IT is one moment from a lifetime of spearfishing that will not leave Sam Tapp – and he caught it on video.
An eight-minute stretch of video at the weekend managed to capture a great white shark circling Mr Tapp and his diving friends at Edith Breakers on Saturday just minutes after a grey nurse shark bumped into him.
The Newcastle Neptunes Underwater Club member has shared the video in the hope it will encourage inexperienced spearfishers to stay alert to their surroundings the entire time they are in the water.
Mr Tapp said he left Port Stephens with his father Peter and mate Ethan Sutton on Saturday before they hit the water at Edith Breakers, a few kilometres off the coast from Seal Rocks, to search for kingfish.
Exceptionally clear conditions prompted him to turn on a head-mounted camera after the group lost a caught kingfish to a swarm of grey nurse sharks before they could take it off the spear.
Mr Tapp said that experience, which was not caught on camera, prompted the group to take a “second shooter” approach to speed up their retrieval.
“You shoot, your mate puts a second one in and you bring is up as quickly as possible,” he said.
It proved a wise strategy.
Minutes later Mr Tapp was bumped by a curious grey nurse, a shark he expected to see in the area.
While the grey nurse posed no threat he said it was the fact he didn’t know it was there before it made contact that had surprised him.
The unusual angle of his head camera, however, captured the creature’s full approach.
Mr Tapp, who decided to share the video to prompt divers and spearfishers to stay vigilant in the water, said he started filming shortly after a caught kingfish was pinched by a group of hungry grey nurse sharks.
A few minutes later he is diving below the surface when one propels into him, bumping the camera.
Mr Tapp says that while the camera caught the action perfectly he was none the wiser the shark was even there until it struck him.
It was that obliviousness that he said he hoped the videos could discourage.
“It’s like a dog coming over to have a sniff except they have sharper teeth [but] once you are dealing with the fish you stop noticing what’s going on around you,” he said.
The message was driven home moments later after Mr Tapp took a shot at a kingfish and “completely missed”.
That spear comes back a short time later, though – visibly protruding from a nearby great white shark Mr Tapp estimates was about four metres long.
“It was a pretty good sized shark,” he said.
“You don’t see it on the video but I actually poke it on the nose. That’s when it started swimming around us,” he said.
Raising the alarm, Mr Tapp began heading back for the boat.
Audibly calm, he tells his father and mate to head for the boat and attempts to herd the shark away from them.
He said the oceanic predator did not appear interested in attacking the group as much as examining them.
“It was really calm,” he said.
“I didn’t think it was aggressive at all, just curious.
“I’ve been told they feel things with their mouths, but obviously an inquisitive little poke from him is pretty serious.”
“It’s not like Jaws, though.”
The video offers a thrilling insight into a moment Mr Tapp said passed very quickly, but he hopes it works as a warning for divers to stay vigilant.
“I’m not a very good spearfisher, but I am an experienced one,” he said.
“The whole point of the video is to highlight safety and looking out for your mates.”
“That’s the first great white shark I’ve seen in the water while I’ve been swimming, but not the first I’ve seen in the area.”
While he said the swim back to the boat appeared to pass more quickly in the moment, it was his father’s reaction when they watched it later that drove home the excitement.
He said the elder Mr Tapp had been unable to hear him raising the alarm, and only realised the shark had been present once he was aboard the boat.
“He didn’t realize how close I had been,” Mr Tapp said.