Sharks, whales spotted during surf marathon

More than 200 competitors took part in the George Bass Surf Marathon on Saturday - with some company from the sea.

Ski paddlers and rowing crews reported seeing a whale, five or six sharks along the way and a flying fish hit a rower right in the head.

Paul Buttel from Mount Saint Thomas saw a shark, about two-metres long, near Tura Beach on Friday.

"The shark popped up and I paddled very quickly away," he said.

"One of the other fellows in the race reported that a shark circled his ski.

"Fortunately I was moving quickly. It looked like a whaler but I'm not sure exactly.

"It's the second one we've seen over the last couple of days."

The Wanda surf lifesaver said conditions throughout the race were very severe.

"We've had horrendous conditions. It couldn't have got any worse in terms of how difficult it's been," he said.

"We've been paddling into the wind rather than with it. They've said it's the most difficult Bass they've had."

Even so, Mr Buttel enjoyed the atmosphere and looked forward to the next race in two years.

It was the first time he completed the race but his third attempt at the marathon.

"The first time I did three days and then my mother-in-law died," he said.

"Then the second time around, my podiatry practice in Wollongong burnt down the week before [the race]."

The 35-year-old lifesaver finished third out of the ski paddlers.

"I have lots of experience in the ocean," he said.

Mr Buttel has been a lifesaver for 30 years, since he was a five-year-old, he said.

"My parents wanted me to learn how to be safe in the ocean and surf lifesaving is the best and most fun way to do that," he said.

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