Paddleboarder's close encounter with hammerhead shark

Malea Tribble was performing in a long-distance endurance paddle challenge when the shark appeared.

A paddleboarder had a "rare" encounter with a great hammerhead shark while completing a long-distance endurance paddle challenge in the Gulf Stream between Florida and Bahamas.

Malea Tribble stood a lonely figure in her wetsuit against the empty horizon when a "tall dorsal fin" popped out of the water behind her, so close it could have been mistaken as a piece of her paddleboard.

The paddleboarder can be seen in her wet suit with a dorsal fin behind her board.
The paddleboarder was initially oblivious to the shark before her husband pointed it out to her and helped her get safely to the boat. Source: Facebook/CrossingforCysticFibrosis

Her husband, sitting on her support boat at the time, was the first to spot their new visitor and was able to "calmly give his wife direction", manoeuvring her safely into the boat without incident.

"None of us felt unsafe. We felt calm. I didn't have time to allow myself to be scared," Malea said after completing the challenge.

"I faced a huge fear of mine, and came out stronger than I ever thought I would be, and in reality it was not as scary as I anticipated."

Great hammerhead sharks in Australian waters

Although hammerhead sightings are rare in the US, with only a few recorded in the area where Malea was paddling, sightings are frequent in Australian waters.

Great hammerhead sharks are the largest species of hammerhead and have been spotted off the coast of WA, Northern Territory, Queensland and NSW.

Their distinct hammer shaped head make them unmistakable, with their head width around 25 per cent of their total length, which can reach up to six metres.

Their hammerhead is advantageous for hunting, with their wide-spaces eyes, nostrils and electroreceptors (which allows the animal to detect electric fields emitted by prey) to aid their ability to survive, according to the Australian Museum.

There have been no human fatalities recorded from a hammerhead shark in Australia, however, they are now listed as endangered.

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