Friday, June 11, 2010

Chapter 11: Run In With A Great White

Ken Kelton and Mike Chin went out to kayak near Ano Nuevo Island along the California coast between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Paddling among the seals and sea lions that congregate in this area, Ken's kayak was attacked by a great white shark. The shark bit all the way through the back of the boat and punctured one of the float bags. Luckily he stayed upright and after the shark discovered that Ken's kayak wasn't a tasty seal and left, Ken and Mike were able to paddle to a nearby beach before the damaged kayak filled with water and sank.

Shark attacks are relatively rare, but if you want to try to avoid an encounter like this, you need to be thinking of things from the shark's perspective. Great white sharks eat fish and seals, and anything else they can find swimming around in the water. If you decide to paddle around areas with a lot of potential shark food, you are at greater risk of being attacked, especially when you consider that a kayak with paddle blades splashing on either side of the hull looks a lot like a swimming seal from below.

When doing some searching on the internet for shark attacks on kayaks, it was not surprising to me that most of the incidents I found on YouTube were related to people fishing out of kayaks. Not only do the kayaks sometimes look like prey, but the bait and the fish that the fishermen are trying to catch are also probably attractive to the sharks.

I'm not ready to give up kayaking in the ocean because there might be sharks, but it is worth thinking about what paddlers can do to reduce their risk. Historically, the number of shark attacks worldwide is still relatively low when compared to other dangers in our lives. But as we deplete the sharks' food source with pollution and overfishing, it's not surprising that they may go after anything that looks even remotely like a meal.

Have you had any personal encounters with sea life that left you feeling a bit scared? Are you concerned about sharks or any other dangerous wildlife when you go kayaking? Have you taken any specific precautions to reduce your risk? Please share!


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