the water headed toward some snorkelers and I decided it was time to get out there and help get the snorkelers out of the water.
Did you see the shark right away or did it sneak up on you?
I told the snorkelers to get into shore now that there was a shark in the water no more than 20 feet from them. Since I was already out there and had my GoPro I thought I might as well get a video of the shark. I paddled closer to the shark and there were a few other paddle boarders helping warn people in the water of the shark. I paddled as close to the shark as possible and dipped the GoPro in the water as it was headed toward me. I heard my sister-in-law yell from the beach “Don’t lose a thumb”. I was hoping the shark would swim right under the board so I could get a good video of it but it veered off. The other paddle boarders and I continued down the beach warning people until the shark headed out to deeper water.
How big do you think the shark was?
The shark from above water looked to be as big as my board “10 ft”. I was expecting the underwater video to make the shark look much smaller but after seeing the video the shark still looked about 8 or 9 ft.
Where did the shark go? Did he stick around or leave after you filmed him?
The shark swam up and down the beach for about 20 minutes until it went to deeper water. I came back to our condo to upload the video so I could see how big it was and as I was uploading the video I looked back at the beach and people were pointing and out of the water. We could see its shadow swimming and I was a little upset that I wasn’t out there to get more video. I later attached a GoPro mount to my Isle Paddle in case the shark would come back.
Were you scared at all?
When I first got in the water and headed for the shark and snorkelers I was a little nervous about what would happen if the shark were to bump me off my paddle board. After I got out there the adrenaline kicked in and I was super excited to have this view of a shark. We are from Oklahoma and can only see about 1 foot down in our lakes let alone see an 8 to 9 foot hammerhead shark. I was more excited than scared.
What was the sharks behavior like? Docile or agitated?
The shark seemed to be pretty docile which helped calm my nerves and allowed me to capture a pretty good video.
Do you tend to see a lot of sharks around those parts?
I am not sure how many sharks come around this area. This is the 4th year in a row we have been to this beach and have never seen a shark before. This was my first experience seeing a shark and it was awesome because I was less than 10 feet from it.
How do you like your Isle iSUP?
I just bought my Isle Inflatable SUP about 3 months ago and I love it. I will never forget my first experience with the Isle iSUP and the Hammerhead shark.