Sign planted in sand at Coronado’s Center Beach
“WARNING. Shark sighted. Enter at your own risk.”
A silhouette of a shark drives home the point.
It’s a yellow sign planted in the sand at Center Beach, Coronado, near the lifeguard tower. “Lifeguards decided not to close the beach,” says the city’s official web site. But it turns out the lifeguard who saw the 12-foot shark appear next to his paddle board last Tuesday, May 26, wasn’t the only surfer to get a visit. Writer Joe Ditler says he was out surfing a couple of weeks ago.
“I’m sitting on my surfboard in the line-up with friends, and a jet ski went by. Jet skis and surfers don’t mix. So I yelled ‘Get the f*ck out of here!’
“Then all of a sudden I’m the only one in the line-up. And I couldn’t figure out where the jet ski had gone. So I rode a wave in. Then next day I see this girl I’d been surfing next to, and she’s limping and she’s bleeding and crying. She’d stepped on a stingray. She looked at me and said ‘Why didn’t you get out of the water yesterday when the Great Whites went by?’ And I said ‘What?’ She said ‘Yeah. The lifeguard was trying to herd them out of there on his jet ski.’
“And I said ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
Ditler hams sighting of shark-surfer meet’n greet
“And she said ‘I thought everybody knew. There were two of them, about 10-11 feet each, and they went right under us. I nearly peed in my wetsuit.’
“They’ve since been sighted out here fairly frequently,” says Ditler. “I personally have only seen one offshore, breaching.”
Is he sure it was a shark, and not, say, a dolphin?
“Oh yes. It was a great white shark. I used to be a scuba instructor. I spent a lot of time under the ocean. And it happened again, a couple of days later. I’m sitting out with a friend of mine who was formerly a world-class surfer. And we’re chatting, and all of a sudden, he jumps up on his knees, on his longboard. I said, ‘Why did you do that?’ And he looked at me kind of funny and he goes, ‘Because that great white just went under us.’ He says it seems like all the marine animals are heading for Coronado this summer.
“We have stingrays, and larger rays, because the water has gotten warm. We’ve seen sea lions in here, a lot more dolphins than usual, squadrons of brown pelicans cruising in and diving, so there must be a lot of bait fish on the surface. There’s a lot of activity.”
“One theory is when they closed the beaches, human activity was down, and the creatures became more confident and came closer, searching for food. They’re constantly pushing the envelope.”
But are they dangerous for us?
“Even the babies can brush against you and cause extreme damage with skin abrasions. And they don’t chew. They chomp. So even if they can’t eat you, they can certainly take off a leg or an arm.”
Is there a history of sharks killing swimmers?
“(Sonny) Bob Pamperin, a 33-year-old engineer, was eaten by a great white in La Jolla Cove. But that was back in 1959. Here, I can only tell what others have said: when [the sharks] are going under us, they’re not in aggressive mode. It’s almost as if they’re casual, relaxed. So you’d think we wouldn’t feel threatened by them. But by the nature of who they are, we definitely do.”