Monday, October 12, 2009
5 Questions About Surfing With Sharks
Have you ever been surfing? Guess what - there have been sharks near you. I had some interesting experiences with fellow water lovers over the weekend and was inspired to write this interview with the surfer/diver that I know the best. Me.
1. Really, there are sharks in the water where people surf?
Um, yeah…people surf in the ocean. Sharks live there. It is their “house” or “neighborhood” if you will. I’ve seen them myself many times over the years in various sizes and types. In fact, if you spend enough time in the water you will likely see one or more just as you will see seabirds, fish, seals, and dolphin.
Oh, and just because seals and dolphins are cute they’ll still bite you. Seriously. Don’t be an idiot and try to swim with wild animals. If a pod of dolphin swim by and you jump in and there just so happens to be a juvenile with them – guess who just might get attacked? As a human, you would protect your children from unfamiliar creatures, wouldn’t you? So do dolphin mothers. Oh, and those stories about dolphin protecting people from sharks…sure, people claim the stories true and you’ll even find them in the news but I wouldn’t bet on it if I were you. What interest does the dolphin have in you? Use your head. Also, seals are nasty little buggers that will bite your hands and feet. Stay away from them.
2. You mean you’ve seen big sharks in the water?
Yeah, and more than once and in every body of water I have ever been near. I’ve seen hammerheads, nurse sharks, and a variety of others in Florida. I’ve seen white, sand, and thresher sharks here in California to name a few. I’m not sure if the hammerhead or the white shark I saw was bigger. I didn’t try to get too close to either to see just exactly how big they were. Trust me; they were big enough (and quite breathtakingly beautiful).
3. Don’t sharks attack people in the water?
Jaws did a great job of scaring everyone back in the 70s and the legacy lives today. First off, many of surf spots in SoCal that I frequent are not deep enough to have a big shark come in where the surfers are. A really big shark can’t really move around in less than 10-15 feet of water and that is even a stretch more times than not. They don’t like their fins or tails sticking out of the water for the most part in spite of what you see in the movies.
Where the breaching shark was spotted at Sunset last week was much farther out than where surfers generally are and about 30 or so feet deep. Many of the sightings of bigger animals are on the other sides of the buoys from surfers, where this was.
Oh, and if there are seals, you can bet the sharks want to eat them and not you. That is their “regular” diet. When I see a few seals around I always wonder if I will see a shark. I’m a bit superstitious about surfing during what I call “feeding time” also – you won’t find me in the water at dawn or dusk.
4. How come there is so much media coverage about sharks in the water?
It gets viewers.
5. What if I go surfing and the guys in the water tell me they saw a shark?
Well, they’re still in the water, aren’t they? Usually it is just some jerk’s ploy to try to get you to leave so they have more waves for themselves. For example, here is a conversation I had in the water this weekend just after I paddled out:
Dude: I don’t want to scare you but we think we saw a shark breach where that guy is snorkeling by the buoy out there about an hour ago.
Me: Interesting, I guess it didn’t want to eat the snorkeler and he would be such an easy target.
Dude: It looked pretty big
Me: So did it jump out at an angle like on its side? (I asked this since dolphins and sharks have very distinct swimming and breaching patterns and it is unmistakable which is which by these behaviors and by the shape of the fin.)
Dude: Um, yeah it was a shark.
Me: (lying) I saw a couple of smaller sharks right here where we are last week.
Dude: Some guys in Malibu were pulling up little sand sharks.
Me: That is probably what I saw. I saw a really big shark up at Zuma a few weeks ago but I couldn’t tell what it was (lying again).
Dude: Yeah, they’re out there.
Me: The thing is…I don’t have to out swim the shark…I just have to out swim you and make it to shore first.
Dude: … (paddling away from the girl that isn’t afraid of shark talk)