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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Shark Encounters with Kayakers

“Is it safe to go kayaking in the ocean?”

After seeing an episode on shark week where a shark has been hunting or stalking a kayaker off Cape Cod, I thought why not blog about sharks this week. I tend to be obsessed with the Great White shark, ever since the 1975 release of "Jaws." I was only five years old when this movie was released in the theater, and I can remember my mom talking about this movie after she and my dad went to see it. I was eight by the time I watched "Jaws" and have been obsessed with these sharks ever since I saw the movie. The movie caused not only fear in me toward water but also an obsession with water, if this makes any sense.

Once when I was twelve, I went swimming for the first time in the ocean, and I just got into the water and took off swimming. When I turned around to see where I was, I realized I had swum quite a distance from shore, and there was no one else around me. All of a sudden I had a sickening feeling in my stomach and the water from below rushed me. The only thought that came into my head was, "Swim as fast as you can for the shore and never mind what is behind you." Scared and exhilarated more than any other time in my life, I swam so fast I felt like I was floating on top of the water.

That was the last time I swam in the ocean. I realized that I needed to respect the ocean as there are bigger things than me in there and that day when I swam in the ocean scared me to the point of not really wanting to swim way out into the ocean again. I now just stick to rivers and lakes and just dip my toes in at the edge of the ocean. Living in California for 20 years has allowed me to see the beautiful Pacific Ocean and to wade or dip into many different beaches, but I never swim in the ocean because I don't want to take any chances. Besides California is full of the Great White Shark the mother of all sharks and these sharks can eat you whole.

Loving sharks like I do, I am always reading the shark siting's and laugh at how many people in kayaks seems to be attracting a shark's attention, especially, that of the Great White. Over the years, Kayaking has become a very popular activity used for enjoying a stroll over the ocean or to fish. According to the "Outdoor Foundation,” Kayaking as a recreational activity has grown up 32% in that last few years.

Kayaks being smaller than other boats allows users to venture into areas that bigger boats wouldn't allow. Attacks on Kayakers seem to be slim, but it is important to be prepared at all times.

In 2012, a California Kayaker was attacked by a Great White. Joey Nocchi, 30, of Paso Robles, California was attacked by a shark while he was kayaking just south of San Simeon State Park. Nocchi stated that the shark came from underneath the kayak hitting the bottom of the object lifting it out of the water. According to witnesses of the attack, the shark came out just like "Jaws" with eye rolled into its head and jaws wide open ready to engulf anything that slid into the mouth. The shark was about 15 feet long. Nocchi was dumped into the water when the shark hit his kayak. He was then able to swim back to shore and get out the water safely.

In 2013 a Hawaii  kayaker was killed while out on his kayak. The attack took place half a mile off a point near "Little Beach" in Makena State Recreation Area on the island of Maui. The man was not kayaking alone and was with a friend, and the two were fishing for baitfish when the shark bit one of the victim's feet that was dangling in the water. Losing much blood led to the death of this victim. This reminds us of the importance to keep all body parts inside the kayak while fishing, how's the shark to know it's not bait?

March of 2014, a man whom was fishing in Florida waters had an encounter with a bull shark as it came up to grab the fisherman's grouper. In this case it seems the shark is most interested in the food that was in the water. When you fish you are more likely to attract a shark that may attack to get to the food you are fishing for and you could end up on the menu. The fisherman was fine although the grouper was eaten by the shark.

September of 2014, two kayakers had an encounter with a shark. Here's a video of an that encounter. The news media states that great whites don't normally attack people. Well that's for another story that I will blog about later in the upcoming weeks.

Watch out for sharks while fishing from your kayak, check out this video.

Not always are the attacks made by Great Whites, check out this attack by a Hammerhead.

According to the Shark Research Committee in California of the 108 shark attacks along the Pacific coast only 5% of these attacks are on Kayakers. Although this is only in one specific area and we are looking at only shark attacks on Kayaks this is a very small percentage. This does not mean for kayakers to feel safe when going into the ocean, but to be prepared in case a shark does decide to dump you off your kayak and eat you.

In California the Great White tends to dominate as far as attacks are considered and you can see many videos on YouTube showing the sharks watching people both in kayaks and on paddleboards. I have even read once where this guy was videoing a shark that was watching the surfers 10- feet away and a wave hit the paddleboard knocking the guy off the board and straight onto the shark's back. Wow what an intense moment that must have been.

There are definitely more encounters between shark and kayakers, but not many will end in an attack. I read once about a man who was kayaking in southern California and all of a sudden his kayak lifted up like there was something on the back of it. When the kayaker looked over his shoulder he saw the head of a great white resting on the back of the kayak staring at him. As the kayaker began to panic he tried to paddle, but was getting nowhere at all. Finally, the shark got off the kayak and slid back under the water giving the kayaker time to paddle to shore.

We probably all remember seeing the episode about shark attacks where a woman was thrown from her kayak and then chased by a great white. She survived the episode but it does remind us that we too might be a tasty treat. We may not be the shark’s favorite food, but we are food none the less.

As people continue to enter the water shark encounters will continue to grow and this will include kayakers. Even though the percentage is low for kayakers getting attacked it does happen and you want to be well prepared in case it happens to you.

Here are some steps to follow to stay safe when Kayaking in oceanic waters:

1.       If you fish from a Kayak you are more likely to attract sharks to you and increase your risk of being attacked. If you are going to fish from a kayak  make sure that the fish you catch are not hanging off the edge of you boat and in the water.

2.       Don't dangle your feet off the edge of the kayak while fishing you could end up like the guy in Hawaii that lost his foot and then bled out and died before making it to help.

3.       Stay calm do not PANIC if you see a shark. Just let your friends now in a calm voice and head somewhere safe away from the shark. Make sure you paddle nice smooth strokes if you panic the shark will know and get excited and you are more likely to invite an attack.

4.       Stay out of shark infested waters, don't kayak where the seals are the sharks are always around ready to eat.

5.       Kayak in groups just in case you might need help.

6.       Don't wear anything sparkly or glittery as this looks like bait to most fish.

7.       If you are bleeding stay out of the water or if you cut yourself while out its time to pack up and go in as sharks can smell a drop of blood from many miles away and then show up to surprise you.

8.       If you get knocked off and out of your kayak grab your paddle and hang onto it you may need to use it to scare the shark off. Most sharks do not want to engage in something that might hurt them.

9.       STAY CALM no matter what happens and stay in control

Anyone have any shark stories? please share! SO SHARKY!!