A 10-year-old boy became the star of South Carolina’s Governor’s Cup of Surfing when he survived an encounter with a shark.
And despite the Jaws-like incident, Tyson Royston’s dad said surfing is his son’s “passion,” and he will be back in the water soon.
With hundreds of people watching, Tyson Royston swam out at Folly Beach with six others to compete in the boys final division Sunday, says Nancy Hussey, co-director of the Southern South Carolina District of the Eastern Surfing Association. But the competition came to halt when an 8-foot bull shark came after Royston’s surfboard.
“All of a sudden, we realized something was wrong,” Hussey said. “We even on the boardwalk could see that it was a shark.”
The animal snapped at Royston’s leash – a cord every surfer wears around his ankle to tie him to his board. Royston was pulled underwater and his surf board went straight up in the air, perpendicular to the water.
“Somehow, I don’t know how, he had the presence of mind to take off his leash,” Hussey said. “He got away, and the shark was tangled up in the leash.”
Royston’s coach Bob Weaver swam out to rescue his student. “He threw the boy into a wave and Tyson swam to safety, not a scratch on him,” Hussey said. The board washed up to shore not long after.
Royston was shaken by the event, but is doing fine now, according to his father.
“He said he would definitely be looking at things differently in the water,” said William Royston. “But he’ll definitely be jumping back in.”
After the shark encounter, the competition was cancelled for the evening.
“There was no way I was going to put anyone back in the water immediately after that,” Hussey said. “I think we dodged a bullet and it was a blessing.”
Hussey maintains that while the incident was serious, she said it was not a shark attack. “This was just an encounter,” Hussey said. “That was a bull shark, and they’re really aggressive and if it had wanted to attack, it would have been a very different outcome.”
Hussey said the association is vigilant about keeping its competitors safe. “It’s the Atlantic Ocean. It’s not a pool and the water isn’t super clear, so unless you see a fin you won’t know they’re there, ” Hussey said. “But we have lots of lifeguards and very experienced surfers.”
Hussey said there are several big surfing events coming up in the next few weeks, and the three cancelled events from Sunday’s competition will be also completed on a later date.
When that next competition comes, Royston will be there. “It’s his passion,” said the boy’s father. “I’m sure whatever the next contest is, he’ll be in it.”