July 30, 2001 - "Summer of the Shark" was the cover story of Time Magazine.
It had been decided, in large part to the extensive media coverage of 8-year old Jessie Arbogast's attack by a Bull Shark and subsequent survival after losing an arm, that the story of the year would be shark attacks in 2001... that was until the morning of September 11th.
Now before you jump to crazy conclusions, I am NOT in any way suggesting some doomsday conspiracy that this year's shark attacks are in ANY WAY a prelude to some sinister attack later this year.
Rather, I am simply comparing the unusually aggressive number of attacks that summer (01) to what is already sizing up to be one of the more significantly dangerous summers in the water already this year.
I have been surfing and diving my entire life and have encountered sharks on numerous occasions. I have consistently dismissed theories of "shark summers" as being created by overzealous hype and unnecessary hyperventilating by talking heads on TV.
I have never feared going into the water... After all, I know the odds are in my favor: I am much more likely to be struck by lightning (1 in 79,746) than eaten by a shark (1 in 3,748,067).
Dum-Dump..........Dum-Dump.......Dum-Dump....Dum-Dump...Dum-Dump, Dum-Dump, Dum-Dump, Dum-Dump, Dum-Dump (Can you hear the theme to JAWS?)
Yes, some of you will accuse me of sounding like Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) announcing that we'll "NEED A BIGGER BOAT."
No. We don't. There is no Jaws out there that needs hunted. I am simply your humble and sane reporter (who surfs) who notices that it appears to very "toothy" year thus far.
Item #1: The Mexican Navy officially launched a War on Sharks this weekend because a Mexican surfer named Osvaldo Mata was killed Saturday after an attack; and an American surfer, Bruce Grimes from Texas, was bitten (but not killed) the same day along the Mexican Pacific coast. These attacks followed the death of another American surfer who died after being viciously attacked at a nearby beach at the end of April.
Prior to the latest incidents, the last person to die from a shark attack in Mexican waters was more than a decade ago.
Item #2: A 66 year-old triathlete training in the Southern California waters off Solana Beach was killed after being attacked by a Great White believed to be up to 16 feet long. Great Whites are the leading nibbler on the West Coast, but rarely are the attacks fatal or occurring so far south in the San Diego area.
Item #3: Shark Attack Season begins with a BANG in South Florida. Volusia County is the Shark Attack Capitol of the World and there's been plenty of activity so far this year. There were at least three attacks in New Smyrna Beach, Fla in April alone.
Item #4: A British teen was actually attacked by a shark IN HIS BEDROOM without even going into the water. (Okay, this was too funny to pass up - sleepwalking into your fish on the wall.)
Item #5: The UK's Guardian newspaper declared at the beginning of May: "Surge in Fatal Shark Attacks Blamed on Global Warming!"
Item #6: My own personal encounter, face-to-face, with a Bull shark in March off Palm Beach, Fla. I was surfing alone, with my wife watching from the beach. I knew that it was shark migration time, but they are typically black tips or spinners and they are only a few feet long. At worst, a bad dog bite. But the shark that surfaced on me that day, was a Bull Shark. I was sure of it. It was about 5-6 feet long, gray, stocky with the tell-tale snubby, rounded snout. His dorsal fin came first, then I saw his tail break the surface as he circled a few feet from me and floated motionlessly... that's when, in the words of my wife, "never seen me paddle into shore so fast in her life."
Lions and Tigers and Bears... and Sharks?
Welcome to Summer!