Sharks and other dangers while surfing

I’m sure that everyone has heard about the fatal shark attack in Solana Beach. Our condolences go out to the family of triathlete David Martin. As seen from all the news and press coverage, this is a tragedy that really taps into our primal fears as human beings. Obviously there is reason to be scared or nervous about being attacked by a shark, but this shouldn’t keep you out of the water, or keep you from enjoying your surf sessions.

Think how many millions of people were swimming in the water on the west coast last weekend, and think how many times David enjoyed his ocean swims over the many years of his life. Also, the last fatal shark attack in San Diego County was in 1994, but this was not a confirmed attack. Before that is was 1956.

I think it’s important to look at the big picture and realize how improbable it is to be attacked by a shark. However, we must acknowledge that the ocean is the shark’s home, and we are only visitors.

Here’s some more info from a recent online discussion of mine about these amazing creatures that we share the ocean with:

The question was, “It seems like there's been a lot of shark sightings reported on Surfline over the past couple of months. I don't ever remember hearing about so many. Is this a seasonal thing?”

I'll start with great whites. Traditionally, in southern cal shark (great white) activity is not very seasonal. In northern ca however, the time of the year when most great white sightings and attacks happen is in the fall. This corresponds to the time of they year when the elephant seals are on the beach or close to the coast. Great whites congregate to the coast to feed during this time of year.

In southern ca, it is possible that due to the extra cold water in the spring time and heavy grunion runs, that different types of sharks might tend to come closer to the coast during this time of year.

I think it also seems like there are more shark sightings because we have increased access to information. If there is a sighting or an attack...we will hear about it.

Now, enter global warming and increased animal protection.

Due to increased protection of seals and a ban on gillnetting in coastal waters, great white sightings have increased in the last several years. There are more great whites around. This is a good thing. I also truly believe that they are beginning to become familiar with humans in the water and know that humans/kayaks/surfboards do not make good food. Most attacks in the past have just been test bites anyway.

Southern California:
1. Due to global warming, we now have huge populations of Humboldt Squid off our coasts. This could be a source of food for the sharks that attracting more to the area.
2. The Southern California bite has recently been recognized as a great white birthing ground. Most of the juvenile great whites caught by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium for study have been off southern California. Maybe with more study they will find out if a specific time of year sees more great white shark births in our waters.

I too have seen the reports you are asking about.

Things to keep in mind:
1. Not all the sightings are great whites. We have many other types of sharks around that are relatively harmless. Lemon sharks, thresher, seven gill, mako, and of course the leopard shark. Not that these sharks aren't scary to think about, but they will not attack you thinking you are a seal. We've seen many of these while diving and most of the time they take off before you even have a chance to check them out.
2. People could be reporting dolphins.
3. We kill hundreds of makos and other sharks in our local waters each year for sport fishing. The sharks are the ones that should be afraid.
4. Think of the hundreds of people that are out surfing and swimming each day on our coast compared to how many attacks we see. Personally, I'm way more scared of the 405 fwy!

However, there are things I do to protect myself:
DO: Always be aware of your surroundings. Keep your eyes peeled. See a strange splash or a seal acting weird, just paddle in.

Don't: Surf or swim around large seal populations or large schools of baitfish and diving birds.

Know: If you're surfing by yourself at dusk, your chances are higher of having a shark encounter.
Know: Spots where sharks have been documented can be avoided if you want.

More common surfing dangers and things we should really watch out for while surfing:
  • Our boards. Probably the greatest danger is surfing is getting hit by a surfboard, either ours or some other surfer’s. It is important to always know where your board is. If you are paddling out and let go of your board due to a big wave, please make sure that nobody is around you. If you are taking off on a wave and do a nose dive (pearl), know that the board is most likely flying out of the water behind you and could land on your head. Hint: If I can’t feel the board pulling on my leash, indicating that the board might be close to you, I have my hands covering my.
  • The Bottom. The second greatest danger while surfing is hitting the bottom. You might hit the bottom on a wipeout, or put your feet down and cut them on a rock. Either way, hitting the bottom can be treacherous. Never dive off your board headfirst. Hint: Always assume the water is shallow. Whenever I fall I try to fall flat, and not touch the bottom to stand up. If you are at a beach break, you might put your foot down on a stingray, if you are at a point or reef break, you might cut your foot on a rock. Just fall flat and swim to your board.
Most importantly...just pay attention and have fun out there!!

The Archy Movie

Tonight, Friday April 18th, the Archy Movie is making it's first stop on it's West Coast Tour. Go check it out at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse at 7pm!
Tour - West Coast - Archy the

Produced by my good friend Bill Ballard, with tow buddeh Rob Bruce as the DP, I am a little biased...but this movie rocks!! Like Bill has said, "This is a story that needs to be told". It is a flash back to the eighties surf scene in California, and a look at one of modern surfing's most influential characters.

I was fortunate to go to the premier in Newport and I think all of San Clemente came up to show their support. Check out the trailer for your self and go see the movie tonight!

Trailers - Archy the

Water Mag Editor Review - Santa Barbara Surfer - Forums
Water Mag Editor Review
By: Steve Zeldin (words)
April 13, 2008
Built for Speed, Born to Ride -- an appropriate tagline for the new Bill Ballard documentary on the life of pro surfer Matt Archbold.

The premiere on April 10th at Newport's Lido Theater was a rowdy good time, thanks to the hundreds of heads from the San Clemente "mafia" who made the trek from Archy's hometown, hooting for their friends and the gnarly waves, and rolling empties down the aisles -- the way it should be at a surf flick. It was the best documentary I've seen in a long time; let me explain:

The film showcases the career of one of surfing's most radical and inventive characters, with colorful commentary from top surfers, his peers, influences, family, and childhood friends. Archy, like Jordan or Tiger, will forever be known by one name, and celebrated for his innovative surfing prowess.

From aerials to backdooring the business end at Off-the-Wall, Archy has impacted surfing in a major way. He's been sponsored for 25 solid years, and the film manages to showcase some of the pitfalls of his lucrative endorsements and his life in the fast lane.

The years Archy spent being mentored by Martin Potter are of particular note in the film, as well as the thoughts shared by many of surfing's elite athletes and the media. Kudos to Bill Ballard for capturing the essence of Archy's amazing contributions to the sport.

The after party was at the Blue Beet, where the hot rods, hot chicks, and all the bros transferred their energy to keep the good times rolling in honor of one of surfing's favorite sons. Archy's lady, family, and son, Ford, who is now a hot surfer himself, were on hand to celebrate. Catch the premiere as Archy makes tracks across America in the coming months. Great show!

ZSS and the Soul Sis Surf Meetup Group at El Porto

On March 29th, the Soul Sis Meetup surfing group had their annual Spring Kickoff surf at a secret spot in the South Bay.

Honorary member, Kai Sanson was there representing ZSS and ready to help out with boards, wetsuits and tips for catching some waves. It was a great turnout with skill levels ranging from experienced surfers to first timers.

After a long walk down to the spot, we spent some time going over the conditions, strategy on how to avoid the currents and figure out where the best spot to surf was. We were also able to see first hand what happens when you get stuck in a current; there was a young kid on a boogie board who didn't have fins and couldn't get back in and had to climb up on the jetty.

So after going over our strategy and taking a landmark, we charged out in the water and caught some waves. Everyone did great and I think everybody stood up for a while. No bad wipeouts and I didn't even step on a stingray!

It was a great day. Thanks Delza and Susan!

And the WINNERS are...

On Friday April 11th, at the Billabong XXL Awards we saw the biggest chargers of the surfing world applauded and awarded for their achievements in big wave surfing. I heard it was quite a party, with the usual debauchery, but what better way to honor these guys that travel around the world charging the biggest waves. The crazy thing is, most of these guys are soft spoken, centered guys, not loud, amping maniacs. They are great surfers and deserve every bit of respect.

Here's the $50,000 Ride of the Year by Shane Dorian.
The 2008 Billabong XXL Ride of the Year Nominees - Shane Dorian

Local San Clemente chargers took the prizes for Biggest Wave and Biggest Paddle-In Wave.
Mike Parsons- Biggest Wave at 70Ft!
The 2008 Billabong XXL BIGGEST WAVE Nominees - Mike Parsons

Greg Long for Biggest Paddle-In wave at Todos Santos
The 2008 Monster Paddle Wave Nominees - Greg Long

Let's see what happens this year. Will is go down in Chile, Tahiti, France, Hawaii...or Cortex again???