By Pete Thomas
A wave-cam pointed at the lineup of a popular Southern California surf spot on Monday revealed a fairly large shark breaching just yards beyond a few dozen surfers.
A reasonable person would think that such a spectacle would inspire a mass exodus, given that great white shark sightings in typically spike locally in late spring.
But there’s no visible reaction among surfers in the footage, indicating that they could not see the shark or simply did not care. The footage is from a fixed camera operated by Surfline at Lower Trestles, within San Onofre State Beach in north San Diego County.
Said Surfline’s Travis Kuhlman: “From that distance, they might think it's a baby whale – which is extremely common to see right now close to shore. But, it's also pretty common to see juvenile great whites near shore in Southern California. Especially in the San Onofre area. A lot of surfers would just continue surfing even knowing they had just seen a juvenile great white.”
If the latter is the case, the surfers deserve credit. Juvenile white sharks – those measuring to about 10 feet – prey almost exclusively on small fishes and rays. They do not develop a taste for seals and sea lions until they reach about 12 feet, at which time the migrate to more productive feeding areas.
Chris Lowe, director of the Shark Lab at Cal State University at Long Beach, agreed that this most likely was a white shark. “Based on the girth and pure white belly, I would guess a white,” Lowe said. “Not a pup, but probably a good 8 feet. I think SoCal surfers are getting used to the white sharks now. Let's hope for an ‘attack free’ year!”
The shark was first spotted at 10:12 a.m., via the webcam, by San Clemente surfer Jason Miller. Within an hour the Surfline post on Facebook had been viewed nearly 8,000 times. Among dozens of comments was this from Jonathan Spitler:
"That's no bueno... they don't play like whales, only breach when they're feeding... but again, maybe it's a talented cgi guy just trying to empty the line up for his afternoon sesh.”