If you’re worried about a shark attack in Orange County, you might as well start buying lotto tickets; You’ll have better odds. Yet I still get calls, questions, and even customers cancelling their surf lessons because of fears about sharks. On top of that, at Banzai our surf lessons usually take place on a sand bottom in waist deep water. That’s hardly the happy hunting grounds.
But then TV brings us “Shark Week” (which the Discovery Channel cleverly schedules in mid-summer), and that doesn’t help much. It’s become a summer tradition along with barbeques and higher gas prices.
I should mention that my attitude towards sharks is pretty casual; I went on a ‘shark dive’ in the south pacific, and found sharks to be less aggressive than most car salesman and attorneys. During the pre-dive briefing, I asked if we could pet the sharks. Everyone laughed. I was serious. I will add though, that getting snorkel gear on while peering down at those toothy dark shadows swirling beneath you, sets off every old Hollywood alarm bell in your head.
I’ll admit it: I wasn’t the FIRST one in the water, but I was the last one out.
The truth is, sharks are a non-issue in Huntington Beach. That is (according to the International Shark Attack File), in the past eighty years, there’s been four shark incidents in Orange County. Think about that: Four in eighty years.
When you consider that statistic against the hundreds of thousands of bathers and surfers that enjoy the beaches in Southern California every summer, it’s almost a sad indication of our lack of sea life.
But what I think has happened, is that sharks (if they see you at all, which is unlikely) view surfers and bathers as common flotsam; To the shark, we don’t really appear to be food. Which brings me to my favorite shark diving safety tip: Don’t act like food.
Now, that’s not to say that sharks aren’t out there. Of course they are: cute little sand sharks, pretty leopard sharks, … all kinds of PET sharks – squirrelly shy little bottom feeders who didn’t make the cut as ‘MAN-EATERS’, and got laughed out of the shark fraternity and sent to Huntington.
So, I stand by my original statement: It’s a non-issue. And I can recite all the goofy statistics:
• “You’ve got better odds of being struck by lightning”. (Maybe not so comforting to those who wear tin foil hats).
• “You’ve got better odds of dying from a falling coconut”. (Never mind that there aren’t any coconut trees in SoCal, but perhaps that statistic includes those deviants who drop coconuts from aircraft)
Nevertheless, every morning at Banzai, as we’re getting people into their wetsuits and their bright orange tops – which help lifeguards see where the beginners are – we’ll get that one customer who will ask the question. And I explain, “If you DO see a fin in the water, it’s a dolphin, and anywhere else you’d have to pay two-hundred bucks to swim with them. So the reality is, the most dangerous thing out here is the people …. in the bright orange tops”. – Jaz Kaner
One of my oldest friends passed away today. Buttons Montgomery Kaluhiokalani lost his fight with cancer. He was 54. Buttons had a list of surf contest credits, but those become incidental when compared to the playful exuberance that led him to become one of the most inventive and influential surf legends ever. Many people know […]
If you’re worried about a shark attack in Orange County, you might as well start buying lotto tickets; You’ll have better odds. Yet I still get calls, questions, and even customers cancelling their surf lessons because of fears about sharks. On top of that, at Banzai our surf lessons usually take place on a sand […]
Every year Huntington Beach California hosts the biggest surf contest in the world, and the word ‘big’ doesn’t apply to the wave size – it’s about the crowd size. (Banzai Surf IS open for business and well outside the circus; We’re 3 miles south). Here’re the best tips we’ve found for making your way […]
The Sand Once, I filled my car with sand. OK, “filled” is an exaggeration – it was ankle deep. Looking back, I must have really been missing the beach. Surfers don’t love sand as much as you’d think. Sand is that annoying stuff in between the car and the waves. It messes up our wax […]
In California, getting your first wetsuit is more important than getting your first board. Your first surfboard will likely be big (or it SHOULD be) and difficult to tote around; Might as well rent or borrow. But it’s nice to have your own wetsuit. The key is to choose a wetsuit with glued seams, not […]
What to Bring to a Surf Lesson This should answer one of our most common questions here at Banzai: What should we bring? Here’s the quick list: • Beach pack to keep stuff in • Towel • Sunscreen • Water • Contact lenses or a good leash for your glasses • For diabetics: Bring a […]
The takeoff will always be the hardest part of wave riding. Here, I’ll talk about the more advanced skill of catching an unbroken wave. Let’s be honest; No respectable surfer wants to ride the whitewater. There’s just no speed there. Even dolphins won’t ride the soup, and they’re the best surfers on earth. That […]
Mistake #3. Going “All the Way Out Where the Other Surfers Are” This is an understandable mistake that a surfing beginner makes. You pull up at the beach, and go out where the surfers are, right? Not so fast, Scooter. If the waves are anywhere over chest high, the more experienced surfers will be on […]
2. The Wrong Place – Surfing is like real estate: Location, location, location. The ideal beginner wave offers a long, gently rolling break that crumbles, not crashes. It’s what surfers call (with some disdain) a mushy wave. Better still if there’s a sand bottom – that may save you some paddling. Huntington Beach can be […]