If you were to stand on the shoreline of Reunion Island’s ‘Boucan Canot’ beach today, it would be hard to imagine the crowded beach completely empty, however this was a reality only a few short months ago. 18 shark attacks over a five year period dramatically affected the Indian Ocean paradise both emotionally and economically.
“Reunion Island was an amazing place to grow up. It is where I caught my first waves and learnt to surf.” remembers Top 10 World Tour Surfer Jeremy Flores. “It’s paradise. But it’s also where I have lost some of my closest friends. When you look at the stats for shark attacks worldwide, what has happened in Reunion Island in the last 5 years is really heavy.”
These tragedies motivated Jeremy’s family to return to their homeland and embark on a campaign to protect the beaches that have given them so much. By winning a chair in the local council, Jeremy’s father Patrick Flores has been able to initiate a program of shark netting and surveillance that has helped Reunion’s beach lovers get back into the water.
The campaign’s success has been noticed by shark affected communities worldwide including the recently tragedystruck Ballina on Australia’s east coast.
“We just wanted to help the island, we did it for the community. If you look now the beaches are packed, the restaurants are packed and the surf schools are about to reopen…It has affected so much more than the surfers. On a recent trip home, Jeremy hosted the first surf competition in 5 years at the newly protected ‘Roche Noire’ beach. The day finished a huge success seeing generations of Reunion Island locals come together to celebrate change, progress, and most importantly the lives of those that will forever be missed.
“This event was a big success. The ambiance and vibe was better than I expected. Everyone came together, from the youngest surfers to the oldest generation, all sharing waves…Surfing is so much more than a sport. It’s a way of living. A way of being close to nature and living with a passion. The adrenaline that surfing gives us, there is nothing like it. I don’t know what I would do without surfing. It’s the highest high.”