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Shark sighting scares pro surfer right out of the water

November 2, 2011 | 11:43 am

Shark attackA shark scare has apparently had a chilling effect on a pro surfing competition in San Francisco, where one of the event's top surfers was frightened out of the ocean after spotting “the biggest fin I’ve ever seen in my life coming at me.”

Former L.A. Times sportswriter Pete Thomas reported in his outdoors blog that Dusty Payne of Hawaii made a sudden exit from the water after seeing what he claimed was a large and menacing shark.

The sighting comes just days after a man surfing off the coast of Monterey was attacked by a shark, suffering deep puncture wounds to his neck and arms. Authorities said the shark also took a king-size chomp out of Eric Tarantino’s red surfboard.

Payne was in the midst of competing against South Africa’s Jordy Smith off Ocean Beach when he suddenly started paddling out of the water. There was about 5 minutes left in the heat, Thomas reported.

Smith remained in the water and won the heat in the Rip Curl Pro Search.

Lifeguards patrolled the waters in a small boat before and during the next heat.

The timing of the surfing competition is not ideal when it comes to sharks, Thomas noted. Fall is when adult great whites congregate off the Farallon Islands to feed on elephant seals and sea lions.

Afterward, Payne said it was definitely a shark that prompted him to make for land, Thomas reported.

"I've seen dolphins,” the surfer said, “and it wasn't a dolphin."

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-- Steve Marble

Photo: California state parks lifeguard Kevin Brady holds a surfboard bearing the scars from a shark attack off Monterey. Credit: David Royal / Monterey County Herald

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