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08/30/2020 - Kayak - California - No Injury

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08/30/2020 - Kayak - California - No Injury

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Kayaker survives terrifying great white shark attack in Shelter Cove
A Santa Rosa kayaker survived a heart-stopping encounter last weekend when a great white shark bit into the bow of his craft, capsizing it and leaving him dangling in the chilly waters of Shelter Cove in Humboldt County for several terrifying seconds.

David Alexander of Santa Rosa, with a new paddling friend nearby, escaped with minor injuries. He estimates the shark was 13 to 15 feet long.

Alexander says that what he remembers best was the giant shark’s wide-open mouth and eyes “without soul.”

“He had the front of my kayak in his mouth as I get thrown” from the kayak, Alexander said. After looking at each other for “what seems like forever” but “was in reality probably seconds,’ the shark let go and swam the opposite direction away from the boat. Alexander recalls thinking: “What if he is going to swim back around and bites me?

“I flip my (kayak) back over. I believe it took me three tries to get back on top.”

Three nearby fishing boats immediately came to Alexander’s aid. After he quickly pumped water out of the kayak hull, he and his partner, known among kayakers as “Three Money J,” headed straight to the beach.

Alexander, a school district superintendent in Santa Rosa, said he emerged from the attack with sore ribs, an injured hand and sore legs. The injuries occurred when he righted the boat and then completed a self-rescue maneuver to climb back in.

The attack happened in the same place where, over Memorial Day weekend, a great white shark estimated at 16 feet long bit another kayak. That paddler also escaped without serious injury.

This past week, California Department of Fish and Wildlife took possession of Alexander’s kayak to compare bite marks of the two kayaks and try to determine if the same shark was responsible for both attacks.

Sightings and encounters with great white sharks off the Bay Area and Northern California coast often peak in late summer. The great whites are drawn in by increased numbers of sea lions, which in turn are attracted by salmon migrating inshore and to points upstream on their fall spawning runs. A study authored by 10 scientists reported 2,400 great white sharks roam the Bay Area coast, up from 200 to 400 estimated in the 1990s.

Two weeks ago at Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica, a great white shark was sighted swimming under a woman on her surfboard and then cruising just beneath a nearby lineup of 40 surfers, as reported in The Chronicle.

Last October, at Catalina Island in Southern California, a great white shark estimated as 19 feet long attacked and bit a kayak, where again, the paddler and his companion escaped injury.

In recent years on the Bay Area coast, great whites have twice bitten kayaks at Bean Hollow State Beach in San Mateo County, a popular fishing spot for kayak anglers with pedal-propelled boats.

It’s believed that, looking up from below, the big sharks see the silhouette of a kayak or surfboard, and the attendant paddling, churning or leg kicking, and mistake it for a sea lion, which the sharks seem hard-wired to attack.

At home this past week, Alexander said reliving the event is causing continued trauma. He keeps returning to a single moment, when he capsized and was waiting for the shark to return. He first reported the attack on the website for the organization NorCal Kayak Anglers, of which I am a member.

“I have this constant image of the shark holding on to my” kayak, Alexander said.

“Not sure what went wrong,” he said. “Perhaps (the) yellow kayak. Maybe in (the) wrong spot at wrong time. I was not dragging fish. That said, the ‘Landlord’ did not collect. God gave me another day.”

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