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Beachgoers warned after suspected great white shark attack

July 10, 2012 | 11:22 am

Beachgoers near Santa Cruz are keeping an eye out for what is believed to be a great white shark that attacked a kayaker off the coast of Capitola in Monterey Bay.

Local authorities posted advisories along a two-mile stretch of beach near the site of Saturday morning's attack, which occured about a half-mile offshore near a kelp bed, said Rob Oatey of the Santa Cruz Fire Department.

They also are urging shops that rent water sports equipment to warn customers about the attack.

Authorities told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that the 52-year-old kayaker was fishing in 40-foot waters when  he felt something bump against the back of his 13-foot boat. Moments later, the shark lifted up the kayak and attacked it from the front.

The man was thrown from the kayak but not hurt. Another boater rescued him from the water.

Sean Van Sommeran, head of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, took a look at the bottom of the kayak and realized it was probably the work of a great white, one he guessed was at least 14 feet long.

Tiny marks on the kayak showed the shark had serrated teeth, Van Sommeran said, indicating a great white was the likely culprit.

"It's the primary suspect anyway in this type of stuff," he said.

News of the attack generated buzz among beachgoers, Oatey said, but people seemed to show "more interest ... than any sort of fear."

Shark sightings are not unusual in the area, he said, and as more people venture farther offshore in kayaks and standup paddleboards, the risk for additional encounters increases.

"It's just a matter of timing," he said. "They're always there."

Van Sommeran said there was "very little" authorities could do except remind beachgoers to be careful in the water.

"For what they are and what they do, sharks are well-behaved," he said. "They very rarely bite people. They have a very fixed menu, and humans aren't typically on it.

"But a shark doesn't have to eat you to get paramedics busy," he said. "When it can go wrong, it can go terribly wrong."


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— Kate Mather

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