As I write this (May 2015) I’m reading an article in the L.A.Times about our new shark friends visiting Huntington Beach. Whaa? Sharks in Huntington Beach?!
I should clarify: What was seen – mostly up around Sunset/Seal Beach – were young sharks, four to six feet in length. (At that size I call them “pets”:)
I also got a call from a young lady who canceled her surf lesson because of the news. Her father apologetically said that she got on the internet and started reading, and then there was just no turning her around.
It struck me how silly all this is. Of all the ways to get hurt surfing, sharks are way down the list.
But the real issue to me, is how an unreasonable fear can squelch your desire to try new and exciting things. Living in our present-day cyber-world, everything can be pseudo-experienced on your computer: You can fly, fight, shoot, and crash, then just reboot. People think they can “live” their life without ever leaving the safety of their Wi-Fi signal.
Is there a risk in surfing? Well as with anything, yes. But at some point you’ve gotta leave your house!
Whenever I write on this subject I feel like the cranky mayor of Amity Island in “Jaws”; Yes, I have a commercial interest in keeping people in the ocean – I own a surf school.
I should add though, that I have no problem telling my own kids that they are safe from sharks ANYWHERE in Orange County. (Well, they already know that, because they’re teenagers, and teenagers already know EVERYTHING :).
So, I stand by my original article of a couple years ago: The shark scare in Orange County is a non-issue. Not only that, in the big picture, the sharks may be a good thing. Here’s an excerpt from the May 23 article in the LA Times:
“Marine officials said the sightings are not unusual. The young sharks, which have been feeding mostly on stingrays, are not aggressive and have not attacked humans.”
The sharks are eating stingrays. Anyone who’s felt the pain of a stingray injury should take some comfort in that. At Banzai Surf (being closer to Newport Beach) we get just a handful of stingray injuries per year. (I wrote a separate blog about it)
In recent years though, there’s been record numbers of stingrays, and injuries, and this can be attributed perhaps to the warmer water/El Niño.
This looks to be a case of nature putting things in balance – More stingrays means more of their natural predators. So the little sharks are actually a partner in our fight against stingrays.
Go kiss a shark.
UPDATE – eff: July 2015: “Surfers have a 1-in-17 million chance of being bitten”, According to this article by Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
Wait, this is good too 🙂 “13 Things More likely to kill you than a Shark”
UPDATE – MAY 2016: After asking around to our various local lifeguard headquarters, the consensus seems to be a big decline in stingray injuries since last summer. I can testify that here at Banzai, we haven’t had one stingray injury in almost a year! That is unheard of! Looks like our little shark buddies cleaned up!