PHOTOS: Esperance surfer approached by shark at crowded West Beach

NEW photos have emerged of a local surfer's close encounter with a shark at West Beach on September 21.

The photos depict lone surfer Andy Johnston, who was approached by the shark after failing to return to shore.

Alerted to the shark by car horns sounding from the car park above, most surfers scrambled onto the reef but onlookers watched in fear for the one surfer who appeared to linger in the water.

One of those onlookers was Tasmanian tourist Frits de Bruyn, who snapped the photos from West Beach car park and described the moment as "surreal".

After the incident, Mr Johnston said his casual approach to the shark was a decision made on adrenaline.

"I'd rather try to hold my ground against it and not freak out and make a commotion," he said.

"It seemed just curious and I didn't want to give it a reason to chase me so I tried to behave casually and keep an eye on it.

"But I didn't know it came up quite so close as I was paddling into the wave to come into the beach with the other lads."

Mr Johnston came to the reef briefly before returning to the water to surf the break alone.

He said he didn't think the shark posed a threat.

"It wasn't that big, it looked smaller than a dolphin," he said.

"If you're going to say a shark is a threat every time you see one, well that's not true.

"They're doing their thing and we're doing our thing.

"I probably have a higher risk of breaking my neck on that reef than the shark causing me harm.

"If you're going to get chomped then you're going to get chomped - there's nothing you can do about it."

Mr Johnston said he had heard criticism implying his behaviour was irresponsible as there were so many people watching the incident.

He said he understood in retrospect that if things had gone badly it would have been traumatic for people on the beach.

"But I wasn't thinking about the general public," he said.

"I was focused on what was right there and what was going on."

What would you do in the same situation? Comment below or send your thoughts to jesse.mp@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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