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Paddle boarder has close encounter with shark off Florida coast during relay race

'I really thought it was seaweed or I hit something,' Malea Tribble says
paddle boarder Malea Tribble shark encounter crossing for cystic fibrosis.jpg
Posted at 5:28 AM, Jul 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-03 09:33:10-04

LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. — A paddle boarder had a close encounter with a hammerhead shark, and it was all caught on camera.

Last Saturday, Malea Tribble was paddling in the annual long-distance paddle board race for charity, Crossing for Cystic Fibrosis.

It's an event Tribble has been participating for years and her second time paddling.

"We are a CF family," Tribble said. "My husband's uncle passed away from CF in the late '90s."

Halfway through the 80-mile race from Bimini to Lake Worth Beach, Tribble landed in some choppy waters.

"I felt something on my board, but I didn't know what it was," Tribble said. "I really thought it was seaweed or I hit something."

She said it wasn't until her husband's face dropped that she knew it was a shark. But she said she never had time to be scared.

"I didn't know what size the shark was," Tribble said. "I didn't know how close it was. I didn't know if it was under my board. It's very surreal. Never in my life would I have ever thought that I would've had this close encounter."

Her husband, Ricky, said he was the one that first spotted the shark.

"I kind of went into slow motion mode and thought, 'Is that a fin? What is that?'" he said. "I thought it was a dolphin at first."

The shark ended up circling around another nearby paddle boarder before swimming away.

"If that shark wanted to knock me in the water, it could have and it didn't," Tribble said. "So, I kind of look at that like it wasn't there to harm me. It was really trying to figure out what I was. I'm in their territory. I'm in the middle of the ocean."

Malea Tribble speaks about shark encounter
Malea Tribble speaks to WPTV about her shark encounter while paddle boarding in the ocean. "I'm in their territory," she says of sharks.

Tribble was able to get back on the board and finish the race. She said it was a lesson learned when it comes to ocean safety.

"While it was a crazy experience, it's not the norm," Tribble said. "It's a very rare occurrence and I just hope that people look at it as a very strong experience and the right interaction and then continue forward."

Would she ever do it again?

"I will say this, we are not scared," Tribble said. "We are not scared to do this again. We want to get back out there. To us, it's important to bounce back from this scenario and even show other people that it's possible, it's easy to do, and you just have to have the right mindset."