PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. (KRON) — A stretch of California coastline is earning a “sharky” reputation following an attack and two close shark encounters in Pacific Grove within the last four months.
The most recent shark encounter happened on Halloween near Otter Point. A local surfer was catching waves at 5:17 p.m. when a shark “bumped” the surfer’s board, according to the Pacific Grove Police Department. The surfer was thrown off the board and paddled into shore uninjured.
“Sharks don’t have hands. They will bump or bite a board because they are testing it (wondering) is this edible?” said Eric Mailander, a drone pilot who monitors and records great white sharks in the Monterey Bay. The Otter Point shark’s species has not yet been confirmed.
A great white shark attacked an ocean swimmer off Lovers Point in Pacific Grove on June 22. Steve Bruemmer, 62, of Monterey, said he was swimming 150 yards from shore when, “Wham! I was bit ferociously by a shark. It grabbed me and pulled me up and then dove me down in the water.”
“It was looking at me, right next to me. I thought it could bite me again so I pushed it with my hand and I kicked at it with my foot,” Bruemmer said.
Three good Samaritans heard the gravely injured swimmer’s screams for help and helped paddle him to shore. “How do you get in the bloody water with maybe a shark circling beneath you, to save a stranger? They are amazing,” Bruemmer said of his rescuers.
Another shark encounter happened near the same beach in August. A man was standup paddle boarding with his dog when he saw a shark swimming toward him. A great white shark sunk its teeth into the paddleboard, according to PGPD.
The man and his dog were thrown into the water from the shark’s impact. “The shark swam underneath, turned, and bit the paddleboard. They were able to get back on the board and paddle to shore, uninjured,” PGPD wrote.
In October, veteran surf photographer Jordan Anast managed to be in the right place at the right time while snapping photos of surfers competing at the San Onofre Surf Club contest near San Clemente.
His series of photos shows a white shark breaching straight out of the water while an unsuspecting surfer stays focused on his wave.
KRON4 asked shark experts, is Pacific Grove and the rest of California’s coastal shoreline becoming more “sharky” with higher population numbers of great whites hunting?
Dr. Christopher G. Lowe, director of CSU Long Beach Shark Lab, said, “It is a bit unusual to have that many incidents at a particular location. I think it is coincidental. We know that tagged juvenile and adult white sharks swim by that area, but there is no indication they are staying and hunting there (in Pacific Grove.)”
Lowe explained that white sharks are highly mobile and migrate. Even a juvenile white shark can swim 60 miles in less than 24 hours, he said.
Now that it’s November, the largest adult white sharks are feasting on elephant seals in the chilly waters off of Northern California, while the smaller juveniles have headed Southern California for warmer water temperatures.
“Most of the data show that white sharks are feeding at elephant seal rookery sites like Ano Nuevo, Farallon Island, Pt. Conception,” Lowe wrote.
Mailander agreed that he believes the spike in shark-human encounters is coincidental. “It’s weird to have three incidents. The swimmer, the SUPer, and now the surfer.”
Pacific Grove’s beaches are stunning in beauty, popular for recreational water sports, and attract many visitors. “There are just more people in the water,” Mailander said. Sharks also like this shoreline because there are large colonies of harbor seals and sea lions to hunt.
Mailander served as a GoPro photographer for a recent tagging study by Ano Nuevo Island. His camera recorded a “well-known” 13-foot-long adult shark swimming beneath the research team’s boat. If you want to find large great white sharks along Northern California’s coast, “November is the best time, right now, to get out there,” he said.
Many of the adult white sharks arriving in NorCal waters now migrated from a mysterious spot named “SOFA” far offshore between Hawaii and Baja.
SOFA, which stands for Shared Offshore Foraging Area, is still considered a “mystery spot” by many shark experts because there’s not enough data to definitively determine why the big white sharks go there in the summer.
The current Eastern North Pacific Ocean great white shark population is a tough number to estimate because sharks in this species are solitary and usually on-the-go.
“White sharks are highly migratory and segregate by sex, age and size. Unlike marine mammals, they neither surface to breathe nor frequent haul-out sites, hindering generation of abundance data required to estimate population size,” stated a study by Lowe and nine other shark experts.
Mailander records drone videos of juvenile white sharks each summer off the coast of Aptos in the Monterey Bay. He’s counted as many as 30 juveniles in a single day. “The whole Monterey Bay is sharky. They are thriving. They are extremely common.”
Mailander added, “And they are downright cool. Everything about them is fascinating, graceful, beautiful. I never get tired of seeing them.”