A great white shark was recently caught on video off San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, breaching from the crystalline surf as it startled beachgoers nearby.
The strange encounter took place around 8:46 a.m. on Thursday, according to SF Gate, while the water off Ocean Beach was reportedly “glassy,” with roughly three-foot waves rolling in. Longtime Ocean Beach surfer Nick Masturzo described the morning as “a dolphins and mermaids kind of day” and had set out to catch a few waves when he spotted another unexpected visitor in the surf: a juvenile great white shark measuring between seven and eight-feet-long.
“I saw it straight on. And when I saw that white belly go up and the super defined white of pectoral fins I knew what it was.”
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) September 16, 2016
As Masturzo paddled across a wave, the white shark broke the surface in front of him, breaching toward the sky before arching back into the sea. This kind of behavior has been commonly noted in white sharks before. In fact, attacking from below is one of their most well-documented tactics (thanks to Shark Week). It is unclear what the white shark Masturzo witnessed was after, but the area is rife with marine life that serves as potential prey, as Surfline notes.
After witnessing the shark breach, Masturzo headed to shore, wondering if a camera operated by Surfline had caught any footage of the great white. While he was joined by a handful of other surfers, at least 30 individuals opted to remain in the water, despite the great white’s dramatic appearance.
“I told everyone around me and went in. It was funny, some people were saying, ‘that’s not cool,’ but I would never say ‘shark’ on a small day to try to clear the water. If it was six-to-eight-foot, maybe.”
— Calypso Star Charter (@sharkcagediving) September 14, 2016
Much to his surprise, the camera had indeed caught the great white shark as it leaped from the water. The footage was posted on Surfline, where other beachgoers shared their own encounters with white sharks in the area. While the species has been known to frequent the ocean off San Francisco, no shark attacks have ever been documented at Ocean Beach. In 2005, however, a surfer was reportedly bumped by a great white, though that incident did not result in an attack.
Last year, a great white was spotted preying on a seal off Alcatraz Island, startling nearby tourists, as the Inquisitr reported at the time. The attack was recorded by a bystander with a cell phone, as well as by a security camera on the island. While white sharks are known to patrol offshore areas in the fall, they have rarely been spotted within the bay area, and even less frequently documented stalking prey.
— Neil Hammerschlag (@DrNeilHammer) September 10, 2016
According to David McGuire, a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences who is charged with operating Shark Stewards, a San Francisco-based conservation group, the attack off Alcatraz was the first of its kind in the region.
“This is the first recorded predation event I know of in the San Francisco Bay.”
While breaching is known as a common form of attack by great whites, the behavior is poorly understood. As the Shark Research Committee’s Ralph Collier points out, breaching could represent a type of communication between great whites, signaling dominance within a group “similar to the ‘jousting’ between male elk and/or deer.” The behavior has been recorded at numerous aggregation sites worldwide, including the East Coast of the United States, where the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy recorded a unique breach attack by a great white last summer.
[Featured Image by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images]