Breaching Sharks in California Put Surfers on Edge

California is not known for shark attacks, but the times they are a changing. Two recent displays of breaching sharks at separate locations have some surfers rethinking their dawn patrols.

Traditionally it’s a great idea to hit the surf early before the water turns to chop. But that’s also the time that fish, including sharks, like to feed. When sharks make an especially large strike attempt they can breach clear out of the water, sending their entire body skyward. Some researchers have questioned whether this behavior might also be a form of communication. Needless to say, if you see a shark breach in front of you it’s probably a good idea to get out of the water.

Surfers in Ocean Beach near San Francisco were startled recently to see a juvenile great white shark around seven feet long breach right before their eyes. It was far enough away from the lineup that some people in the water didn’t notice. But a Surfline webcam captured the action on review. No shark attack has ever occurred at the beach, though a surfer was bumped in 2005. Even despite the warning, some guys stayed in the water. Hardcore, eh?

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“I’ve been surfing here 30 years and never seen anything like that,” Nick Masturzo told the web site. “Lots of dolphins, seals…we know they’re there but don’t want to believe it. Like, ‘It’s sandy, there’s no kelp, no giant sea lions, it’s great here.’” 

In another incident, this one in Southern California, surfers competing in a contest at Lowers. The World Surf League contest was postponed when a shark 6-8 feet long breeched right outside the lineup, according to Surfer Magazine. It wouldn’t keep these experienced surfers on the beach for long as they realized the sharks were not after them but much smaller game fish. 

Virtually every shark attack is a mistake. Sharks are extremely timid animals and do not want to be near humans. When Mick Fanning was attacked by a shark during a televised surfing event in South Africa it was believed the shark swam into the surfer’s swim leash causing a startled reaction. A 2015 study determined that the increase in shark attacks may be a result of global ocean temperature changes and a reflection of the increased number of people using the oceans.