This is really just awful news. The details are still just coming out, but a 20 year old kid body boarding out at Surf Beach off of Vandenberg Air Force Base was killed by a shark. They’re saying it took his leg and he bled out. My heart goes out to him, his family, and the guys in the water with him. What a horrible thing to experience as a victim and a bystander. High five to the friend that got him up on his surfboard and paddled the victim back to shore after the attack, I commend you for being brave enough to stick around and do the right thing. You can read more here or I’m sure it’ll be on the news and all over the rest of the internet soon enough.
Surf Beach is about 30 miles down the coast from where I swim in Avila Beach… also home to a fatal shark attack back in 2003. Two fatal attacks this close geographically and chronologically really isn’t sitting well with me. As an open water swimmer I get asked all the time if I’m scared of sharks. Hell yeah I’m scared of sharks! But guess what they live in the ocean and I want to be in the ocean, so I need to get over it. I try to keep in mind that statistically I’m more likely to get mauled by a bear or struck by lightening than get attacked by a shark. Something awful is more likely to happen on the drive to the beach than in the water. Sharks are highly specialized apex predators with a taste for big fatty marine mammals. Although I’m not a slender gentleman I’m no elephant seal. If a shark takes a shot at a human it’s probably a mistaken identity thing because we’re not particularly delicious to them.
I’ve already traded some email with my Avila training partner Niel. He’s more concerned with the forecast for rain and the ensuing agricultural run off that follows it than great whites, and you know what he’s right. We’re much more likely to get attacked by bacteria than a giant toothy fish. As long as the water is clean I’ll be in the ocean on Sunday for my regular training swim. Will I be a little scared and a little jumpy? Yes. Will I let this get in the way of my love for the ocean? No.