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A Great White kayak story By Roger Duddridge  


A Great White
kayak story

By Roger Duddridge email

I was just looking through some of the other pages on the site, and so much of it is great and interesting. I looked at some of the shark stories from the Long Beach area, and actually have one to report myself, though I was surfing in a 17 foot sea kayak at the time.

I remain to this day convinced that the shark in this story was a great white, though I have no other witnesses, only the Pacific Rim National Park warden who related to me that one had been sighted in the area. I was practising surf landings at combers beach just south of long beach, on a day that was bringing in many frequent sets of eight foot average waves, and getting dumped a lot as it was my first time in these conditions. My kayak has no front bulkhead, only a rear one just behind the seat, and an airfilled nosebag to keep the boat buoyant from bow to stern in the event of capsize. I was making good use of these features not knowing that I was making a crucial mistake in the fact that the nose bag was not secured to the boat except by friction.

On a particularly large wave I capsized as it picked me up to an almost vertical position even before the curl reached over and began to impact. I was out of the boat so quickly that the curl actually rammed water into the bow of the boat, forcing the airbag out with almost explosive speed. The kayak had not yet seen the worst of this wave but I had definitely seen something just prior to the capsize that had caught my attention like a train coming right at me.

In the surf zone and in a very buoyant unloaded 17 foot kayak, the view directly ahead changes either up and down every few seconds. Half the time I could see the back of a wave, and the other half I could see above them, and the first thing that caught my attention was a sealion who seemed to be in an unusual position with respect to the water. His body position as I remember sparked something in my mind that I seemed to recognise was not physically right. He immediately disappeared as I did behind the next wave, but again on the next wave he seemed unreal somehow, and then on the next I saw why. A very large fin in the same water location was visible to me, and it gave off a feeling of strength that I have never encountered before. It was like solid steel, with the power of a train as I said before, heading in my direction. Again on the next wave I saw the fin and then my boat began its capsize. The boat was pointing from the vertical toward the bottom when the water forced the airbag out and filled the nose with water, so when the now sinking bow hit the bottom with the wave pushing hard on the stern pointing up, the boat broke in two. I was in the water and I knew somehow that the bottom was just inches below my feet. There was a huge drag against my efforts to move toward shore, as I had grabbed the bow handle and was trying to save the remains of my kayak. I kicked and kicked until the first big toe met sand, then kicked some more until my whole foot had made contact.

The whole event happened so coincidentally with the shark, the capsize, and the breaking hull, that my mind had been totally focused on salvaging myself and hull to the shore because it was so close. This somehow saved me from connecting with the reality that I was in the water with a huge shark, and he in fact had been closer to shore than I before I capsized.

If I had known any fear I am sure I would have been like a magnet to the steel of that shark, because as I have heard sharks can detect an electric signal so tiny that if you put an AA battery in the water with the positive end in New York and the negative in Miami, some sharks can read the voltage. I would have been giving off a lot of volts if I had been scared. Fortunately for me a sealion may have been the meal of the moment, and I did not have a second of fear, because I was so busy. Later, when all of those fleeting images came into their correct order in my mind, I was very very glad to be back on shore!

Every second of that story is true, believe me. There are gw sharks occasionally in the area of long beach, and they DO go near shore!

update Jul/13/2004

I was able to rebuild the sea kayak that was broken in the surf at combers beach, over the period of a couple of months, and I made it much heavier and stronger with a bit of extra glass. Since then, it has taken me through a 700 mile trip in the Baja peninsula, and around the Florida Everglades, and down the outer coast of Vancouver Isle in two stages. I now have a feathercraft and a klepper which I have used in Tasmania, Turkey, and Wales. The adventure continues...

Roger

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