“I was terrified of sharks before, now I’m even more scared of their power and speed!”
The last time I had cause to telephone the big-wave charger Justin “Jughead’ Allport he’d blown his lungs and ribs out after getting “fucking annihilated” on a fifteen-foot wave at Tasmania’s infamous Shipstern Bluff.
This morning it’s to fill in the deets on his encounter with a truck-sized Great White shark on Wednesday morning while in southern Australia chasing his favoured big-wave slabs.
Three weeks earlier, at nearby Elliston, a local school teacher was hit and killed by a Great White while surfing a sleepy point with a bunch of kids, his last act to warn others to save ‘emselves and get out of the water.
“It was such a confronting incident. It could have been anyone. The worst part was there was a 13-year-old out there and he witnessed everything,” Millar told Adelaide Now. “There was a bloke on the beach tooting his horn and as I turned around I saw everyone paddling in. I saw his board tombstoning, which means he’s underwater and his board’s getting dragged under … trying to fight his way back up to the surface… He was gone. (We) saw the shark just thrashing around out the back. The shark’s obviously let go and come back and got him for a third time”.
Jug, who’s forty-nine and a firefighter a couple hours north of Sydney at Bateau Bay, said he’s never seen a shark in the wild before, only dead on the beach. That was a twenty-foot White that had been washed onto the sand of a Victorian west coast beach. His pal and said he thought he could get inside of it for a photo but Jug stopped him warning he’d never be able to wear that wetsuit again.
And, so, when a South Oz local said there were a fleets of Great Whites around and maybe he should take the jet skis out and have a squiz at a few hanging off the tuna pens, he thought, yeah, ‘I wanna go have a look.’
It’s a decision that’ll probably haunt the habitué of lonely outer reefs for the rest of his life.
“I’m scared of sharks, yeah, I’m terrified,” says Jug. “But I’d never seen ‘em while surfing and now I’m even more scared of the power, how fast it was. Things hit you when you see one in real life. Everything about it. I know guys who’ve seen Great Whites swim past, how mellow they are, how they don’t get touched, and drone footage of sharks following people, but that thing was so quick, so fast and powerful I shit myself. Anyone who says they’ve been chased by a shark, no you haven’t. If a shark was chasing you, it would eat you. Maybe a shark stalks you, it never chases you.”
Jug says he’s always thinking of sharks. His pal and workmate Tim Doherty, brother of the storied surf journalist Sean Doherty, was surfing at Tuncurry in 2020 when a surfer visiting from Sydney, Mark Sanguinetti, was hit in three feet of water.
“He watched this guy get fully mauled. There were six or eight guys in the water and the guy that saw the shark was the guy that got eaten. He said calmly, ‘There’s a shark I’m going in’ and everyone started slowly paddling in and it took him and Tim was within four metres of the whole thing.”
Another pal, the slab hunter Brett Burcher, was also hit by a shark after moving to Tuncurry-Forster from the NSW South Coast.
“Hit and punched off his board,” says Jug.
With all the shark noise in his head and the visuals of a giant White near where he’d been chasing barrels in South Oz, I jokingly ask if he plans on hitting that coastline anytime soon.
“Thinking about going back down there this weekend, to be honest,” he laughs.