Monday, November 28, 2005

Learn more facts about shark attacks

Experts say that shark attacks are a danger that must be acknowledged by anyone who frequents marine waters but the danger should be kept in perspective. Here's some information to help you learn a little bit more about the subject.


Quick Facts

Bees, wasps and snakes are responsible for more fatalities than sharks every year.

Among all known species of sharks, 27 have been authoritatively linked to attacks on people or boats.

The odds of getting killed by a shark are extremely minimal. For people living in the U.S., the risk of getting struck and killed by a bolt of lightning is 30 times greater than that of getting killed by a shark.

Worldwide, experts estimate that there are about 70 to 100 hundred attacks annually with about five to 15 of those resulting in fatalities.

The death rate for shark attacks is decreasing due to improved emergency medical treatment, but the rate of shark attacks overall is increasing -- probably because more people are entering the water than ever before.

Where Sharks Attack

Most shark attacks take place in areas close to shore where people are most likely to be swimming or surfing. Some likely locations for these attacks are areas between a sandbar and shore, where sharks feed and sometimes become trapped during low tides.

Underwater geography can play a role in shark attacks as well. Areas with steep drop-offs are likely attack spots, since sharks often patrol here waiting for natural prey that congregate nearby.

Types Of Attacks

There are three major types of unprovoked shark attacks.

Hit And Run: This is by far the most common form of attack. A shark will usually attack in an area close to shore where swimmers and surfers are the most likely targets. The victim of the attack usually doesn't even see the shark and the shark usually just inflicts a single bite and leaves. Some believe that these attacks are most likely cases of mistaken identity, where a shark is unable to identify its normal prey either because of water clarity or harsh conditions. It is thought that once the shark takes a bite and realizes that the prey is quite large or unfamiliar, the animal releases its grip and leaves. These types of attacks are rarely life threatening.

Bump And Bite: This type of attack is less common but usually results in the most fatalities. The victims in these cases are usually divers or swimmers in deeper waters. Bump and bite attacks are typified by a circling shark that bumps into a person before it attacks. Repeat attacks are common and injuries are usually very serious.

Sneak Attack: The sneak attack is very similar to the bump and bite, the only difference between the two is that in a sneak attack there is no bump – the shark attacks without warning. Most shark attacks that occur during sea disasters are either a bump and bite or hit and run attack.

Common Culprits

Three species of shark have been repeatedly associated with attacks on people. They are the Great White Shark, Tiger Shark and the Bull Shark. Each animal is capable of consuming large prey and each can reach considerable size.

Shark attacks may rise because of cage diving

The cage is lowered half into the blue-green swell of the southern Atlantic. At the skipper's command we don wet suits and masks and clamber in, four of us. A crew member throws a foul-smelling mix of shark liver and tuna (chum) into the water, spawning an "odour corridor" discernible a mile away. Lunch is served.

Minutes later a dark shape is spotted about 200 metres away. Then 100 metres. "Dive, dive!" A deep breath and we sink to the bottom of the cage. The world has turned grey and silent. We stare into the murk. Nothing. We stare, eyes wide and unblinking. Then it comes. A shadow looming huge and fast. It rolls and a white belly appears. It turns and makes another pass, jaws slightly open. Reach out and you could slip your hand in. We have just met Carcharodon carcharias, a great white shark.

The spectacle, four miles off the South African coast at Joubert's Dam, was a typical excursion for White Sharks Project, one of eight cage-diving firms at Gansbaai, two hours from Cape Town. The tourists who each paid £105 were mesmerised by five great whites, the biggest about 3.5 metres (11ft) long.

Not everyone is thrilled. Critics accuse the industry of meddling with nature and possibly increasing the number of attacks on humans. Recent high-profile incidents have generated fears that something unusual is happening. Divers and surfers have had a spate of close shaves since last November when a shark ate Tyna Webb, a 77-year-old on a morning swim at Fish Hoek last November. With the summer season under way the Cape is worried. New shark signs are to be unveiled today along with extra funding for two shark-spotting projects.

"Kayakers, surfers and bathers have been frightened out of the water at Fish Hoek. They are scared," said Craig Bovim, a diver who set up Shark Concern after surviving an attack in 2002. For some it is taboo to name the predator. They prefer euphemisms such as the "men in grey suits", or "tax collectors".

Attacks have risen only slightly from the 1990s, said Ryan Johnson, a PhD student at the University of Pretoria, but increasingly the attacks are concentrated in Western Cape. Some blame cage diving. The theory is that by using chum to attract sharks, and then baits to keep them nearby, the industry makes great whites associate humans with food.

Surfers and other groups want to ban it. Chum is not food, and sharks are not meant to get the bait, but the odour and the odd success in grabbing the bait could link boats and humans with meals. "It is a Pavlovian principle. The animal comes to get its reward," said Mr Bovim. "They get comfortable with humans, go to investigate and something might happen."

He said the link was not proved but urged less invasive sea safaris as a precaution. This week he launched a yacht offering shark tours without chumming or baiting - an experiment tourists may shun if sharks do not show up.

Cage dive operators, who operate with government permits, dismiss concerns. "Unless we're waving frantically the sharks don't even know it's humans on the boat or in the cage," said Andre Hartmann, who survived an encounter in 1977. "The water is no more dangerous than before. I let my kids go spear fishing."

A study in southern Australia found that a small minority of sharks did become used to baits and vessels, although it did not mean they associated boats with food.

An unpublished study in South Africa submitted to the journal Biological Conservation backs both sides. Of 300 great whites tracked at Mossel Bay, south of Cape Town, four became "conditioned" by cage diving. Over several months the four met the boats more quickly, spent more time circling and learned how to steal the bait. The industry needs to be more cautious, said Mr Johnson, the main author. "The big issue is making sure the sharks do not get the bait."

During the Guardian's excursion, one shark managed to wrestle about a kilogram of bait after a frenzied thrashing which turned the sea to foam. "Sometimes they are too quick for us," said the skipper, Grant Tucket. Other operators reputedly feed bait because it makes for dramatic photographs.

But the study did not find that sharks posed any greater risks, or prove any conditioning at Gansbaai; apparently the great white sharks there were more nomadic and had less time to learn. Mr Johnson said cage diving could raise ecological awareness but was uneasy with billing it as an adrenaline-fuelled adventure sport.

Survivor of shark attack tell story

A TEENAGE surfer has told how he desperately fought for his life to escape a shark which bit his leg in a terrifying attack off the Victorian coast.Tom Burke, 18, furiously punched and kicked the predator after it attacked him while surfing off Flinders, in Western Port Bay, on Friday evening.
He then paddled back to shore, afraid the shark would come after him and too fearful to look at his wounded leg, believing it may have been bitten off.

Recovering at his Mornington home yesterday, the teenager described how the beast, believed to be a 1.8m bronze whaler, repeatedly tried to grab him.

The apprentice carpenter said he was lying on his surfboard waiting for a wave when the shark struck at about 6.15pm.

"I just started feeling really weird, then I saw a big black thing come up. I just got ripped off the board," Mr Burke said.

"I punched it as hard as I could, then I started kicking it. I didn't really have a clue what was going on. It was surreal."

His mate, Simon Chambers, was surfing nearby and initially thought it was a joke.
"He lost his balance and fell off his board and said 'something is biting me' -- we laughed it off," Mr Chambers said.

"But then there was a big splash and the board went flying."

Nearby surfers came to their aid, helping Mr Burke back to shore.

It was only when on land that Mr Burke summoned the courage to examine his injuries.
"I looked down and there was a massive gash on my leg," Mr Burke said.

A photo taken on a mobile phone camera shows two large bite marks on his inner leg.
The Mornington teenager, who was rushed to hospital by Mr Chambers, had 16 stitches in the wound.

Mr Burke, who has a heavily bandaged leg and was restricted to crutches yesterday, had joked about sharks on the way to the beach before his dramatic encounter.

His stunned father, Tom Sr, said his son was yet to realise how lucky he was to escape with his life.

"If it had been really hungry he wouldn't be here now," his father said.

"Fortunately it was 16 stitches, but it could have been a lot worse."

Mr Burke has vowed never to surf again.

Although the surfers believed the predator was a bronze whaler, Melbourne Aquarium aquarist David Donnelly said it may have been a young great white shark.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Petition signed to make beaches safer

PEOPLE of Eyre Peninsula want to swim at the front beach again; but only after signs and sirens to warn of sharks are installed, according to three local mothers.

Katrina Wright, Kaylene Dufek and Delise Sheehy started a campaign to have signs on the Port Lincoln foreshore with a shark response plan and a siren to notify swimmers of a shark sighting.
In just five weeks 3491 people have signed their petition.

Kaylene Dufek said a letter was presented to the city council two weeks ago calling for signs and sirens to be placed at the foreshore.

"Our reasons for this are to let people make an informed decision and alert them to an emergency plan," the women state in a letter to state parliament.

"The threat of shark attack is very real in the minds of the community in Port Lincoln and for those family and friends who have experienced a near miss or a tragic loss of a loved one," the letter concludes.

Mrs Wright said the feedback from the petition indicated the community would feel safer if there was signage on the beach.

"Signs would make people more aware and alert them to an emergency plan," she said.
The signs would tell people who to call if a shark is sighted and if the siren is sounded everyone will know to get out of the water.

Education of the emergency plan is an important part of the signs and sirens with Mrs Dufek saying it was envisaged schools and media outlets would play a role.

"It's such a simple thing, why have we not got it?," she said.

"We are the home of the great white shark.

"Shouldn't something be done here?"

Their letter to Parliament highlights the moves made by the government to make the Adelaide beaches safer.

They say it is important something be done to make Port Lincoln beaches safer also.
Local marine industry workers also raised concerns with the women about the number of sharks in the bay.

There has also been strong support for a larger and safer enclosed swimming area at the front beach.

Mrs Dufek said on the northern side of the town jetty a tidal pool could be built.

Benefits of a tidal pool are that it would require very little maintenance, would not look ugly, would be safer than the current net enclosure and would be tourist friendly.

"It may be costly initially but it will be there forever," she said.

Member for Flinders Liz Penfold will present the petition and letter to state parliament this week.

Researchers lost track of tagged great white shark

Researchers tracking the Great White shark that was tagged in False Bay on Saturday could not locate it yesterday because of a fault with the acoustic tag.They were unable to pick up a signal, said Mike MeØer of the Shark Working Group, composed of representatives from marine and coastal division of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Cape Town's Iziko museums, the universities of Pretoria and Cape Town and the Natal Sharks Board.

The skiboat that had been following the shark traversed the area where it had been swimming on Sunday, from Fish Hoek to Sunrise beach and beyond, in a zig-zag pattern three times, but they were unable to locate it.MeØer said there were two possibilities: either the signal was so weak that they were not picking it up in the right spot or the shark had moved out of the area, but he doubted this.

The transmitter had a range of only 300 metres, so once the shark moved out of range, the researchers would lose the signal.The tag was intended to provide information on the four-metre shark's movements around False Bay. MeØer said it was very frustrating, as the tags had worked before without a problem and the one they really needed to work was giving problems.

The tag had shown irregular functioning from the start: it was supposed to ping at regular one second intervals but had started pinging at 1.5 second intervals before reverting back to one second, which it was not supposed to do. The wind had also created a lot of "noise on the water", MeØer said, and this added to the difficulty in detecting the signal. The researchers will again try to locate the shark today.

Tagged great white educational hope!

Researchers on Saturday managed to attach an acoustic tag to a Great White shark that they hope will for the first time give some clues to the detailed movements of the creatures around Cape Town's False Bay.

The bay, with beaches popular among both locals and tourists, has been the scene of sporadic shark attacks over the past few years, including a fatal one on Fish Hoek resident Tyna Webb a year ago.

Department of environment affairs marine scientist Herman Oosthuizen said the four metre shark was tagged off Bailey's Cottage near Muizenberg, and researchers were now following it in a skiboat to monitor and map its movements.

Though the tag's batteries would last about six months, the transmitter had a range of only some 300m, so once the shark moved out of range, the researchers would lose the signal.
They hoped to be able to stay with it for at least 24 hours, he said.

On a similar Great White tagging project in Mossel Bay, a team had managed to stay with one shark for 100 hours.

"Here at False Bay we've got no idea how long we'll be able to track it. This is the first time we've done it here: it's trial and error."

'We're trying to see if there are any patterns...'

A larger research vessel was on standby for crew changeovers, he said.

Oosthuizen said satellite tracking of the sharks, which hit the headlines recently after a Great White swam from Gansbaai on the Southern Cape coast to Australia and back in nine months, recorded only the broad movements of the creatures.

The acoustic tag, which is jabbed into a shark's dorsal fin using a long pole, was aimed at discovering more about their fine movements and whether, for example, the creatures had home ranges, or moved freely around the whole bay.

"You sit on the tail of a shark and you can see what it does," he said.

More acoustic tagging of other Great Whites in the bay would follow, he said.

The researchers, who had been doing acoustic tagging for three or four years in Mossel Bay, had moved over to False Bay not only because it was relatively sheltered, but also because of the shark attacks which had taken place there.

"We're trying to see if there are any patterns that make sense in why sharks attack humans," he said.

The team had hoped to carry out the tagging on Friday, but a raging south-easter made it impracticable.

Twenty three False Bay Great Whites have already been tagged with a different sort of acoustic transmitter, one that sends a signal when the fish comes within a few hundred metres of one of the 23 listening stations placed at the bottom of the bay.

That project does not record the movement of the sharks between stations.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Shark fin trade threatens some shark species

Slowly but surely, Hong Kong is waking up to the realities of the shark fin trade, which is threatening several species with extinction.

Earlier this month, Hong Kong University banned serving shark fin dishes on its campus and, next year, the territory is expected to introduce legislation to force traders to obtain licenses for the import and export of whale shark, great white shark and basking shark species, all of which are supposedly protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

But Hong Kong's efforts to control the shipments of endangered species fall far short of saving the three shark species, a leading conservationist and a legislator said.

The three species face extinction from what conservationists estimate is a 100 million shark-a-year cull to feed a cultural specialty particularly popular in South China - shark fin's soup.
However, the bill will do little to protect shark species, said Choy So- yuk, chairperson of the Legislative Council committee studying the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Bill, though she says it's a start.

CITES is an international agreement signed by 170 countries to ensure trade in wildlife does not threaten species.

"We are only trying to [bring] Hong Kong [in line with] the international convention, and the convention only requires further protection of these three additional species," said Choy, a Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong legislator.

There are still places all over the world where the trade is virtually without management, she said.
Local conservationist Brian Darvell, an ocean conservationist and shark protection advocate, said: "The three [species] are not the only ones in trouble. We would hope for and encourage more proactive steps so that [dozens of] species on the [World Conservation Union] red list in various stages of endangerment ... are also included voluntarily by the government."

But, he said, the proposed bill "is an important step, and it's overdue, because many countries have taken this move well before. And it's a little odd that Hong Kong is slow in that respect, but better late than never."

Chiu Ching-cheung, chairman of the Shark Fin Trade Merchants Association, said if there is a total ban on the import of the three types of shark, business will not be affected because the three endangered species are not popular with locals.

"Basking sharks, whale sharks and great white sharks ... their fins are too big and, therefore, not very popular in the market," Chiu said.

"Currently, there are only one or two local traders selling fin from basking sharks. Their fin is not very tasty."

According to the government, in 2004, China, Spain and Taiwan were the three biggest shark fin importers.

China imported 20.6 percent, Spain 18.4 percent and Taiwan 10 percent of the total 11 million kilograms imported, bringing in HK$2.6 billion.

One thing that upsets Chiu is what he claims are environmental groups presenting misleading facts that make traders look bad.

"Extinction is not determined by environmentalists, but by experts with real figures," he said.
"Traders agree that sharks that are on the verge of extinction should be protected."

A Hong Kong Worldwide Fund for Nature online study of 932 locals, conducted last month, showed that 58 percent ate shark fin soup at celebrations and that only 28 percent ate it because they thought it tasted good.

Five percent believed the fins had health benefits.

"When asked whether a wedding banquet was better if it included shark fin soup, around 40 percent agreed to some degree, while the remainder had no opinion or disagreed," said the study. Typically, sharks are taken on board boats and, after their fins are slashed, they are dumped overboard, where they sink to the bottom and drown.

The issue for conservationists is that there is no effective monitoring system in Hong Kong to determine where the shark fins come from.

Paul Hodgson, a coral reef specialist who lives in Sai Kung, said the government needs to look at the possibility of creating sustainable fisheries for sharks.

He said people could get rich by supporting the live shark trade.

"There is no sustainable source of sharks at the moment," he said. "There is a tremendous opportunity for someone in the industry to develop one."

Hodgson added that he did not want to stop people from eating shark fin and that his activism did not come from a distaste for Chinese culinary tradition.

"I will fight for a person's right to eat shark fin - as long as it's sustainable," he said.

Choy said the chances of such a sustainable industry in Hong Kong are close to zero.

"Even if we try to create a new habitat [it's a question of] whether or not we can maintain the conditions. Our waters might not be clean, because Hong Kong is a very heavily populated area," she said. "At the moment we are not an important habitat."

Friday, November 11, 2005

November's attack...probably a great white shark

Beachgoers were greeted with new warning signs along the San Mateo County coast on Thursday morning after a rare shark attack at the famed Mavericks surf spot.

It was the first such attack in the vicinity in three years and, almost incredibly, the victim was unharmed.

Tim West, a 25-year-old veteran surfer, narrowly escaped his Nov. 2 encounter with what was almost certainly a great white shark. West and friend Chris Loeswick were surfing the spot for just the second time this season, enjoying favorable conditions and uncrowded waters.

West was paddling farther out to prepare for an incoming set when he was suddenly upended by an extraordinary force coming at him from below. West says the shark bumped his arm. Aware of what was happening, West said he took several strokes away from the board.

The shark apparently took the board and released it when it failed to produce any blood. West used his leash to pull the board back to him and then paddled back to shore as fast as possible.
A day later West pulled a fragment of a shark tooth from his brand new board.

"I've got all my limbs on me so maybe it's a good luck board," he said. "I know they're out there. I'm not going to wig out about it."

The attack came just two weeks after Megan Halavais was attacked on her surfboard at Salmon Creek Beach, a mile north of Bodega Bay in Sonoma County.

Almost immediately after the attack, adrenaline still coursing through his veins, West called his father. It was his father who told him to alert the harbormaster.

Harbormaster Dan Temko made the decision to put up signs informing the public of the event.
"People should always be aware when they're out in the ocean that it's the shark's home. If you're out there and suddenly find no other marine life around you there's probably good reason for that," Temko said.

Temko said the signs would probably remain in place for at least a week, barring any further shark activity.

Sean Van Sommeran, a veteran shark researcher from the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, said there have been more shark sightings in Northern California this year than any year since he began his research in 1990.

He estimates the shark that attacked West was between 12 and 14 feet long and weighed about a ton.

"It looks like the shark didn't even close its mouth," Van Sommeran said, examining the tooth in West's board. "It probably pulled out of the attack before it even got there but was already going at such a speed that it still hit you with some force."

Van Sommeran took a blood sample from West's board and hopes that from that they will be able to determine exactly what shark attacked him. Many local sharks have been tagged by researchers. If it sounds a bit too much like a scene from Jaws, fear not, the shark won't be harmed if found.

Monday, November 07, 2005

And the adventure continues with Cousteau and his shark submarine!

Fabien Cousteau is carrying on the family business with the aid of a submarine inspired by Tintin. Michael Park takes a plungeIt should come as no surprise that the inventor of a submarine that looks and moves like a great white shark is called Cousteau. For 60 years, this name has been synonymous with undersea adventure and award-winning documentaries.

The family patriarch and pioneer, Jacques Cousteau, died in 1997, but now his grandson is carrying on the family tradition. Fabien Cousteau, 37, has been involved in his family’s business since he was a boy, sailing regularly with his father and grandfather to remote archipelagos on grand adventures to film the silent, undersea world. Now an oceanographer and film-maker in his own right, he has just completed work on a project that he believes would have made his grandfather proud.

Inspired by the fictional comic character Tintin, Cousteau has devised and co-designed a submarine the size and shape of a great white shark. Encased within the shark, called Troy, Cousteau has for the first time been able to swim with great whites and film them without being confined within a submerged steel cage. “Steel cages have been done 1,001 times,” Cousteau says. “I wanted to film these sharks without any of the artificial stimuli that might affect their behaviour in unnatural ways.”

His inspiration is Tintin. “When I was a kid, I received a copy of the Tintin story on Red Rackham’s Treasure,” he says. “The premise of the book is basically a treasure hunt, but the idea in there was Tintin in a shark-shaped submarine, in which he goes swimming around with sharks and comes back relatively unscathed. I thought it was a really good idea.” Cousteau knew that getting great whites to believe that his creation was one of them would require it to do much more than just look like a shark.

“It needed to be completely silent-running and not emit any bubbles. It needed to be able to gape, so it could use its mouth for communication. It needed to be able to eye-roll, which is also a form of communication. It needed to be able to gill puff. And it needed to be able to swim just like a shark.” To help with all this, Cousteau contacted the Hollywood designer Eddie Paul, a family friend. “It was a really difficult challenge,” says Paul, who has built hi-tech vehicles for films, including Terminator 2, but never a submarine. “There were so many factors to take into consideration, and all had to be incorporated into one machine.”

Paul had built a robot shark for Fabien’s father in 1988, but it was attacked and destroyed by a large great white in the Pacific Ocean. “I didn’t want a shark attacking Troy and killing Fabien inside it,” he says. “We had to make it practically bullet-proof and yet still be able to function like a real shark.” The first design was for a 12ft shark, but in order to accommodate Cousteau, the re-breathing apparatus, video monitors and the hydraulic equipment and oxygen tanks needed to make Troy swim, the final length was closer to 14ft.

At a cost close to (pounds sterling) 150,000, Paul built the shark around a set of stainless-steel ribs with a flexible spine, and then devised a high-pressure pneumatic system to move the ribs from side to side and propel the shark through the water. Cousteau would use a joystick to control movement. The skin, made from a material called Skinflex (used mainly for prosthetic limbs), was painted to look like a great white. The Skinflex was stitched together along the top but sealed underneath with Velcro, allowing water to seep in and out. In case anything went wrong, Paul designed the head to be removable, but hinged it.

Finally, two monitors were placed inside the head so Cousteau could see where he was going. “Initially we had cameras looking out of the eye sockets,” Cousteau says, “but it was so disconcerting to try to make sense of those images that it just didn’t work.” After a year of trial and error in Paul’s Los Angeles workshop and many pool tests, Cousteau was ready to test Troy in open water. “It was a disaster,” he says of the first dive.

But Cousteau and his team of 10 persevered and, after hours of practice in shallow waters, they felt secure enough to take Troy to a place where great whites congregate. “There was definitely a bit of apprehension,” he says. “These are wild animals, so you can never assume anything, but I figured Troy looked good enough and we had worked on it long enough to at least try one dive with real sharks.”

He and his crew sailed to Guadalupe Island, a few hundred miles west of Mexico, where great whites gather to hunt elephant seals.After searching for a suitable area to launch, Cousteau donned his scuba gear, slid backwards into Troy, sealed the head and was lowered into an ocean full of ‘whites’. Initially, the sharks were wary of the mechanical interloper. “In the beginning, it was hard to get the sharks to come close to Troy,” Cousteau says.

“Sharks respect each other’s space, but I have no idea how to respect a great white’s space, so sometimes I would get close and they would just swim away. But then sometimes I would see one and notice that it was starting to swim with me.” Cousteau, who was often surrounded by as many as five great whites, was moved by the experience. “To be underwater among these sharks is an enormously humbling experience. They’re like 747s underwater. The largest one was nearly 18ft long.”

After a while, Cousteau became convinced that the sharks believed that Troy was one of their own. “One great white did gape and gill-puff at Troy,” he says. “It was trying to communicate with Troy. I thought this may be a weird, far-out idea, but it actually works.’’ He recently finished editing the resulting documentary, Mind of a Demon. He hopes that it will help people to understand great white sharks better and help dispel some of the myths that surround them. “For film-makers to deceive the public into thinking that great white sharks always attack everything is appalling,” he says.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Shark attack with great ending

Warning signs were posted at the beaches along Pillar Point on the San Mateo County coast Thursday following a narrow escape by a surfer from what may have been a great white shark at the famed Mavericks big wave offshore surf area.

Veteran surfer Tim West, 25, and a friend were paddling about an eighth a mile off shore about 5 p.m. Wednesday when a shark came up underneath his board and went on the attack.
"This is where it hit, majorly with the tooth still in it," West said while pointing to his damaged board. "It hit pretty hard. Then there are pressure dings in the top from the top jaw."

"I'm lucky that wasn't my body. That's the injury to my board as for my body -- I'm fine."

West said the attack happened so fast. He has been surfing in local waters for about 12 years and this is the first time he has ever even seen a shark.

Assistant San Mateo County Harbor Master Matt MacDonell said the details of the attack make him believe West had a run-in with a great white shark.

"So what happened to him is the shark came up, bite the board, knocked him off the board," he said. "It took the board as if it was its dinner…It trashed with the board and then because it didn’t taste any blood -- it spit the board out."

MacDonell said it was the first shark attack in three years at Mavericks. Deputies were out overnight posting warning signs on the beach.

West said he would have the shark's tooth taken out of his board by a biologist and find out just how large it was.

It was the second shark attack in a popular Northern California surfing area in the last month.
Megan Halavais, 20, was attacked Oct. 19 by what authorities describe as a 16-foot shark while paddling her surfboard with friends at Salmon Creek Beach, about a mile north of Bodega Bay in Sonoma County.

Doctors said one of the shark's teeth almost severed Halavais' femoral artery, a potentially fatal wound. She is expected to make a full recovery.

A 6-mile stretch of beach near the attack was reopened after a five-day shutdown. Authorities said the closure is standard for shark attacks because certain sharks tend to feed in one area for about five days.