After I heard this I decided to do some shark research today. A 50 year water man in Laguna Beach said online today there was a shark sighting at Aliso Beach. He also said that in all his years that he had never heard of a shark reported in the intertidal zone of Laguna Beach. To be clear, this reported sighting is unconfirmed, but you can appreciate that as the owner of the Aliso Beach website and an avid body boarder that has spent a ton of time at Aliso and neighboring Laguna beaches, I am simultaneously concerned and intrigued by the recent hot spots for sharks at San Onofre, Poche Beach, Capo Beach and Long Beach.
When I got to Aliso Beach this afternoon, I got my parking pass and wasted no time finding the lifeguard supervisor. He was a cool guy, and I am sure that what I asked him is something that has been asked since Orange County News showed a helicopter warning a paddle boarder that he or she was in the middle of a pack of as many as 15 Great White Sharks in the surf zone. When I informed him that I had a question for him, I told him that I didn’t want to shout out my question. As I got closer to him, I very discreetly asked him about the alleged shark sighting. He was unaware of any recent event. They were training aspiring life guards on the beach so I am 100% sure that OC Life Guards would not expose those kids to unnecessary risks. So the mystery deepens as it relates to the alleged sighting of sharks at Aliso Beach. I left the beach assured that there were no issues of Great White Sharks and the absence of media attention, adds to the case that Great White Sharks had not been observed at this popular South Laguna Beach. I did greatly appreciate the time afforded to me by the supervisor and the willingness to discuss the potential issue. He was a cool guy and I trust in what he told me. As he indicated, you would have to be a silly white shark to want to take on the shore break conditions of Aliso Beach. With this news I am sure a talented young skimmer with dreadlocks that frequents this local spot is breathing a sigh of relief. That is just me being funny. I suspect that very few, if any, wave riding enthusiasts had heard about this shark sighting at Aliso Beach. Shark research was to continue as I got back onto S. Pacific Coast Highway and headed south.
When I got to Capo Beach, I immediately noticed the traffic stand barriers with the shark warnings attached to then. It was one of 3 or 4 I saw lining the beach to warn beach visitors of the presence of Great White Sharks. I must admit this is super freaky, and although I have heard of sharks present in local waters, this fact has not hit this close to home until now. Looking south, I noticed a couple of life guards huddled up by the tower and looking out over the water. I walked up to them and began a conversation about the sharks, and they were definitely there to keep an eye on things and make sure people are informed. As the shark warnings clearly stated, by entering the water you were swimming or surfing at your own risk.
We discussed theories on why the sharks are there. It was a cool conversation. I have always found OC Life Guards to be a class act, and as we talked a shark surfaced and thrashed around a bit. Until that moment, I had never seen a Great White Shark in Southern California waters. I found it surreal. Capo Beach isn’t the best surfing, body boarding or even swimming beach due to a sloping beach, waves crashing right on the sand, and a fair amount of small rocks lining the shore. Nonetheless, life guards were keeping everyone informed and watching for the presence of sharks which numbered 15 several days ago.
I talked to them about how I was following the Great White Shark population resurgence with federal protections extended to them and the seal population which represents meals on the preferred menu for these toothy creatures. Having kept up to date with shark sightings in Southern California, I told them about Ralph Collier and Pacific Shark Committee. Ralph is a leading scientist and expert on Great White Sharks and predatory behavior in North America. The life guards told me that Chris Lowe, the California State University Long Beach Great White Shark expert and researcher, was working with OC Life Guards on tagging the sharks to gain a better understanding of migratory patterns. I was a bit surprised to learn that they were doing the tagging via jet skis. Initially I had asked for a seat in that boat but quickly changed course when I found out that they were doing this on the much smaller and more exposed water vehicles. That is a little too close and not enough protection for this fat, old guy.
Reality is that local Orange County Waters we hold dear as surfers, swimmers and body boarders, are the homes of Great White Sharks. To some extent they have always been there. Perhaps the record rain and runoff combined with cooler waters, spring wind patterns and upwelling are creating perfect conditions for movements in the food chain that have these sharks closer to shore to feed. While I don’t have all of the answers with my shark research, the numerous sightings from Long Beach to San Onofre have definitely captivated me. Let’s hope we do not have any more encounters like we saw at San Onofre where a Vista woman was attacked, bitten and air lifted to the hospital clinging to life. I am pleased to say that she made it. Despite additional surgeries coming and a long road back to as normal a life as she can have given the serious injury to her leg, she is alive and not wishing sharks any ill will.