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Florida: Summer of the Shark II

October 1, 2008 | 12:58 pm

New Smyrna Beach

There's a lot not to like about Florida -- its flatness, the heat and humidity, hurricanes.

But for surfers, a primary complaint has to do with all the sharks. Especially for surfers at New Smyrna Beach within Volusia County, which in 2001 endured a record 22 attacks during a hysteric period dubbed the "summer of the shark."

That record now stands at 23, and in fairness, many of the so-called attacks were more like little nips. But the number must nonetheless be disconcerting to surfers and county officials.

The latest victim was a 44-year-old Jupiter man who was grabbed briefly on Sunday.

"It was extremely minor and he went back out surfing," Scott Petersohn of the Volusia County Beach Patrol told the Daytona Beach News Journal.

"There were a lot of surfers out, more than usual, and good waves. It was bound to happen with that many people on the water."

Bound to happen. You just don't hear such talk in Southern California, or even in Northern California, where the big great whites hang out. Of course, when there is an attack off the West Coast, it's generally serious.

Back to Florida, the shark-news website Fear Beneath asks a valid question: "Where's CNN? Where's Time magazine?"

A Fear Beneath blogger states, "In 2001, our record 22 shark bites gained us a prominent place in a Time cover story with the scary headline, 'Summer of the Shark.'

"Foreign news crews arrived in New Smyrna Beach and shoved microphones in front of surfers. From the kind of coverage we got, viewers got the impression that gangs of sharks were cruising the streets in cars looking for victims.

"This year? Zip."

Outpost's response: Must be the election.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: A sign warns of danger to surfers and swimmers in the north area of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., in 2001, when there were a record 22 shark attacks or bites in Volusia County. That record was broken Sunday. Credit: Associated Press