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Report of shark sighting off Sunset Beach causes buzz among surfers

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Many surfers who ride the waves at beaches in Santa Monica Bay will tell you they don't think about sharks. But photos shot this week by a longtime local surfer and surf shop owner have created a buzz about "Jaws" in the lineup.

The photos, taken Saturday morning by Randy Wright, apparently show a large white shark jumping out of the waters off Sunset Beach near Pacific Palisades.

"It was like, 'Oh my God,'" Wright recalled in an interview today. "I was really stoked ... It was definitely a fascinating experience."

Wright, who owns Horizons West surf shop in Santa Monica, said he was in his 10-foot kayak about 300 yards off the beach life guard tower when he snapped a series of photos capturing the animal as it broke the surface of the water. The shark was about the same size as his kayak, he said.

Wright said he was in the water as a volunteer for the the nonprofit Shark Research Committee, which conducts research on sharks and documents attacks against humans. He said he had heard that someone spotted a shark at the beach the day before so he went out the next morning about 8:30 with his waterproof camera.

"I was just  sitting out there in my kayak, not throwing chum or anything," Wright said.

Ralph Collier, head of the committee, said that sharks in that area are nothing new. With more people surfing and enjoying water sports, he said, the potential for shark sightings has increased.

"Those little critters have been out there for thousands of years," said Collier, author of "Shark Attacks of the Twentieth Century: From the Pacific Coast of North America."

The photos were posted on the committee's Web page, along with a report by Wright. Word spread after the sighting was mentioned in local TV reports and by surf blogs.

Officials with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, which oversees lifeguard operations, said today that they were aware of the photos and assume they are legitimate.

"It's a healthy ecosystem out there, and we know there's sharks in the water," said Fire Department spokesman Matt Levesque.

The sharks, he said, are "not endangering anyone."

Still, some surfers said the shark shots have caused them to think twice when paddling into the water.

"It was a little chilling," said Guy Okazaki, a Venice surfer and surfboard shaper who saw the photos on the Internet. "That was a big critter. It could take your leg off."

As for Wright, he said he's been surfing for about 30 years. And he isn't going to stop now.

"I'm part of the food chain when I'm in the [surf] lineup. I could get bit," he said. "But it hasn't happened yet."

--Robert J. Lopez

Photo: Shark that Wright said he photographed Saturday. Credit: Shark Research Committee.
Comments () | Archives (32)

Sure, when "pigs fly" then great white sharks will inhibit the Bay.

Look at the angle - he said " he was in his kajak- taken pictures-.
In his kajak - means on ocean surface- and "just by coincidence' the shark jumped out when he had a camera -ready to take a picture - and from this direction...
The depicted angle would be -similar to 10-12 feet off the water.
If I am not mistaken- the same sharks appeared in some South African shark pictures - down in Durban.

Hello, Photoshop.


Gotta love Photoshop.

In the heart of the city, Mother Nature still dominates. Great photos Randy! xoxo,

Do sharks breach the water outside of the seal rich coast of South Africa? I've never heard of that happening other than there. Why would this shark breach the water if it wasn't hunting because this maneuver expends a lot of energy.

a local marine biologist was interviewed on one of the local channels and he stated that sightings of breaching 'teenage' sharks in that area are not uncommon. there are have been multiple sightings of this phenomenon in the last several years, none have been captured on camera. This particular stretch of beach is apparently an area where these Great Whites are born and grow up then move on as they grow older. why does this occur in that area? and can someone here with some credentials confirm this theory and is this type of cycle seen in other southern california coastal waters?

In my 26 years of surfing, swimming and kayaking Socal, I've never seen or heard of so many shark sightings in one year. There are white sharks literally EVERYWHERE, with friends seeing them all over, from Malibu down to San Clemente.

Fortunately, most people don't panic now, especially around the small ones. But I have to wonder: Aren't these baby whites going to grow up?

I think young Great Whites will breach anywhere. I know it happens off Chatham and Martha's Vineyard, MA. At Guadalupe Island, Baja, the Whites tend to be older and bigger. I have never seen one breach there, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Breaching might be the result of a seal attack that failed, since Whites attack from underneath.

I'm not expert, but the photo looks photo-shopped . . .

This photo looks bogus. The reports of shark sightings everywhere "this year" along the coast are bogus, too- there have always been sharks off this coast. I have neither heard nor seen any evidence for any "increases" in sightings, and I'm in the water every day. What I have noticed increasing, as a longtime surfer, is oldtimers and their agressive spawn being nasty to newcomers to the sport, and by all means dishing up false info to whoever will listen.

If you're angry about the numbers of people in the water, figure out how to get yourself to the back of the Channel Islands, and quit your complaining when paddling out at Old Man's on a Saturday morning.

I am a Photoshop expert and at first glance this seemed an obvious and crude forgery. However, having visited the site to see the entire sequence of photos, I am now absolutely convinced this is authentic. The spraying surf and accuracy of the shark relative to the background would be virtually impossible to mimic.

Come on now. Will the fish stories never end? This is nothing but local cut and paste Jaw's spin.

You could'nt get a great white to jump that far out of the water to eat three fat surfers hanging by their thumbs above the surface.

Talk about jumping the shark!

not even 2 weeks ago, I had a great white jump out of my bathtub in the exact same manner

Polomoche, you are seriously a "photoshop expert?"

Please paste a link to the series you speak of- I had no luck finding it on the site in the article.

In my opinion, this shark appears to be still underwater. Not going to use any conspiracy-theorist style analysis of the photo...but I will say that the photo has some serious problems. Can't even believe this article/photo made the cut.

Photoshop. you can see the pixels towards the tail. Also that doesn't appear to be the correct tail for a white shark. It's at an impossible angel too

Looks like a Mako to me. They jump all the time, and that area has produced Makos to 8+ feet since I can remember.

Was surfing here yesterday morning with a couple of seals. There are plenty of reasons for a shark to breach at Sunset. Plus, with all the drains in the area, the water is a bit warmer than other more exposed beaches in the bay.

It is reasonable to expect Wright might seed the shot in an effort to clear the line-up of weary kooks.

Sadly, I don't think the water will be less empty this weekend.

I've been followed by and I have seen this shark breach (august 2nd 2008) in the exact same area. In 2005, two 5' GW pups (most likely newborns same mother) were spotted off Will Rogers. This is mostly likely one of them and I think the other one has been spotted in San O. They are basically loners, and the pups would have split up. We haven't had much rain the past few years and the water quality is better - and so the ecosystem has rebounded. Baby GW's eat grunion and other fish. They do not have the big serrated teeth they develop later as teenagers ( 10' and above) that enable them to eat sea mammals. We have never seen this shark chase anything out of the water. It's mouth is either full with small bait fish or it is simply playing around as many species do before they grow up. Also, they have a great sense of smell, and are very very curious, so I suspect play and curiosity and some feeding on baitfish.

This may very well be the last year we see this shark, dubbed 'Sunny' by the locals. It is getting big enough for the open ocean. We do not see them in the winter months. I suspect they move out to the Channel Islands or Catalina, when the rains come. As adults in Humboldt County, they head towards Hawaii when the rains start. They do depend on their eyesight. They arrive with the grunion in the spring and hang into the fall.

If you are bitten by a GWS under 10', you basically get a bruise and small cuts.

They do not have the teeth or jaw strength to do any real damage.

If you do get bit, it will be because you are wearing shiny jewelry, are in the middle of a baitfish area where marine animals are actively feeding, and you or your jewelry has been mistaken for a fish that just got away....

So, do not dress up like a grunion or sea bass, and stay away when birds, dolphins and other creatures are having a meal. Let them eat in peace and keep yourself off the buffet.

The maximum penalty for targeting great white sharks is a $250,000 fine and up to six months in prison. 'Sunny' prefers to hang out dead in front of the lifeguard station - smart well protected shark.

We've been surfing with this shark for 4 years now...

It's one of the cooler locals and is very aware that surfers do not look like or smell like, food.

And, no that isnt a photoshopped picture.

That's "sunny" and it is actually a truly spectacular sight to see this happen...it gets very high up in the air and the splashes are huge !! It is still on the small slender side...

Amazing intelligent misunderstood creature.

Now, Pitbulls....those will bite you and kill you.

Not this animal.

looks like a Mako

I was actually out doing stand up paddling today, the day after the sighting and saw this shark in the water in front of my board. It all but stopped my heart, and had my friend and I sitting crossed legged on our boards, until we made it to shore.
There is nothing that is photo shopped about this photo. The surf shop owner is a good friend of my boss who owns a water company, and he would not lie about something like this.

...these pics should simply remind most surfers of what they already know...i.e., that we are only guests in the line-up. why is it so "odd" to see a pic of what we know is out there every day? perhaps the doubters will feel better after they see it on shark week next season. in today's world, fake pics last about two minutes before they are exposed as such.

great pics!

too all you thinking its photoshopped..this isn't photoshopped there is a whole sequence of it on surfline...


not everything is photoshopped these days, people seem to forget that.
I'm sure some of you still won't believe it though

Hi everyone, my name is Randy Wright,
And I shot the sequence of the Great White Shark breaching at Sunset.
A buddy sent me this link, and I find the reader comments interesting. But I gotta tell you I find the Photoshop comparisions pretty lame. The photograph, image #3 out of 6 shot, displayed in the Los Angeles Times is a cropped, blown up copy done for species research purposes, ie, what type of shark is that?


That photograph, my friend, is a breaching Great White Shark at Sunset!

If you see the originals, my red Dogde pickup is even visible on PCH, just adjacent to the Bel Air Bay Club.

I do volunteer field work for the Shark Research Commitee and I have heard of the sharks jumping for some time now, a few of my customers that shop at Horizons West surfshop in DogTown have even seen the shark(s) breach, Kim Welsh, Ralph Buoncristiani, and many others. Santa Monica High school alumni Alden Harris, a resident of Pacific Palisades, has even swam off of Will Rogers and had them scope him out! Alden has also seen a baby GWS caught by a fisherman on the shore, who had to release the animal when Alden and a LA County lifeguard told him they are a protected species. The Great White Shark(s) is out there alive and well(?) near Sunset and Will Rogers beaches!

I have tried to capture an image of the sharks at Sunset from the beach many times this past year, shooting hundreds of images of every singe fin I saw, with only Leopard sharks being seen and photographed, besides all the many dolphins I saw.
This past weekend, I decided to paddle out one of my kayaks offshore at Sunset, anchor my kayak near the location of the many reported sightings and hopefully capture an image of this local, mythological jumping shark. I'll tell you, the breaches happen so fast, and so unexpected, that it is simply fascinating to see! The shark does not swim at the surface with it's dorsal fin exposed. You have no clue it's even near you, then in a swoshing eruption of water it suddenly, for only a split second, is visible, and then gone...
I used a Canon 40d camera, with a Canon 24-105 mm EF lens, all packed inside of a SPL waterhousing(Thanks Sean!) to luckily capture these images. My shutter speed was set from 1/640 to 1/2000 of a second, with a sufficent depth of field. You must be ready to shot at all times, for there is no warning, and you must react very, very quickly.
I spent 4 days, from Saturday until Tuesday doing volunteer field work for the Shark Research Committee. In all, I probably spent about 10-12 hours on the water, patiently waiting and observing, without chumming or splashing the water, hoping to see just 1 of these magnicficent animals breach. Incredibly, I was fortunate to have seen 5 breaches, luckily captured 3 of the 5 in sequential photographs, and missed but saw the splash of 2 others. One sequence shows, from far away, what Ralph Collier from the Shark Research Committee identified as a Short Fin Mako shark, another, from far away, species is unknown, but the closet one, which breached maybe 60 feet away from myself and is presented above is definately a Great White Shark.

Ralph Collier, who has been studying shark/human interaction for some 47 years, since John F. Kennedy was President, hopes to initiate a tagging and tracking program to study these animals behavior off these very popular beaches of Will Rogers and Sunset. My hope is that the photographs I shot will bring enough interest in Ralph's valuable research to allow that the happen thru public or corporate donations to the Shark Research Committee. If you are interested in making a donation or would like to read more about sharks off the Pacific Coast, here is the Shark Research Committee's website address:

Sincerely, Randy Wright
surfer and photographer

ps-I have also shot a sequence of Great White Shark chasing a seal adjacent to the red buoy off Pt. Dume this past spring while whale watching. I believe that we do have a healthy ecosystem and the Great White Shark does inhabit our coastal waters off Los Angeles, doing it's thing...

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