As a lifelong surfer, I've often thought that one way to clear a crowded lineup is to construct a real-looking shark fin that could be well-placed near the crowd just before I paddled out. Of course, I never followed through with the devious plan.
But it seemed that someone did earlier this week, when a fake fin materialized before a startled paddleboarder not far from Swami's, a popular surf spot off Encinitas, Calif., and near my home break.
Perhaps coincidentally, this is the same location where a shark scare occurred three weeks ago, when a widely circulated photo revealed what looked like the tail end of a large shark cruising through a wave.
The paddleboarder cautiously approached the fake fin --he didn't know it was fake at the time -- and discovered it was a hoax. Someone had constructed, with wood and PVC piping, a floating device from which protruded a fake fin.
Fortunately, it's discovery was made before it could generate a scare at the expense of local tax payers. "If this was used to create a false alarm, it would actually pull out a lot of resources out of the coastal areas here in Encinitas -- fire, lifeguard, sheriff -- that would cause us to pull resources from areas where we're watching people on the beach and in the water," Encinitas lifeguard Capt. Larry Giles told CBS 8 News.
But it turns out that this probably was not a devious attempt to clear a lineup or create a scare. Most likely this device was among many deployed recently as pranks during a marlin tournament off Catalina Island. The fins more closely resemble those of marlin, not sharks. They fool anglers into thinking they've spotted a marlin and a good laugh is had by all.
The devices, however, are supposed to be retrieved, and at least one appeared to have floated all the way to the mainland. The paddleboarder, who did not want to be identified, said of his eerie discovery: "I tell you what, if the lifeguard saw this, from a distance, it wouldn't surprise me if they cleared the beach. That's how realistic it looked, that's all I have to say."