Our Bay Area summer is finally here. Well, it was at the begining of the week. 90 degrees in the city! So of course, for this rare occassion, I gave myself a staycation and canceled all of my responsibilities from Monday to Wednesday and just surfed the whole time.
The first spot I surfed was a beach called Montara, south of San Francisco. I love this spot because the wave builds up slowly and then breaks with power and spin on the inside sand bar. But it’s a deep water spot which means there’s a lot of wild life that comes in really close to the shore because the water is so deep until the sand bar.
One spring day a couple of years ago I was the only surfer out when, only about ten feet from me a grey whale calmy surfaced, had a look at me and went back under the water. The funny thing about me is that I love nature and wild animals…but I’m terrified of them. I’m definitely not someone who tries to become friends with them and names them to prove our deep spiritual connection. I’m like, Oh my god, they’re huge, and can swim and run really fast and have big teeth etc. etc. So although I was soooo psyched to be that close to a whale it was a weekday, no one was around and I was having visions of my drowning when the whale surfaced too close next time and knocked me out with its tail or something. So I just paddled right in.
Another time at Montara an elephant seal surfaced about 1oo feet away. For anyone who doesn’t know, elephant seals aren’t like shiny little seals that pop up wide eyed and can be mistaken for your dog that you thought you left safely in your truck. They are huge and they eat those little seals. The one I saw had a head the size of those giant wooden barrels that you cut in half, fill with dirt and put flowers in. I silently freaked, waited for it to show up one more time to make sure I wasn’t crazy and then took the first wave in.
So I feel like that’s enough set up so that I won’t sound so crazy and hysterical when I tell you I saw a giant shark on Monday at Montara. There were probably six or so other surfers out and I was sitting a little seperated from them waiting on a different peak when behind the breaking wave I saw a shiny flash of grey that looked very much like a shark’s dorsal fin…but Sunde, I thought to myself, don’t jump to conclusions, it’s a bright day out, maybe it’s just your eyes playing tricks on you. But I immediately paddled over to the group of surfers so I wouldn’t look like the scraggly, weak seal that needs to be a part of the cycle of life.
As I was sitting in the water I had a look around at everyone to see if maybe someone else saw it. But no one seemed concerned so I went back to surfing. Then about 15 minutes later it happened again. But this time it was unmistakeable. It came out of the water as the outside wave was already broken so I had more visibility. Its whole dorsal fin and part of it’s back broke through the water, slick and shining and grey. It was the size of half of my 7 foot fun board. Now this is where I have to admit I did something bad. I silently screamed, told no one and paddled in.
I know, I know, that seems like a really bad thing to have done, not telling anyone. But it’s weird when you’re the only lady out in the water with a bunch of guys you get the distinct feeling that there would be a lot of eye rolling when the sole woman surfer is the one that sees the shark…like, okay hysterical lady, let’s calm down.
But there was one other guy who had gotten out of the water already and I had seen him scanning the ocean from the stairs. In the parking lot I heard the tail end of his conversation to his friend that I thought was about the shark…It was under me when I took off so I just went in, it was really intense.
There’s always the inevitable question of –Are you sure it wasn’t a dolphin? I asked myself this question too. But a funny coincidence happened when I was surfing Ocean Beach the next day. There were three dolphins surfacing outside the line up. As they always do, they added a sense of wonder and happiness to the line up. It’s funny, even the toughest, alpha male surfers can start hooting and get giddy when dolphins come out to play. Sometimes dolphins will surf in the wave with you. I’ve been paddling out and seen a surfer on a wave followed by a dolphin leaping in and out after him. On Tuesday they were just surfacing here and there. The curve of their backs and small dorsal fin and dark grey color so different from what I saw on Monday that it became clear it was definitely a shark that I saw.