teens

'My son surfs in shark infested waters and there's nothing I can do about it.'

Mother-of-one, Carmen McCosker, can catch a glimpse of dolphin pods most mornings in Byron Bay, but lately the sightings in these subtropical waters have become more frightening.

Carmen, who grew up on the far northern beaches and went to surfing camps as a teen, has a 15-year-old son, Ethan, who loves surfing too.

This week on the New South Wales far north coast, a 17-year-old surfer, who once protested against shark nets, was bitten by a shark while surfing at Lighthouse Beach in Ballina.

Cooper Allen survived the mauling from a great white shark to tell rescuers: “You can call my dad, but don’t tell mum yet,” according to The Australian.

Perhaps his mother was worried about him surfing – with good reason.

There have been four serious shark attacks in less than two years on that beach and a Japanese surfer was killed by a shark at nearby Shelly Beach in 2015.

“Since last year’s spate of attacks in Ballina, I no longer let my son surf in the waters I grew up surfing in,” says Carmen.

Ethan, 15, is a local surfer and musician. Image supplied.

The 38-year-old lets her son surf at Byron Bay and Lennox Head "reluctantly" but has completely ruled out Ballina.

"I have been a diver most of my life and have a healthy respect for sharks, in fact I've been diving with them on a number of occasions," she says.

"However, the possibility of a local shark attack has changed from a remote possibility to a very present danger, and most of us now know someone who's been affected by a shark attack in the local community."

The Byron Bay local says she is reluctant to stop her son doing something that he loves and that is also "good for him" and even if she did enforce a ban - he would continue surfing regardless.

The postcard view. Image supplied. 

"Now I check the shark pages routinely if he is going in the water, Dorsal Shark Reports Australia and Ballina Shark Discussion among others," she says.

Lighthouse Beach in Ballina was closed on Tuesday morning but it will re-open when lifesavers deem it safe.

"I always have a level of concern with him in the water now, however, I think by being aware of shark sittings and limiting locations and timing - not dawn or dusk - it makes me a little more comfortable," says Carmen.

"It is something that is always front of mind now, which is just unavoidable."

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