In the surfing world, Reunion Island conjures up terrifying thoughts of shark attacks run rampant: In the past five years, the French island off the coast of Africa has been beset by 18 shark attacks on surfers and swimmers, seven of which have been fatal.
The tropical island, once home to a vibrant surf community due to the abundance of world-class waves and warm waters off its coast, witnessed an exodus of surfers as shark attacks became more frequent. In 2013, the government of Reunion Island issued a ban on all swimming and surfing, which was not lifted until this year, and did not prevent the death of 13-year-old Elio Canestri.
Flores grew up on the island. Tired of seeing his island held hostage by sharks, Flores recently decided to take on the shark epidemic.
As reported by SURFER, Flores teamed up with his father in an attempt to attract surfers back to the island. Together they worked to implement multiple measures of shark protection across the beaches of the island.
“We all thought we could really help on the island about the shark crisis. We got the first shark net installed on the island just a few months ago,” Flores says in a newly released video from Quiksilver.
The shark nets have so far been a success, and just recently Flores hosted a surfing contest on the same beaches locals were terrified to go to less than a year ago. Now, as shown in the video, people are getting back in the water at Reunion.
“We just wanted to help the island,” Flores says. “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.”
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