Monday, January 25, 2010



Every surfer's nightmare

Forget the giant surf and flock of ratings chasing rippers who’ve been shredding our beloved breaks this past week. This year, instead of the heartwarming tale of a local freckled faced prodigy’s career jump starting win, the real story of the O’Neill Coldwater Classic has nothing to do with competition at all. What’s got everyone talking involves a young professional surfer and his first encounter with the baddest local around, the Great White Shark.

This past Thursday, twenty-one year old Eric Geiselman , from New Smyrna Beach, Florida went out free surfing up the coast at Laguna’s, a popular wedge beach break that offers up some fun surf when the waves are small in town. Gieselman, who had a heat the next day, was trying to get a bit of last minute practice in, and was floating on his board when he felt a powerful force smash his board from underneath.

“ I knew it was a shark right away,” recounts Geiselman of his first reaction to the attack. “ The water was swirling and my leg connecting with the thing. It was solid”

The Great White Shark, aka “Whitie”, or “the Man In The Grey Suit”, is perhaps a surfer’s greatest nightmare. Here in the chilly waters of Central California, Great White’s live, reproduce, and eat…a lot. What’s on this hungry hunter’s menu? The staple of this giants menu are Elephant Seals, whose thick blubber and hefty size prove a tasty, filling meal for ‘ol Whitie.

In the past, there have been attacks at Waddell, Davenport, and Scott’s Creek to name a few. The last attack close to Santa Cruz was down in Marina, where twenty-four year old Todd Endris was mauled while surfing. Half Moon Bay surfer Tim West was hit back in 2005 while paddling out to Maverick’s on a small day, but survived with only teeth scrapes on his big-wave gun.

Despite the presence several thousand pound killing machine’s, surfing the assortment of reefs and beach breaks North of Santa Cruz can be extremely rewarding. The waves up north can pack a punch, offering a change of scenery from the weekend crowds of Santa Cruz. When Waddell Creek is overhead and glassy with only a few guys out, sometimes the thought of sharks is the last thing on your mind. Chances are, like Geiselman, you’re going to paddle out no matter what.

So should you worry about being attacked by a shark? Apparently you are more likely to die from a whole range of other things, including toilet related injuries (don t ask), killer bees or, much more likely, being killed in a car crash on the way to the beach. Doctors put more stitches into random cuts on the feet from sharp coral than into shark bites! According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), for the years 1959-2008 there were 84 Shark attacks off the coast of California, and 6 fatalities.

When you break the numbers down, it doesn't even sound as scary as swine flu! While these statistics may embolden local surfers who enjoy surfing in areas where sharks frequent, remember that numbers and averages can be deceiving. Before you paddle out to Ano Nuevo island in your Beef Jerky wetsuit with a bloody nose, take a look at these 12 tips to avoid a shark attack

1) Don't tease or entice sharks. (OK, this isn’t’ t rocket science.)

2) Stay out of the water at dawn, dusk, and night, when some species ofsharks may move inshore to feed on fish. Sharks are well equipped tolocate prey even when visibility is poor. (Surfing in the dark is dangerous anyways! What would you’re mother say?)

3) Stay away from dead animals in the water. (Actually this a pretty goodrule regardless of sharks.)

4) Avoid areas where animal, human, or fish waste enter the water.(Sorry, I know that s going to be tough for some of you.)

5) Avoid murky waters, harbor entrances, channels, and steep drop-offs.These areas are frequented by sharks. (Leave the Harbor Mouth to me.).

6) Do not wear high-contrast clothing (orange and yellow are said to berisky colors) or shiny jewelry (which may appear to be like fish scales).Sharks see contrast very well. (In other words, this is yet another reasonnot to wear your pink wetsuit, even if it means you might not get “the shot“)

7) Refrain from excessive splashing. Keep pets, which swim erratically,out of the water. (Unless your pet is a amphibious Rhinoceros. That would be some fight!)

8) Leave the water quickly and calmly if a shark is sighted. (Quickly Iget, but calmly?)

9) If fish or turtles start to behave erratically, leave the water. Theymay be behaving like that because there is a shark in the area. ( Err, wouldn’t worry so much about the turtles around here)

10) If you feel something brush up against you, get out of the water. (Clearly!)

11) Always surf with a buddy (Unless he’s a wave hog.)

12) And make sure you can paddle faster than him. (Better get to the gym!)

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