‘Swimming was his sanctuary,’ say family of Plett shark victim
Bruce Wolov was more fearful of the ‘sharks’ in business than he was of sharks in the ocean, friends say. That was until this prominent Johannesburg stockbroker, 63, died following a shark attack off the coast of Plettenberg Bay last week.
The highly respected portfolio manager and much-loved family man was doing exactly what he loved before he was killed – swimming in the wide-open sea off Sanctuary Beach, his treasured place.
He knew it was potentially dangerous, and in spite of hundreds of cautionary discussions over the years, he remained fearless. He loved sharks so much that he even wore a speedo with a picture of a shark on the back. He swam among sharks for decades in perfect harmony in different waters, where he felt at one with nature.
Swimming was part of his DNA, and Wolov adored the sea. Everyone who knew him, knew this. Being in the water was his happy place, from competing in water polo, deep-sea diving around the world, to long-distance swimming.
Just after 14:00 on Tuesday, 28 June, Plettenberg Bay National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) volunteers were alerted to the incident on Sanctuary Beach following reports by beachgoers.
NSRI rescue swimmers responded to the scene, and rescue craft were launched. Sadly, Wolov had succumbed to his wounds.
The NSRI and Bitou Municipality immediately appealed to all sea users, including paddlers and boaters along the Southern Cape coastline, to exercise caution.
According to the NSRI’s The International Shark Attack File, shark bites are extremely rare around the world, but they do occur.
Wolov knew this, but it didn’t deter him. In the past 10 years, there have been two fatal shark incidents in Plett, including the one that caused Wolov’s death.
Tributes have continued to pour in for the humble husband, father and friend. He was this week described as “a true mensch with a heart of gold”, someone who “lived life to the fullest” and revelled in everyone’s personal achievements and successes. He exuded warmth and sincerity, and personified contentment, according to those who knew him well.
“The large crowd here and on Zoom is testament to his kindness, sincerity and loyalty”, said Rabbi Shmuel Moffson at Wolov’s jam-packed funeral, attended by people from all walks of life.
“When you spoke to Bruce, you felt he was really listening. When you left his company, you felt heard, nourished and good about yourself,” he said.
Bruce was born and raised in Johannesburg into a tennis-loving, sports-mad family of three boys. He took centre stage with his vast sporting knowledge and unwavering obsession for all sports.
He matriculated from King David Linksfield, where he was “one of the brightest” in his class, and would often be the recipient of the victor ludorum for swimming. He obtained a BCom with an honours in finance from the University of the Witwatersrand, and soon his love for the markets and business rivalled his love for swimming.
“He was a fish,” said his younger brother, Dan, earlier this week. “Bruce loved swimming. It was his thing, from the earliest of days, and he was good at it. He was always my staunchest tennis supporter, he watched all my games, knew every result, and always thought I was better than I actually was,” he said.
The family lived in a house in Melrose, which Bruce continued to inhabit with his beloved wife, Jenny, of 36 years, and their three daughters, Erin, 28; Galya, 26; and Sophia, 22.
The couple moved to Plettenberg Bay during the COVID-19 pandemic, where Bruce could work remotely and continue his passion for swimming every day in the sea or at the local pool. A master diver, he made sure that his daughters developed a love for the ocean, and all obtained their scuba diving licenses.
“Some of our best memories are diving together in places like Aliwal Shoal, Protea banks, Maldives, Mauritius, and Plett,” said his daughter, Galya.
“He was my best friend,” said her older sister, Erin, who spoke to their father up to three times a day from her home in Miami.
“Bruce spoke to everyone every day. How he found the time is a mystery,” said Dan.
Wolov’s business partner and close friend for more than 30 years, Jon-Brandan “JB” Bloch, recalls Bruce leaving work regularly in the middle of the day to go for a swim.
“In the early days, he’d go to Ellis Park to swim and later, he’d go home, where he had a 20m long pool and do laps. He’d come back to work refreshed, with a smile on his face,” he said.
Bloch said he would speak to Wolov at least seven times a day.
“We’d talk about everything from the markets, sport, family, to business. Bruce had my back, and I had his. His passing has left an enormous void.”
Bruce was known in stockbroking circles for treating every client the same, whether they invested R20 000 or R60 million. “He loved meeting the chief executives and chief financial officers of listed companies and interacting with them. He loved his work,” said Bloch.
Lifelong friend Dr Rodney Feinberg recalls swimming with his friend beyond the breakers at Robberg. “Seaweed must have brushed up against me one time and thinking it was a shark, I was petrified,” Feinberg says. “Bruce casually allayed my fears. He was so confident in the water, at one with the ocean, and totally fearless.”
Feinberg remembers going to Durban one holiday as young boys, and Bruce swimming on his own beyond the breakers right to the shark nets. “He was 14 years old. We spoke every day, I cannot get my head around the fact that I’ll never speak to him again,” he says.
Lifelong family friend, Michael Nahon, says Bruce made everyone feel special. “If you ended ahead of him in a swimming race, he’d tell you how good you were. He never compared his performance against your performance.
“If you ended behind him, he’d say you had a bad race and next time, you’d beat him because you were the better swimmer. He pumped you up, making you feel better than you were. He was happy for you to do well.”
Nahon describes Wolov as resolute in all his decisions. “Although he was a small guy with an amiable personality, you misread him immediately if that’s how you saw him, because he was enormously resolute in any decisions he took.”
His daughters say they felt blessed, and aspired to have a marriage like their parents had. “He was so passionate about all our dreams, and embarrassingly, kept everyone up-to-date about our lives. We heard how he was like the Pied Piper of people. He used to collect souls, and touched so many people’s lives,” they say.
Ronnie Van ‘t Hof said, “Bruce was my best friend, and there are a number of us who can say the same thing.” After Wolov spoke at Van ‘t Hof’s 60th birthday, a woman came up to his wife and said, “I wish I had a friend like that.”
Wolov is survived by countless friends, his wife, Jenny; their three daughters; his brothers, Lance and Dan, and their families.