Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Great White Shark at San Onofre

What an awesome day! Stand up paddle surfing with no waves.... what to do, what to do? Let's go paddle. Just like yesterdays stand up paddle surf session. With all the shark buzz going around here in southern orange county I wanted first hand knowledge. Up until today I hadn't seen up close (I've seen the dorsal and tail fin) and personal the Great White that all my buddies have had chance encounters with.

Stand Up Paddle Surfers have been pushed down to the south end of San Onofre State Beach, exiled if you will, south of dogpatch. The surf is fickle enough down there with all the deep water spots but when the swell is weak and the tide is wrong it's more or less a lake. Point in case today.

I got bored trying to make believe my 9'6" Ron House SUPS board is actually my 12 footer so I paddle out past the "break" and paddle in semi circles. These aren't random, more of a search pattern. Looking to encounter "fluffy" the San Onofre Great White. I pace patiently out there for 20 minutes or so. Staying over the sandy area looking for a shadow to cruise slowly by. Just as I was about to paddle in I see her. (I'm referring to Fluffy as a her).

That dark shadow I've been waiting for is only a few feet away. How cool is this? I'm standing on the water looking down on a Great White shark. She seemed to be as curious as I was. I paddled over a little closer to try and get an idea of how big she really was. All the reports I've heard from friends have been around the 8 foot mark. Again, I was on my 9'6" SUPS board and she was probably a foot shy, nose to tail, of my board.

For about fifteen minutes we played. There were a couple times where she positioned herself in a way that placed me in a precarious position, which I'll admit was quiet spooky. However most of the time I paddled beside her, both watching what the other was up too. As we kept moving I noticed we were getting into the deeper holes near the power plant and she was popping in and out of the camouflage of seagrass.

At this point I was either under estimating the "tiny brain" of this primitive yet advanced predator and/or pushing my luck. I listened to that "soft tiny voice" in my head and backed off.

I paddled back in complete amazement and respect for this creature that sends fear in the hearts of those when they hear the name, Great White shark. She has probably been in the area for years, silently slipping in and out of the line up unknown to those who prefer to catch waves on their bellies.

All this being said. I'm no shark expect and by any means I do NOT recommend anyone try this, especially if you have a tendency to fall while stand up paddle surfing. We all know the capabilities of a animal of this size, strength and reputation... and if you don't flip on the the Discovery Channel. This was my experience and I thought I'd share it.

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