NARRATIVE: Caterina Gennaro had been in the water about five minutes.
“Once out into calmer water and somewhat flat, I suddenly was knocked off my board. It was fast, just a bump, so didn't think much of it.\
“I got back on not understanding how that would happen because I never fall off. I got back on my board and about five minutes later I saw a shadow about 10 feet away. It was deep then it came up close to my board. I knew it was a Great White Shark, 11 – 12 feet in length and very clean with no scars. Then it disappeared. Within moments I saw it swimming towards me, as it turned and went under my board, which made it unstable.
“I immediately found clumps of seaweed (kelp) in water and put it on front and back of my board to make it more stable and also let if hang down so the board looked like floating sea grass. The shark kept coming back, circling, not aggressively.
The current was taking me south and in shore but towards a very rocky area. I needed to stay in line with the beach so I used long, slow powerful strokes, so as not to make any splashes.
“The shark seemed to follow my paddle, which was strange. I would put the paddle in front of its snout, but not in an aggressive gesture, just to stop or deflect it from hitting my board. It would veer away for a minute or two then return. The paddle seemed to keep it at bay.
“The wind got stronger and waves bigger during that hour. I found some sea grass/kelp on the surface so I tied off so as not to drift and to keep sight of the shark.
The shark returned and went under my board and broke the seagrass/kelp I was tied to. The last half hour or so the shark kept approaching from the back of my board no matter how I moved, so I turned to face backwards on the board.
“Every time the shark passed beneath my board it would become unstable and rock from side to side. I lengthened my paddle as far as it could go and out it in front of its snout as it approached. It then turned on its side just slightly under the water, its pectoral fin slightly out of water but did not touch my board. The shark looked right at me then submerged. I was able to see claspers when it turned so I know it was a male. He swam in front of me and submerged so I thought it was my chance to line up to the beach and paddle ashore. The beach was small and I had to line up perfectly to get in.
“Then the shark appeared again from behind me, I kept looking in all directions trying not to take my eyes off the shark. Fighting waves and the wind was the hardest part. My daughter and friends were onshore gesturing to me to come in. They thought I was just having fun out there. Then, unexpectedly, a large wave came from behind me. I turned my board into it, got on my knees with the paddle and headed toward shore.
“Suddenly I felt my board being struck from below and I went flying up in the air. It seemed like six feet and before I knew it the board was ripped from my hand, my paddle was gone and I was under water. As I surfaced, I immediately looked for the shark.
I continued with my back to shore to watch for the shark, and making sure I was in line with the beach or I would smash into the rocks. I swam, very calmly taking each wave by going under and letting the waves take me in.
“My friend Dan Metcalfe realized what had happened when he saw me on the last wave getting hit, and what was going on. I saw him on the beach, and gestured not to come in, to wait till I was in at least 15 feet of water. I had my eye on the water the whole time, didn't swim fast, I was still in deep water. When I got into shallower water I remember , Dan picking me up over his shoulder to fight the waves together. He went under the waves and held me so I wouldn't tumble around, plus the shore break was very strong!
As I came ashore I collapsed, my legs were shaking so much, and I cried, not believing what just happened. I just held my daughter and hoped that she didn't see much, the shark followed my board. My board floated away, I did see a fin following it as it floated south and into the rocks, the board went the opposite direction of me. Dan recovered the board on the rocks and paddle washed up on shore,
The only damage was the string/leash was broken off.”
Ralph Colier - GSAF