Man escapes from the jaws of death!
A lucky fisherman had a brush with a great white shark this weekend off the San Mateo County coast, but escaped unscathed -- something that can't be said for his red kayak.
The attack on the nose of the small boat reportedly threw the victim into the water. He jumped back on and was able to get back to shore before his boat took on too much water, several witnesses said. Photos of the boat furnished by several other kayakers show several bite marks near the nose of the kayak.
Several kayak fishermen told The Chronicle that about 18 kayakers launched off Bean Hollow State Beach about 7 a.m. Saturday and split into two groups. The victim -- identified on the NorCal Kayak Anglers Web site only as Dan -- paddled north to a spot about a mile off shore, where he began fishing for rock fish with a handful of other kayakers.
"Everyone had been fishing for a while, for a good two, three hours," said John Dale, of Foster City, a member of the kayak fisherman's club. "From what he told me, basically he was fishing, and was adjusting a lure and all of a sudden he was thrown from his kayak into the water. When he came up, he thought he had been hit by a boat, but when he looked the shark was still on the front of his kayak, latched on, gnawing on the kayak. He thought about it for a second and decided he better get back onto the kayak, even though it was still on the nose."
Bean Hollow State Park Ranger David Augustine confirmed Monday that the attack was reported, though he did not have any further information.
"(Great white sharks) have been seen in this area, there have been incidences," he said of the state beach, which is located just south of Pescadero and about 17 miles south of Half Moon Bay. "It's nothing extraordinary."
Dale said the shark released Dan's boat soon after he climbed back in, but that he fell out twice more because his seat had become unpegged from the boat.
"I was in the general area and I was padding in and I looked to the left and saw him -- he was moving super fast. I said 'Hey, how'd you do?' and he said, 'I got a couple fish and a shark,' then pointed to the bow," said Dale. "I was like 'holy s -- !' then he came over and I got up next to him and helped him get the pegs back in."
A novice kayaker had helped pull the victim's boat in to where Dale helped him refasten the seat, Dale said. Then, Dan raced toward shore, he added.
"At that point Dan didn't know what kind of holes were on the kayak," Dale said. "He was taking on water because there were punctures on the bottom, so it's good he came in real quick."
California Department of Fish and Game marine biologist Carrie Wilson said she had heard of the attack but could not verify its veracity. However, she said it is not unusual to find great whites in that area this time of year.
"It is a time when we see them in shallower waters more," she said. "It isn't normal for them to be going for a kayak, but typically they follow the food source. Pinnipeds are their primary food source so if there are seals or seal lions around, they could have been looking for them."
Wilson also noted that AÃ±o Nuevo, a breeding area for elephant seals, is not far away. She said that shiny lures or bait, as well as an abundance of fish in the areas, could potentially have attracted a shark.
Wilson said that biologists don't know much about the behavior of great whites, but normally assume that they are hunting when they attack people. Such attacks are rare, she added. The last reported attack near San Francisco was when a surfer was bit by a great white off Dillon Beach in Marin County last December. The surfer was dragged underwater but only suffered minor bite injuries.
The sharks can grow up to 21 feet, but generally range between 12 and 18 feet in this area. The size of the shark involved in this weekend's incident is unknown.
Kayaker Doug Mar, who took photos of Dan's boat, said no one at the angler club has been able to get a hold of Dan since he left the beach Saturday morning.
"Either he's having post-traumatic stress or his wife has taken away all his fishing stuff," he said. "What I think is interesting is everybody thinks the sharks are looking for food ... but maybe they are sending us a territorial message to get out of their backyard."