SUN, sand and surf are the usual attractions of a day at the seaside yet the crowds thronging Sai Kung's Silverstrand beach yesterday were there for one thing only - shark spotting. Despite the thrill of seeing Australian shark-hunter Vic Hislop in the flesh, they were disappointed when the diminutive Antipodean hauled in his hooks still heavy with the bait onlookers had hoped would lure the man-eating shark, thought responsible fortwo fatalities in a fortnight, to its death. A pre-dawn crowd which gathered in anticipation of the Australian angler's antics steadily grew throughout the morning, drawing bemused mutters from bathers who were looked upon as lunatics as they took their morning dip. ''I don't see how they can get in the water after two people have been eaten in less than a month. They must have a death wish or be plain stupid,'' said shark spotter James So Chung-wah. But one of the daily dippers refused to be put off his swim despite the threat of sharks and amazement of spectators. ''I've been swimming at Silverstrand for years and consider it more dangerous crossing the road in Central than swimming here,'' said the middle-aged man before plunging in. Lifeguards said the curious crowd made the beach busier than a usual weekday and predicted pandemonium should a fin appear on the waterline. ''Ninety per cent of the people here aren't regulars and only seem to be interested in watching the water for sharks. ''We are warning the usual swimmers not to go into the sea but most of them are stubborn and refuse to take our advice, although they are swimming in much shallower water than normal,'' said a lifeguard. One hawker appeared at about 2 pm to profit from the crowds and his ice-creams and cold drinks sold fast, proving that for him - as well as Mr Hislop - sharks are good for business. ''I usually work in Sai Kung but realised a lot of people would be here watching out for sharks and as it is a hot day I'm selling a lot of drinks,'' said the hawker. However, despite an array of zoom lenses and high-powered binoculars, the day went by without the sight of a single shark. But this didn't seem to deter the crowds. The usually quiet beach and its surrounds remained packed with people from early morningto late afternoon. Meanwhile, an Agriculture and Fisheries Department spokesman said a close eye would be kept on Mr Hislop's hunt while warnings would be issued to swimmers to stay out of waters still considered dangerous. ''We are not getting in the way of Mr Hislop, who is internationally recognised as an experienced big game fisherman, but we are on no account sanctioning indiscriminate shark-hunting by everyone with a boat and some bait,'' said the spokesman. Beaches in the outer islands and New Territories were still considered too dangerous for swimming yesterday, but the red flag warning of sharks has yet to be hoisted on the southern beaches of Hongkong island. Swimmers intent on braving the seas are advised to take the plunge in the relative safety of Shek O, Stanley, Big Wave Bay, Repulse Bay, St Stephen's, Chung Hom Bay, Deep Water Bay and Turtle Cove.