It’s a lot of fun absorbing the surf culture along the Grand Strand. Even with the relatively smaller waves along our coastline, gents and ladies of all ages congregate at my favorite beach accesses — 64th and 65th avenues north in Myrtle Beach — to enjoy a cool sport.
While bodysurfing is enough of a rush for me, I often find a seat at the foot of the dunes to watch others hang ten. The athleticism and skill they show while maneuvering across wave fronts is very admirable. Strand surf shredders are able to do so with very little risk of encountering man-eating sharks.
Not so for those surfing the west coast. A 39-year-old Californian was killed in an encounter off the Santa Barbara county shore this past week. A friend of the victim dragged him to the beach, but first aid efforts were unsuccessful. Note that I wrote “encounter,” not attack. Sharks act and react largely on instinct — built in after millions of years of evolution. That shark was hunting seal and mistook the surfer for its prey.
Experts have yet to confirm the type or size of the shark that bit the victim in the upper torso. Having collected fossil sharks’ teeth for 40 years and after studying hundreds of shark jaw pictures, I can tell you that it was a great white 14 or 15 feet long.
I’m hoping that there won’t be a “culling” of great whites along the left coast. Despite reports that a body boarder was killed in the same area a year or two ago, a slaughter of great whites there would be unnecessary and unproductive.
Furthermore, vengeance won’t bring back either victim.
We all assume a certain risk when we enter the ocean; it isn’t our domain. Life is full of risks. Heck, a few weeks back, a 70-year-old farmer was killed by his own hogs in an Oregon sty. The animals made pigs of themselves, and the only thing found in the muck were the poor guy’s dentures. Soo-ey!
As I said earlier, surfers here don’t have to worry about a similar incident. We might have a stray tiger shark swim through our waters, but, in general, the Long Bay surf is too shallow for bigger fish. We also don’t have any seal population to speak of that would attract great whites.
I’ve never seen a great white fin anywhere near our coast.