8/17/02, edit and epilogue: 1/25/04


SHARK STORY. Today, lost Shark virginity and nice surf. I'll get to the shark bit in a minute don't worry... It goes like this. Fresh back from a trip back to England, the body clock raised me early, U.K. time still in me. Check the Long Beach cam. 6 AM. Two guys visible dropping in on swell. I'm outta here!

I don't have a pass for summer surfing at LB, so Robert Moses 5 is the call. An hour later, I'm in the RM5 parking lot and the waves are roaring from afar. Good sign. Unbelievably good conditions for a day that was threatened to be spoiled by wind this morning. Instead, chest- to head-high mix, glassy, and just the right steepness. No crowds. Oh, are those weekday guys ever spoiled?

No crowd to speak of, we were well spaced out. There was an empty spot I preferred out at the very end of the break just past a small sand spit towards RM4. A bit of a hike down the beach with a log, but nothing too daunting. The section of water I was sitting in was on the outside of the break and very, very, clean and glassy, no wind, no annoying chop. Smooth as a lake inbetween the sets. It was almost enough to just admire the haze-filtered sun gleaming platinum on the curling faces. Even the waves are timing themselves just right and there's no rush. THe nearest guy was 30-50 ft away, and there were waves and space for everyone.Sitting astride my board recuperating from a paddle out, and looking out for the next set, something catches my eye close by. I see two fins, clear as freaking day, one distinctly triangular, cruise by slowly eastward about 10 ft from the nose of my board. Silence filled my mind. The fin I was keyed on was sort of gray with a slight paleness blended in. About 4 inches of it was showing. I had a sense i was looking at the tip of a fin about 8 inches long. I turned and called to the guy nearest me:

"Oh Boy! I just saw fins! I'm going in!"

I didn't feel like waiting around to study the nature channel, I turned smoothly around and searched over my left shoulder for a wave that I could use to get back toward the beach. This is one break where you are not going to make it back all the way in one shot. There's a deeper channel parallel to shore, and then another shelving area, between the impact zone and the beach. The best you could probably hope for is a wave to carry you over the sand bar to the channel, and then paddle the rest of the way. Take no liberties here. A medium to large swell had already begun to feather, perfect choice to belly ride as far as possible. Throw in a paddle here and there to carry through a flatter section. Relief, it was strong enough to ride the reform all the way to the shelving area beach from the outside.

I took a "shark break" for 15-20 minutes while I scoured the water for our fishy friend. It was such a pristine, beautiful surf day you'd have had to have had a shark right in front of your nose like I did to make you come in, otherwise it was almost impossible to pull from the near-perfection of it all. The guy I warned, well he'd been quiet and exclusively keeping to himself the whole time, certainly had no intention of coming in. But something like this was easy to miss between the sets if you didn't see it right by you. After a while the cohones grew back a bit with the resolution to put back in. This time I stayed Zebra-like, closer to the pack, closer to the line-up. It was just too good out there, too good too miss for a shark that didn't seem to be bothering anybody anyway! And I figured I had better pluck up the courage to go back out right away or let the fear fester. A couple of rides later and the jitters were over. Mustang turned up maybe 10 minutes after and gave me the "healthy ecosystem" spiel, which I gladly bought into, and we continued on with a great session, and good laughs about massive clean-up sets that took us all by surprise.

After another hour of riding waves without incident, Mr. Fishy was out of mind. The ride home was mellow, smiling, and plenty stoked. Mustang said it was so good "it should be illegal." Oh yeah, my furgin wetsuit short's drawcord or something gave me a nasty rash (like four cat scratches across) dammit! How that happened I don't know but it hurts! Tomorrow may be a bit of a challenge - may have to lie on the board with my butt sticking up in the air!


EPILOGUE I left when my two-three hours were up, spent. Mustang had a couple more hours left in him, but the surf session was cut short. Mustang gave me the scoop that evening: Apparently Mr. Fishy had shown up again, and gotten far too interested in a girl that was surfing at the end of the lineup. Generally making his presence known to everybody. The visitor who would not leave persuaded the Lifeguards to close the beach for the remainder of the day. Some days are just that good, and maybe you can have too much of a good thing.Hopefully Carcharhinus plumbeus finally found a few "reef fishes and crustaceans" before taking the rest of the day off.