As the Youtube video of a fisherman's close encounter with a great white shark in La Jolla clogs up thousands of social media feeds and circles the internet, we are left with one question - Should we really stay out of the water?
10News San Diego recently interviewed a "shark expert" who advised surfers to stay out of the water in the early morning and late afternoons because there is a large group of great white sharks feeding just a few miles off the coastline. Surfers everywhere pondered their next paddle out and families of surfers began commenting furiously to stay out of the water. So - what should we do?
Although sharks do partake in something called intrauterine cannibalism, which sounds completely terrifying, they are actually not murderous monsters looking to kill anything in their way, including humans. For people who have seen the 1975 movie Jaws one too many times, this may seem impossible, but it's true. A typical great white shark's diet consists of fish, rays, small whales, seals and sea lions. Humans are not actually on the menu. So, when a great white shark attacks a person, it's usually a case of mistaken identity, hence the reason they simply bite and take off.
The shark is not actually trying to kill and eat a person, they are probably just as shocked by the attack as the victim. Here they are hunting along thinking they are about to chomp into a juicy bite of seal blubber when a bony human thigh ends up tickling (more like torturing) their tastebuds. It's an unfortunate situation for both involved. The problem is not that the shark took a nosey nibble to see what you were, the problem is that a great white shark has approximately 3,000 sharp teeth it's using to sample the main course.
3,000 razor sharp teeth and soft and supple human flesh just don't mix well, so we end up with all of these "killer great white" stories, when really it's just a big misunderstanding. The shark can't help that it's built for blood and us humans can't help that sometimes, when we are bobbing and flailing in our black wetsuits, we look remarkably similar to a seal, sea lion, or even walrus on occasion.
So - should we stay out of the water over the next few months to avoid a rude encounter with a great white? It might not be a bad idea. Or - we can do our best to not look like a penniped and take a lesson from the surfers in Pacific Beach by rocking a neon green wetsuit and dousing ourselves in shark (and girl) repelling cologne before hitting the waves. Hey - whatever works.
This article was written by Carli Leavitt. Carli is an avid surfer and San Diego native who currently handles outreach and public relations for multiple attorneys including San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer George Ramos.