Kayaker Fights Off Hammerhead Shark With Paddle Near Santa Barbara

A kayak fisherman fought off an aggressive hammerhead shark near the Santa Barbara coast this weekend, as he was forced to strike the animal more than 20 times with his paddle before fleeing for shore.

The unusual incident took place on Saturday, when Mark McCracken was fishing roughly a half-mile away from Gaviota State Beach. The hammerhead shark began circling him, according to KTLA, and the angler was able to record the interaction with a GoPro strapped to his head. He posted the footage to Instagram, which depicts him using his oar to keep the shark at bay.

The shark continued to circle McCracken's boat for 15 minutes, and the angler recalled that he was forced to strike the animal more than 20 times with the paddle before it would give him "some space." Once the shark backed off, McCracken made the wise decision to beeline for shore, but even as he headed for shallow water, he observed the hammerhead stalking after him.

"Even after I was on shore, he paced back and forth in about three feet of water like he was just waiting for me to come back out. Pretty bizarre and crazy experience to say the least."

McCracken is hardly the only angler to experience an encounter with a shark off the California coast recently, as SF Gate reports. On Tuesday, beachgoers cleared the waters off Malibu when an eight-foot-long hammerhead was hooked from the local pier. Last week, a kayak fisherman off Dana Point encountered an "aggressive" hammerhead which attempted to strip his catch from the side of his boat. While a friend filmed the unusual interaction, the hammerhead was eventually able to make off with most of its prey.According to Chris Lowe, a marine biology professor at Cal State Long Beach, warming waters in the eastern Pacific, (caused by a potentially record-breaking El Niño) have induced prey fish to migrate to new areas, in turn drawing along sharks.

"That warm water is bringing that food up here, and that food is being followed by its predators. That's how we get that subtropical food web that we normally don't have showing up here."

Lowe also noted that a "whole tropical food chain" has migrated into the region, bringing along hammerhead sharks, as well as juvenile great whites.

[Photo by Commander John Bortniak, NOAA Corps via Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain]