I did it. I went to see the feeding frenzy. And I was attacked.It was the same classic scenario: sitting there watching the horizon, enjoying the water when, without warning, there was a sudden tug from behind.
“Excuse me, I’m with Channel 4, mind if we interview you for a second . . .?”
Next thing you know you’re spilling your guts and praying someone will rescue you.
As reported by several sources in the past week, two 6-to- 8-foot white sharks were confirmed by San Onofre State Park to be seen cruising Trail One; and a third 16- to 18-footer was photographed by the military. And, days later, the media cotinues to circle San O.
Up to nine TV crews have descended upon the beach simultaneously since the news first surfaced, resulting in even more would-be shark watchers. The number of satellite vans was less today than before, but there was still no shortage of binoculars and curious bystanders, all hoping to get a glimpse of the biggest thing — or should we say things — to hit San O since the Winnebago. In fact, the only ones who don’t seem to be star-stuck are park officials, who say it’s really not that uncommon.
“We get shark sightings every six months or so,” said lifeguard and pro longboarder Jeff Kramer. “What’s different here is they seem to be hanging around. We’ve seen them consistently in the same spot every day for about the past week.”
There was actually talk of closing the park yesterday evening when three were spotted close to shore, but as of noon today, San Onofre will remain open. The park is simply putting the beach under advisory: warning users of the sharks’ presence, suggesting they don’t go in the water, and asking them to leave the water if they see one. Other than that, until someone is attacked, San O will be pleasure as usual.
“We’ve known there are sharks in these waters forever,” says Mike Tope, District Superintendent, Orange Coast District of the Department of Parks and Recreation. “This is one of the most untouched coastlines in Orange and San Diego counties — geologists have found teeth in these bluffs — all we can do is make sure the public is aware and uses the resources safely.”
Or, as Kramer points out, “What are we supposed to do, shut down the park until we stop seeing them and then tell people it’s safe again? We all know it’s the one you don’t see that you have to worry about.”
Perhaps it’s because school started again yesterday, or just that the swell’s back on vacation, but nobody seemed to be interested in using the resources at Trail One at all this morning — well, almost nobody. A few fishermen lined the beach looking to hook smaller game; some families sunned themselves well above the high-tide line. And around 11 a.m., four longboarders came up the trail following a 20-minute session. But it wasn’t whitey himself that cut their session short.
“I know they’re out there, but I wasn’t too worried about it,” said a mustachioed, fortyish ex-firefighter named Mike. “I surf up north all the time. What got me out was when my buddy here wiped out and started bleeding, then I figured it might be time to go in — or at least get him the hell away from me.”
Mike then faced-off against two more voracious species of media, retelling his tale halfway up the trail. Meanwhile, the cliffhangers stood watch like Chief Brody with a telephoto, waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Apparently, they won’t have to wait for long as, come low tide, the water gets shallower along the nearshore reef that seems to be keeping the sharks around.
“This is a tectonic area that’s gradually shifting,” says Tope, explaining the new theory that’s replacing conjecture that the sharks are being drawn in by the decaying carcass of a fin whale that was buried on the beach two years ago. “As this land shifts the reef gets more pronounced and offers more food for the sharks to feed on.”
“In a way, the sharks being here is a good thing,” he continues. “It shows we have a healthy ocean full of sea life.”
Healthy ocean or not, there continues to be a healthy interest. And while several watchers commented it would be nice if the dangers of pollution garnered the same attention, unless a leviathan-sized shitpipe erupts sometime soon, look for these beastie boys to be the big celebs for as long as they continue to make regular appearances.
Make that not-so-regular. As of 5 pm, today’s audience would have to content itslef with the occasional erratically behaving butterfly and white-bellied tourist — except for one brief but spectacular cameo just before noon, later confirmed by park rangers as a white shark breaching. With no warning, a solid six-footer flew straight-up out of the water and plunged back under, tail-first — a pike move that left the paparazzi (this one included) too stunned to consider snapping a photo.
But we’ll be ready the next time, along with the rest of the Southern California’s live-at-fivers. So, if the sharks are reading this somewhere, we bring the following advice from Jabberjaw’s publicist:
Smile, you son of a bitch. — Matt Walker