A group of surfers floating off Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica last Tuesday say that an eight-foot great white shark swam right under them, and appeared to head for one female surfer on her board in particular. The close encounter comes just three months after a surfer in Santa Cruz was killed in a rare shark attack.
Surfer Bevan Bell tells the Chronicle this week that he was the first to spot the shark, which appeared to be heading directly for a female surfer trying to catch a wave in front him in a cluster of surfers.
"I saw this big gray shape, just under the surface of the water, and that top fin, and the big shark went directly under her," Bell says. "The length of that sucker was like 8 feet. It went right towards her, and as the wave lifted her up [on her board], it literally went right under her."
Bell says that he was yelling at the surfer to pull her legs out of the water, but she didn't understand what he was saying.
And reinforcing that sharks are a familiar sight to surfers in the area, another surfer shouted a question: "Is it the 6 footer, or the 12 footer?" He added, "I’m not worried about the 6 footer."
As the Chronicle notes, juvenile shark under eight feet tend to mostly eat fish, and it's only the older, larger sharks that go after bigger prey like sea lions. Most shark experts tend to agree that sharks aren't interested in attacking humans, per se, but they recognize the shape of legs in wet suits hanging off surfboards as sea lions, and will sometimes attack.
The drone video below from September 2019 shows a great white shark prowling another beach in Pacifica — a good look at the shark comes at around the 4:00 mark.
Shark attacks, especially fatal ones, remain rare — and since the May attack that killed 26-year-old Ben Kelly occurred in Santa Cruz, we can still say that the Bay Area proper hasn't seen a fatal shark attack in over 35 years.
A report published six years ago suggests that the great white shark population is on the rise in the waters near the Bay Area, and it estimated at the time that there were about 2,400 great whites prowling the California coast — up from just a few hundred according to earlier estimates.
"I thought how a nip could be the end of it," Bell tells the Chronicle. "You don’t have to be chomped. You get bit and you can bleed out."
He adds, "Seeing a great white shark is kind of like seeing a bad car wreck. You’re constantly thinking, ‘It won’t happen to me,’ and it doesn’t stop me from driving. But it is definitely one of those things where you are aware that you are in their territory."
Photo: David Clode