Saturday, June 17, 2017

Summer Surf; Sharks Be Damned

April 29, two weeks after my last session at the Park, a woman was critically injured by a Great White Shark at San Onofre - about 2.5 miles from the Park - while swimming in the lineup by her boyfriend who was surfing.  Over the ensuing weeks, reports piled up of great white sightings between San Onofre to the south and Capistrano Beach, 5 miles north of the Park.  Swarms of juveniles were mixed with sightings of larger - 10 foot - sharks.  Most of San Clemente, including the Park, was closed or under active shark warning through all of May, into June.  Video and TV reports circulated of surfers and stand up paddlers being warned out of the water while a dozen or so great whites circulated in the water beneath them.  A beach cam captured a large white breaching in Trestles (which is between the Park and San Onofre), scant yards to the north of a dozen or so sticks in the lineup at the popular spot.  Life guard helicopters cruised the coast, tracking and spotting the predators.  Amidst it, another apparent attack occurred in the north end of Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach, on a woman in the shallows, just exiting a surf session.

While San Clemente remained under alert, there had been no significant sightings since June 2.  Figuring the activity was, perhaps, moving off, I started making plans for a session for this weekend.  A small swell was due, with warming water, a low tide and benign winds.  Then, Wednesday, after a nearly two-week lull, another sighting was reported to the north of the San Clemente pier.  I dejectedly texted Mark Ghattas, "Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water...."  

However, there have always been sharks in the water.  There had been no new attacks and the sightings were, indeed, falling off.  So Cal temperatures threatened to go triple-digit, the water temperature pierced 70 for the first time since last summer and forecasts remained positive.  Hugh Berenger had posted that he'd been out SUPing Friday (without event) and hoped to see me.  My gills were parched and I had to go.

As I arrived, the day was heating up  The ocean surface was smooth with a small, mixed swell coming in.  The pier reported water temperature of 68.  I could see Hugh on his SUP at the Main Peak ares, sweeping outside the lineup of three sticks between occasional rides.  No one else in the water.

I swam out and Hugh confirmed he'd seen nothing but was monitoring between waves.  Between occasional lulls, a steady flow of waist to chin high waves were coming in, peaking at the usual sand bars.  Hugh, I, and the three surfers shared the Main Peak for about 45 minutes, while a few surfers filled in further south, below the campground.  The Main Peak started to fill in, so I moved a bit south, just above the rocks, and enjoyed that peak largely to myself.  Within another half hour, the break had totally filled in: I counted twenty surfers, including a pack of hard-charging groms, at the main peak, and another dozen to the south by the rocks.  Similarly, the sand had filled with families escaping the inland heat.  Time to pack it in.

I meant to shoot a few pictures of the pack at the Peak and the summertime crowd at the beach, but was distracted from it by Hugh's proposal of breakfast at Adele's.

This evening, the San Clemente beach report website contains the following:

1 comment:

joe green blue said...

the shark in sunset was not hb it was up in Santa Monica another sunset beach