The sight at Steamer Lane on Tuesday afternoon was a scene straight from a dream, at least for a few hours: an empty lineup. The vacancy came from less idyllic circumstances as a mandate from the city, when a great white shark attacked a kayak about a quarter-mile out from the Lane, leading the city of Santa Cruz to order a four-day water closure, according to KSBW News.
Local Steve Lawson paddled his kayak out beyond the Lane’s offshore kelp bed on Tuesday afternoon when he felt a large force hit the front of his vessel. Lawson looked down to see a 12-inch-wide bite mark incised on the kayak’s nose, with the shark swimming below him. The shark hit his kayak again, and Lawson was sent into the water.
“I spent a little time in the water swimming around, Lawson told KSBW. “I panicked. Everyone panics. There’s a shark in the water. But he didn’t come back. He wasn’t interested in me.”
Lawson quickly radioed in a harbor control boat and was transported from the water uninjured.
The scare prompted Santa Cruz firefighters to order surfers out of the Lane around 1:00 PM — the period when the lineup emptied — as a jet ski and harbor boat made a clean sweep to look for the shark. The lull didn’t last long: by 5:00 PM, writes KSBW, around 20 surfers were back in the water.
Then came the official decision from the city, as part of the county’s “Shark Incident Plan”: all watergoers must stay out of the stretch of coastline between the San Lorenzo river mouth and Fair Avenue for four days, until Saturday. All kayak rental shops and surf schools are closed until then. Junior Lifeguards will conduct strictly out-of-ocean activities until the city reassesses over the weekend, described by deputy city manager Scott Collins as a “cooling-off period.” Surfers or swimmers who enter the water anyway will face citations.
“This is a hot spot for sharks. Sharks are all up and down the Central Coast,” said Collins. “But typically they are not interested in humans. They don’t exhibit this predatory behavior.” The ban is scheduled to end on Saturday morning at sunrise.
Meanwhile, many Santa Cruz locals disapprove of the city’s decision.
“Surfing is prohibited?” Ken “Skindog” Collins told KSBW. “You have a higher chance of being attacked by a tweaker than a shark.”
[Featured Image: Middle Peak, Steamer Lane. Photo by Chachi]