By Ari Hait
LAKE WORTH, Florida (WPBF) — A Fort Lauderdale woman had a close encounter with a hammerhead shark Sunday while in the middle of a long-distance paddleboard trip for charity.
“It definitely kind of gives you a little bit of like, ‘Oh, my gosh. I can’t believe that happened to me,’” said Malea Tribble.
Tribble was part of a group paddle boarding from the Bahamas to the Lake Worth Pier during an event called the Crossing for Cystic Fibrosis, bringing awareness to the disease and raising money for research.
She said they were about halfway through the trip when another guest joined their group.
“I was just kind of doing my thing, and I felt a little bit of a tap on my board, but I thought it was picking up seaweed,” Tribble said. “That happens. You can drag seaweed on your fin.”
But in this case, her paddle board wasn’t the only fin in the water.
The other fin belonged to the hammerhead shark following her.
Video recorded by someone in the accompanying safety boat shows the shark’s fin right near Tribble’s board.
“I saw my husband’s face drop, and I saw him tell the captain to shut off the engine and he then guided me to the boat,” Tribble said. “As soon as he did that, I knew it was a shark.”
Tribble’s husband, Ricky, guided her back to the boat.
“It’s one of those things that you have to trust the people that you’re around. And I just knew to listen,” Tribble said. “My husband jokes that it was the first time that I’ve ever listened to him in my life.”
The video shows Tribble remaining calm the entire time.
She said she was just focusing on maintaining her balance, getting to the boat and away from the shark.
“I saw it once I sat down, because it did go back underneath the board,” Tribble said. “Oddly enough, it actually looked at me. I swear I saw his eye stare right at me.”
Tribble said she believes the shark was just curious about who she was and why she was in the middle of the ocean.
She pointed out that the shark had a number of opportunities to knock her off her board but never did.
Once she was in the boat, Tribble helped guide the other paddleboarder to safety.
They took about a 10-minute break to decide what to do next.
And then Tribble got right back on her board and finished the trip to Lake Worth.
“Just like falling in. You fall in, you get back up,” she said. “You don’t sit there and sulk about falling in. You have to keep moving. It’s the best way to kind of move forward.”
Tribble said people have already asked her if she’ll take place in next year’s Crossing for Cystic Fibrosis.
“Absolutely!” she said with a smile.
Tribble created a donation page for people to help her cause in fighting cystic fibrosis.
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