GREAT WHITE SHARK SPOOKS SURFERS AT SPORTHAVEN BEACH
Published: June 17, 2006
Five Brookings surfers were chased from the water at Sporthaven Beach Friday by what one of them described as a great white shark.
The Curry Coastal Pilot received a phone call Friday afternoon from one of the surfers, who asked to remain anonymous. He said he was reporting the shark encounter because he felt that other people should be aware that it happened.
"It bumped one of the surfers and spun him around before disappearing," the surfer said. "Two other guys surfing nearby saw a fin and splash and then saw it circling around them.
"Luckily, there was a wave coming and we all caught it to the beach," he said.
As of Friday afternoon, authorities, including the U.S. Coast Guard, said they had not received a report of the encounter or of any other shark sightings in the area.
According to Russ Johnson, local wave rider and owner of Sessions surf shop in Brookings, the five men were catching waves Friday morning about 20 or 30 feet off the south jetty of the Chetco River.
Johnson, who was surfing at the same location that morning but left before the shark appeared, said the other surfers described the fish as a juvenile white shark about 10 to 12 feet in length.
Great whites are a common predator of the Northwest Pacific and the largest-known existing carnivorous fish in the world. The sharks can weight more than 2,000 pounds and reach lengths of 13 to 20-plus feet.
While the presence of white sharks is not uncommon along the Southern Oregon Coast, sightings at popular swimming and surfing beach such as Sporthaven Beach are rare.
"This is something new – I've never once heard about a white shark being seen at Sporthaven Beach," Johnson said. "He definitely was hunting."
Recent studies of white shark behavior have shown that the creatures often bump and sometimes attack surfboards used as decoys.
Larry Ellis, who writes the weekly fish report for the Pilot, said the shark at Sporthaven Beach may have been attracted to the area by the recent increase in salmon and other large fish feeding on a surge in baitfish close to shore.
The abundance of fish likely attracted a family of four Orca whales that were spotted last week feeding near the mouth of the Rogue River, about 30 miles north of Brookings, Ellis said.
At that same location in September, 2004, a great white shark attacked a surfer. Seth Mead was surfing near the south jetty when he looked down to see the creature clamp down on his right leg and foot, it's razor-sharp teeth slicing through his wetsuit and into his flesh. Then the shark simply let go and disappeared into the water, leaving the dazed and bleeding 26-year-old to catch a wave 50 feet to shore. He survived the attack.
In November, 2005, a surfer survived a great white shark attack at the mouth of the Klamath River in California, about 45 miles south of Brookings.