GREAT WHITE SHARK ACTIVITY
From the near fatal Great White Shark Attack at San Onofre weeks ago and the OC Sheriffs Helicopter warning a paddle boarder of being in the middle of a pack of 15 sharks to personally seeing sharks thrash around the water 10 feet or less from the sand and the OC Register report of a shark at Thousand Steps Beach, the danger has become very real to this South Orange County Body Boarder and ocean enthusiast. A friend in Laguna Beach had suggested that there was a sighting at Aliso Beach several weeks back and I immediately drove up to Aliso to speak with a lifeguard supervisor who was unaware of any sighting. That day curiosity got the best of me and I headed to Capo Beach where there has been many daily sightings over the last several weeks. Sure enough, I got to see them in the surf zone at a spot I have paddled out at in years past. I was moved by the fear of a friend of mine who has been in the San Clemente to Laguna community as a former professional body boarder for the bulk of his life. I would like to acknowledge Joe Grodzen and I wanted to relay the sentiment of what he said on Facebook. He spoke of his deep ties to the ocean and those of his wife Keila whom is also a former professional body boarder. Raising a young boy and giving him the gift of beach and surfing culture, it is not lost on Joe how concerning the rash of shark sightings from San Onofre to Long Beach, California is. Joe for the most part is a very unflappable, competitive and in the moment kind of personality. What he said was very raw and very real. Reading his thoughts, I was affected by the fear he had related to the presence of these sharks in what perhaps is a new normal along our coastline with regular visits. He echoed the sentiment that he may have to give a second thought to being in the water to keep he and his family safe. Joe has been at this far longer than I have, and to hear a man that has spent nearly every day of his life since he has been old enough to walk in local ocean waters express a genuine concern for his safety, it definitely caught my attention.
Still trying to process the swarm of so many sharks in the area, I did return a second time to Capo Beach noticing the shark warning signs, and eventually seeing one splash around 10 feet or less from shore. It is probably not a good idea to be in the water at all at Capo. Rumor has it that boats and perhaps kayakers are chumming the waters to attract the sharks. Some of these boats are alleged to be whale boats capitalizing on the presence of these toothy new inhabitants of Capo Waters. Any reasonable human being should not approve of throwing blood and guts into the water near shore for commercial gain, capturing footage or taking photographs. This is a really bad idea that may contribute to a fatality and should be stopped immediately. My hope is the lifeguards and authorities can identify those perpetrators and force them to stop. As far as I can see that is harassment of a federally protected shark but what do I know. If this is being done please stop this very reckless behavior.
Since I spend more time at Salt Creek and the coves of Laguna Beach, I felt like I was relatively safe in the zones I like to play in. Given the explosion of shark numbers close to shore in San Clemente and Capo Beach, the idea that there are no great whites near shore at Salt Creek and Laguna Beaches rests on quicksand. It simply doesn’t hold. A Laylan Connelly, Orange County Register Article, shattered my idealized safe zones with a shark spotting at South Laguna’s Thousand Steps Beach and the mention of a shark advisory at Salt Creek. Say it isn’t so! I don’t know what I am going to do personally and I am feeling like I may put myself on a self-imposed time out, and as Joe Grodzen so eloquently said, what are we going to do? Ocean enthusiasts have built their lives around washing away all that ails them in the ocean and doing something athletically that keeps them happy. I don’t know the answer to this question, and I suppose time will tell. Having paddled way out at Salt Creek and sitting in the kelp paddies, I admit that I have thought about the unseen below that perhaps I don’t want to know is there. The ocean and local waters are home to the Great White Shark, but I cannot say that in over the 30 years I have spent time in these waters, that this is normal in any way shape or form. How I feel about this situation will in no way dictate the behavior of sharks and where they choose to set up shop. While I pray that their presence will come to pass and they head out to deeper waters, their continued presence could put a damper on what little ocean time I have as it is. Having had a fin pop up on me in Baja while body boarding alone at a northern stretch of La Fonda, I really don’t want to find myself in that situation again. Fortunately, a well-timed set arrival got me out of there before I could stare into the intentions of presumably a Great White Shark…and I prefer that to be the last time I find myself in the water with one.
I would like to take a moment to thank my friend and artist Whitney L. Anderson, a brilliant painter and collage artist residing in Seattle, Washington.