7-gill shark attack- La Jolla 6/6/11
I am giving this report while things are still pretty fresh in my mind. My intent is to educate/warn and not demonize sharks or scare people. I considered not sharing this story beyond my friends because of the inevitable second guessing/ calling bullshit etc.... However, this information may have value to others and so I will share my experience. For those who want to armchair quarterback, let me tell you that you were not there and you can't know how you will react until something like this happens to you. I don't appreciate the shoulda/coulda/woulda BS.
I decided I needed to get in the water today after work and I knew some guys who wanted to go. One of my buddies has been diving for a bit and we have been diving a couple of times. The other guy is a brand new diver and had only been in the water twice. After looking at conditions, we knew we could expect some wind chop and 5-10' viz. We head out off of South Casa in La Jolla. I was armed with my Riffe Euro 90 with a floatline, my buddy had a jbl 38 special with a float line, and our other friend had a simple pole spear. We ended up heading out and doing a few drops looking for the usual suspects. Pretty soon, my buddy shot a decent Calico with his JBL. I was really stoked because he is still a newer diver and it was so early in the dive. He had forgotten his stringer so I toss the fish on my belt and we start doing some more drops. We kept close because it was choppy and these guys were newer divers. Pretty soon, I see a shark cruising right under me. I get a really good look at the shark as it was slowly cruising and tentatively ID as a 6-8' 7-gill based on the long tail and lack of a prominent dorsal fin. The shark also had a roundish nose and was kind of narrow. I see the shark heading right for my buddy who had just dropped down and I think about shooting it right there.... however, I was with two newer guys and it was kind of rough so I wasn't sure it was a good idea. After a few seconds, I am a little concerned that the shark was going for my buddy and I almost pulled the trigger but he veered off and I didn't.
I have seen 7-gills before and leopards/ soupfin etc.... Ordinarily, I wouldn't have been concerned but something in the body language of the shark screamed "danger" at me. I called the two guys over immediately, told them a shark was in the area and had us grouped/looking down in the water with our guns/polspear ready to go. After several minutes with no more shark sighting, I decided it was ok to move and we started slowly moving towards shore. I completely forgot about the calico on my stringer hanging on my right side.
We start slowly swimming into shore all grouped together and I am watching behind us with my gun pointed looking for the shark in case he came back. As we are swimming, I look back for the two guys to make sure we were grouped up and I feel this sudden pressure and movement on my calf. I looked down and the shark had my calf in its mouth and bit down three times. This is the strange part. I am not sure if it was because the shark had realized it had missed the calico (its obvious target) or because it tasted neoprene but the shark was biting me a bit like a dog who is playing with you and "bites" your hand. It was firm but not a full-fledged bite and tear sort of bite. After the third "test bite" (for lack of a better term), the shark let go. As it let go, the neoprene was caught on its teeth and I felt it tug the neoprene.
I had enough time to realize that I couldn't use my gun without shooting myself at close quarters and I hit it in the head with my gun/fist. I thought about grabbing for my knife which was on my thigh sheath and decided it was too close to the mouth and I didn't want to lose my hand. Anyhow, the shark let go so I didn't have much time to do anything but try to hit it. I had probably 3 seconds total before it let go.
The shark then veered off to my right and behind my shoulder. The shark swam right at my buddy who was about five to ten feet behind me over my right shoulder and he had the good sense to put a shaft in it. After he put a shaft in it, the shark swam away. None of us bothered to grab the floatline because we were almost in the surf at this point and we were frankly a bit freaked out.
At this point, I realize we were close enough to the shallows to make a quick dash in case the shark came back. I didn't think the shark would follow us into shallow water so I yell at the two guys to "go go go!!!!" and we dash to the safety of shore. After we got out, I looked at my leg thinking I must have been bit and thinking I might be in shock and not realize that I was missing flesh or something and I couldn't find any puncture in my skin/blood. There were pretty clear gashes in my wetsuit from the teeth but I have no injury to speak of.
I consider my self completely lucky to emerge unscathed and I am grateful that my dive buddies didn't bail on me and head straight for shore at the first sign of shark. If they didn't see it happen and I didn't have the marks on my wetsuit, I almost wouldn't believe it.
We reported it to the lifeguards and I am pretty sure they didn't believe me. I have to admit that it is a bizarre story.
Another buddy gave me an article about shark attacks and what to do last year and fortunately I read it. I think the only thing I could have done different was to ditch the calico when I thought the shark was moving aggressive. I advise you to trust your instincts and dive with good guys.
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