Young surfer shrugs off 2 close calls with sharks

akelley@thesunnews.comSeptember 3, 2013 

— Tyson Royston's eagerness to get back to the waves is surprising, even to his mother.

Christie Royston said her 11-year-old son asked to go surfing a day after a shark encounter during a surf competition in Folly Beach two weeks ago. Tyson was not injured and his board was not damaged by the shark, identified as an 8-foot bull shark.

He did end up spending a full day out of the water, but it wasn't his decision.

"I told him I need a day,'' Christie Royston said. "I just need a day away from the beach.''

Tyson said he was sitting on his board with nine minutes left in his heat when the shark became entangled in the leash that connects a surfboard to a surfer's ankle.

"It pulled on my leash and my board went straight up,'' Tyson said.

That's when he fell off the board and onto the shark, he said, and somehow remained calm enough to simply unhook the leash.

The shark, he said, felt smooth and strong.

He admitted being scared and wasn't sure how he stayed calm, but said the Junior Lifeguard program he participated in at Seaside Elementary School last year helped.

The bull shark at Folly Beach wasn't Tyson 's last encounter. While surfing in Garden City Beach, using the same board and leash, after school last week he saw another shark and hurried to get out of the water.

Christie Royston said the whole family is simply trying to keep sharks out of their mind.

"It's so unnerving,'' she said. "I'm still uneasy. We know they're there; we know that's their home.''

But, she said, she couldn't let her nerves get in the way of his love for the water and the sport since he felt ready to surf again.

"I'm so glad he didn't give up,'' she said.

Tyson competed again in Virginia the second to last weekend of August where he finished fourth, and he'll be at it again Saturday during the Eternal Wave Surf Off at 13th Avenue South in Surfside Beach.

The event hosted by the Eternal Wave Surf Shop and The Northern South Carolina Eastern Surfing Association starts at 8 a.m.

Tyson said he loved surfing as soon as he tried it at age 5, and hopes to be known for his skill on the board, not for his encounter with the shark.

"I just want to surf,'' he said.

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