A shark attack in Santa Cruz, California, made headlines over the weekend when a 42-year-old surfer said that a 15-foot Great White shark leaped out of the water and landed on his board, breaking the surfboard, dragging the surfer under the water and finally taking a bite out of the board.
Surfer Beau Browning emerged shaken but unhurt in the shark attack, he told local media in the Santa Cruz area, but his dramatic story led to a shark attack warming that closed beaches and banned surfing on some beaches there for three days. In fact, as of Wednesday, the ban is still in effect.
A second sighting on Sunday, when a marine biologist reported a Great White shark attack on a seal just offshore at a beach a few miles from Manresa State Beach — where Browning said his shark attack took place — appeared to lend credence to Browning’s account.
But a new report from Salinas-based TV station KSBW, the same station that originally reported the Santa Cruz shark attack, now casts doubt on Browning’s story and suggests the whole, scary shark attack incident may be fake — a hoax cooked up possibly for money.
KSBW reporter Amy Larson said in the report that Browning’s shark attack allegations first came under suspicion when a local Craigslist advertisement appeared Monday attempting to sell a surfboard that, the ad said, had been damaged in a shark attack. The ad set a price of $1,000 for the one-of-a-kind Great White shark memento.
“Shark Attack Surfboard For Sale — $1,000 (santa cruz),” the Craigslist ad read. “Literally buckled and bitten by large white shark attack. See KSBW news account. Google KSBW news shark attack. The board is a one-of-a-kind testament to the ferocity of this particular attack.”
Larson followed up with Browning, but the surfer backtracked, claiming that “his friend Marty” had actually posted the ad, and that he, Browning, did not plan to sell the “Shark Attack Surfboard.”
The ad subsequently disappeared from Craigslist.
Larson also noted that Browning, as of Wednesday, had yet to meet with park rangers who want to interview him about the alleged shark attack and examine the damage to his surfboard to determine what kind of shark attacked it — or if one actually did. So far, Browning has relayed his story only to the media.
Browning finally agreed to meet the rangers, but not until Thursday, Larson reported.
She also pointed out that when KSBW spoke to Browning Monday, certain details of his story differed from the version he told on Sunday.
Perhaps most tellingly, on Sunday Browning said he was attacked by a 15-foot shark, but on Sunday, he said he wasn’t even sure what happened, or that he was attacked by a shark at all.
“I could have been smacked by a whale’s tail. It happened so fast. I saw gray and white. I was in shock,” the surfer told the TV station in his second interview.
Fake shark attack reports are not uncommon in the region, Santa Cruz-area shark researcher Sean Van Sommeran told the TV station.