In His Own Words
“It happened on Monday, August 2, off shore Graviota State Beach in California. The weather was perfect, and I was making great time on the 24-mile loop. Oil rig Hondo was the last one I crossed to for the day. I stopped by its mooring buoy to take a photo. Sea lions were on and around it. I always thought these mooring buoys would be a great place for great white sharks to hang out.
“I left the oil rig Hondo at about noon to begin the seven-mile crossing back. Because of fog, I couldn’t see the coast and was steering by compass. My kayak was made of plywood and fiberglass, and painted red. It had hard chines and no rudder or skeg. I was using a Greenland-style paddle with long narrow blades.
“Without warning at about 12:40 p.m., when I was still about five miles from shore, a great white shark, which I estimated to be at least 15 feet long, bit and held onto my kayak. It attacked from my left side, with its head coming up from the water only a few feet from my kayak. There was not a hard impact. It bit my kayak where my left foot was inside the hull, and its mouth wrapped half way around the hull. My left foot was actually inside its jaws but protected by the kayak.
“The shark held onto my kayak for 10-15 seconds, during which it seemed relaxed and wasn’t moving. Its head was huge, and I remember seeing its eye and a hole on the side of its head, as well as its gray skin. I put the left tip of my paddle against its head, and I thought about hitting it, but I didn’t want to anger it or make it thrash. The whole time I was screaming like a little girl.
“After the longest 10-15 seconds in my life, it gently let go and slid back into the water. I wasn’t knocked off balance and didn’t have to brace to stay upright. A few seconds later, and about 20 feet in front of my kayak, I saw its tail fin break the surface and powerfully whip around, like it was coming back at me for a second strike, but it never happened.
“After waiting a few seconds I started paddling again, checking behind me to see if the shark was following, but I didn’t see it. After a few minutes I felt confident the shark was gone.
“As I paddled back to Gaviota State Beach water was leaking onto my legs in the cockpit from the holes. I had to stop about every mile to remove the water with a hand pump. Fortunately it bit down where the front bulkhead was located.
“I never thought I’d be attacked because I didn’t think sharks thought of kayaks as prey, but I guess I was wrong. During the attack, I thought I needed to stay prepared to brace if necessary, but I never had to. It was very scary to have my kayak and left foot inside the jaws of such a huge, deadly, sea monster.
“I don’t really have a need to paddle out by Oil Rig Hondo again, and I don’t plan to anytime soon, but a return paddle could be an interesting stunt. To prepare all you can really do is have the usual safety equipment and skills. In my case, I didn’t really have to do anything, not even a brace, but I did use pump.
Wait, There’s More!
In other shark attack news, according to the NorCal Kayak Anglers message board via Kayak Angler magazine, paddler Adam Coca was by himself off Central California’s Bean Hollow on Saturday, Aug. 14, when a shark hit the nose of his boat and then violently chewed and shook it. Coca was knocked into the water.
Photos show deep gouges and tooth holes in the bottom of the kayak. A chunk was also snipped from his paddle, and a leash holding a rod was severed. “He’s got gashes in his booties and sandals, kayak and paddle, but not a scratch on his feet,” wrote NCKA poster Chad Coca.
In a video taken in the aftermath of the incident, Adam describes how his overturned kayak was violently thrashed as he held grimly onto the scuppers. “No I didn’t see him coming. He hit it just like you see on Shark Week.”