A silky wave, shaved clean by the swell that had just broken in front of it, was on the horizon.
I was about to turn to paddle for it, when I saw something else was already enjoying the ride – a sleek gray torpedo with teeth coming right for me.
I’ve written my fair share of shark bite stories having been a reporter in South Florida for nearly two decades.
Most are cautionary tales of surfers who get mistaken for shark chow and end up with a story and stitches, although some involve the rare and tragic results that occur when a human meets up with a bull shark in its hunting grounds.
Some are ridiculous, such as the guy who set out to take revenge on the shark that bit him.
In 2006, I spent a day with renown University of Florida shark researcher George Burgess. He’s the keeper of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History and is often the first call a reporter makes when a shark encounter turns sour.
One thing he told me, and something I think about often when I’m in the water, is the conversation he said he sometimes has with surfers after a bite.
“So, did you see the sharks in the water,” he asks.
“Yes,” the surfer responds.
“Why didn’t you get out of the water?” he queries.
“Because the waves were too good!”
On Monday, the shark that was making a beeline for my head, surfing the wave I was about to catch, was the first one I saw that day. It was a Go-Pro moment for sure, but I had no camera.
I estimate it was a 4-foot spinner. Nothing that was going to eat me alive, but I didn’t want to start off the year with an emergency room visit either.
I kept thinking it was sure to deviate its course, make a quick dash left or right, but it didn’t. Maybe it was chasing something, but despite us literally coming face to face, it just continued to come straight for me.
With no where to go, I just sat on my board, hoping the wave wouldn’t break until it, and the shark, were past me. I suppose I could have paddled for the wave anyway, maybe calling the shark off with a hoot indicating it had dropped in on me. (Of course, he’s the ultimate local and I’m just a kook visitor, so that would have been bad form all around.)
Unfortunately, the wave crested and crashed right on top of me, with, as far as I know, the shark and I rolling around in the white water together.
I scrabbled to get back on my board, waiting for a bite from a ticked off shark mad that I interfered with his fun or food search. But I paddled away without a scratch.
My boyfriend asked if I wanted to leave. The waves weren’t even that good.
But we stayed another half hour, until I saw the second shark.
It was no great white, like the one spotted off Juno and captured in the video below, but it was big enough to call the day done.
Meteorologist James Wieland posted this great white video to his Instagram account.