Drew Palumbo and Ben Slayback were surfing on Monday, when a shark breached the ocean’s surface. Palumbo said the shark was about 100 feet away. He shared the video on YouTube.
It’s time to go surf somewhere else.
That was the reaction surfers Drew Palumbo and Ben Slayback had after seeing a great white shark breach out of the water at Sunset Beach while they were surfing on Monday.
The shark was just 100 yards away, according to a video Palumbo posted on YouTube after the incident.
Shark Week fans know breaching sharks evoke images of massive great white sharks leaping out of the water to chomp on prey in areas like South Africa and Australia. But that wasn’t the case with this young shark spotted off Orange County’s coastline, said Chris Lowe, director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach.
The short answer of why this shark breached: “We don’t know.”
“We know that the young ones do it quite a bit. People see it quite often in Santa Monica, and they’ve seen it at Seal Beach. Adults do it, but the adults do it for a different reason. They are chasing prey.”
The Jaws-sized sharks leap feet out of the water to chase after nimble, fast-moving prey like sea lions. The one filmed off Sunset Beach was an estimated 6 and a half feet is still a juvenile.
There are two theories of why young sharks go airborne.
The first guess is that small water bugs that have claws — called copepods — grab onto the sharks and catch rides, Lowe said.
“One of the thoughts is they might be irritating the sharks,” he said.
Slamming down on their bodies could be a way to try to dislodge the parasites.
“Think of it as a way to try to scratch their backs,” he said.
The other thought is maybe the shark is excited about something.
“Maybe it’s play,” Low said. “We just don’t know.”
Lowe’s team of graduate students have tagged about 16 great white sharks in this area.
They usually leave for Mexico when waters turn cold along the Orange County coast, but El Nino’s warm waters have kept it tempting for them to stay. Four of the 16 tagged were detected all winter. There may be more still hanging around, but it’s possible their tags popped off.
“For the past few years, many have not migrated. It’s not cold enough to drive them south,” Lowe said.
There’s been countless sightings of sharks in the past year, with lifeguards from San Clemente to Seal Beach posting warning signs, and in some cases, shutting down the beaches. There has even been a few reports of surfers getting bumped by sharks.
Lowe thinks that the water is bountiful with food supply for the sharks. The ones tagged last year would be about 1 year old, and feeding on sting rays and other fish like halibut.
He said even though they are growing, they are still likely more scared of the surfers than the surfers are of them.
“They are kind of scared of big things,” he said. “They don’t know they are a shark until they are about 10 feet — that’s kind of the joke among biologist.”
The surfers who filmed the shark leaping out of the water weren’t going to take their chances.
Slayback suggested they try another spot for their surf session, he toldCBS Los Angeles.
“I knew it was a shark and I said, ‘It’s time to go,’” he said in the news report. “No playing around; it’s time to go.”