2 surfers bitten as sharks invade Volusia's coastline
By JORDAN KAHN and DINAH VOYLES PULVER, Staff Writers
September 4, 2010 12:05 AM
Sharks bit two surfers Friday during an eventful morning off the coast of Volusia County, where Hurricane Earl kicked up waves, bait fish were plentiful and witnesses spotted more sharks than they could count.
Jason Coffman, 29, of South Daytona, was bitten in the hand while surfing at the jetty at Ponce de Leon Inlet on his birthday. And a 24-year-old New Smyrna Beach man surfing about 300 yards south of the south jetty suffered a bite on his left thigh.
"I've seen a lot of crazy shark activity, but I've never seen anything like this in the history of my life," said surfing photographer Patrick Eichstaedt, a New Smyrna Beach native who was at the Sunglow Pier shooting photos of former pro tour surfer Shea Lopez during the frenzy.
Despite the wild day, so far Volusia County, which over the years has earned a reputation as "shark bite capital of the world," is on track to have its fewest number of shark bites in seven years.
Volusia County Beach Patrol Capt. Scott Petersohn said it's not unusual to see large pods of bait fish this time of year.
Coffman, the surfer bitten on the hand, said he was in the water, off his board, after riding a wave when a shark bit him, let go and then chomped down again. As he struggled to grab his board with his free hand to stay afloat, Coffman swung the board in front of him and tried to pull his hand free.
Then, Coffman said, the shark came out of the water, onto his board, and he could see about 4 feet of shark from nose to dorsal fin latched onto his hand.
The pro surfer Lopez said when he moved south from Sunglow to the inlet, the sharks were thick and aggressive from knee-deep to the outside sandbars.
"I paddled out and my friend was coming in and he had his hand above his head like a shark fin. I guess he was like, 'I can't take it anymore,' " Lopez said. "There were just hundreds of sharks and tarpon in the waves chasing mullet."
Kyle Altes of Ormond Beach was surfing near Granada Boulevard and saw a black-tipped dorsal fin sticking at least a foot out of the water "thrashing around" in the whitewash.
"It was incredible," Altes said. "The waves were beautiful. There were 7-foot faces, maybe 8-foot."
Darren Manser of Port Orange said he got tackled out of wave by a shark at Ponce Inlet.
"I was pulling into the barrel, fish were jumping through the back of the wave, and then something just knocked the hell out of my board," he said. "For an hour and a half after, my heart was going crazy. I've seen some big sharks but I've never been bumped before."
Manser, too, said the shark activity was constant.
"We paddled out at 6:24 (a.m.). It was dark. Within 45 seconds of paddling out, a spinner shark almost landed on Nol (Tellet of Daytona Beach Shores)."
Surf magazine photographer Patrick Ruddy of Spruce Creek Fly-In, who has spent years swimming into heavy surf zones with cameras, said the weeklong storm surge from two hurricanes probably wore out a lot of bait fish.
"Now they're all washed up in the shallows," he said.
Cue the feeding frenzy. But when the waves are firing, surfers have their priorities.
Ask Coffman. On his way to the hospital to get stitches, he stopped at the Sunglow Pier to check the surf one more time and show off his shark bite to some of his surfing friends.http://www.news-journalonline.com/news/ ... tline.html