An enormous great white shark that was erected in the predawn darkness Saturday, depicting a "Jaws"-like attack on the controversial statue of a surfer in the northern San Diego County community of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, was still in place late Monday afternoon.
This might seem an insult to the artist commissioned to build the statue, entitled "Magic Carpet Ride," three years ago. But it strongly implies that the city of Encinitas -- to which Cardiff belongs -- knows a popular tourist attraction when it sees one.
Since the paper-mache creation of a 20-foot-tall shark was somehow placed around the statue in a busy coastal intersection without the culprits being nabbed by police, it has lured a steady stream of passersby. Many have stopped to gawk and snap photos. Many also have signed petitions plastered to the side of the shark, asking community leaders to spare an apex predator that ought to be perceived as a hero for the choice of its victim.
This was by far the most dramatic prank played on a statue that many in Cardiff and surrounding communities believe does not adequately represent surfers, in a region in which surfing has such a rich history and is perceived as a way of life.
The statue, commissioned by the Cardiff Botanical Society, has from the outset been dubbed the "Cardiff Kook" by local waver riders.
"People around here would rather have had a statue of Rob Machado; he's our hometown hero," Lavelle Snortum, a local resident, said in reference to the iconic, mop-haired surfer who lives up the street.
Snortum on Sunday afternoon added that a pair of men's boxer shorts dangling from one of the shark's teeth, a few days earlier, had adorned the statue's head.
Simple pranks like that are nothing new. Since the bronze surfer was placed on its towering pedestal on the coastal highway adjacent to San Elijo State Beach, people have dressed him in women's undergarments, placed a tennis racquet in one of his outstretched arms and, on Halloween, covered his head with pumpkins.
But no prank has had this kind of impact. The shark, which is about 12 feet in girth, is two-piece hollow contraption that was wrapped around the 16-foot pedestal and statue without causing damage to the artwork.
The shark's creators have not made themselves known and it remains unclear who taped the many petitions to its side. Many of those signing petitions have been tourists who signed simply because they liked the shark, not because they had anything against the statue.
One woman asked a local why so many people were against the statue, and when she was told it was because the surfer's pose was "all wrong" the woman answered, before walking off, "Maybe he's doing it right and everyone else is doing it wrong."
Vince Brown of nearby Solana Beach commended the shark artists for their successful "covert operation." He also commended Encinitas for allowing the shark to remain in place throughout the weekend.
Stories about the shark and statue have appeared on major media websites, ranging from the Los Angeles Times to NPR to Forbes magazine, and about 300 publications overall.
The biggest question now remains: When will the massive shark disappear?
-- Pete Thomas
Images by Pete Thomas
Editor's note: A similar post appears on the GrindTV.com outdoors blog