19 October 2011

An Absence of Dolphins (Kelly Ave)

There are some movie images so disturbing that they lodge in my mind indelibly. (This is why I don't watch horror movies.) One is from a murder mystery I saw years ago called Gorky Park: a multitude of writhing maggots eating the flesh off of a skull to prepare it for facial reconstruction. I fear another may be of the shark in Soul Surfer taking Bethany Hamilton's arm, rising without warning from the sun-sparkling sea, its huge sharp-toothed mouth agape; one bite and gone, leaving behind a spreading red stain. I couldn't stop seeing it as I bobbed all alone in the ocean under gloomy skies just after dawn. Plans to meet up with surf buddies fell through at the last minute and because dawn comes so late this time of year (no thanks to Daylight Savings Time), I didn't have time to drive anywhere else before work. Yet I wasn't going to skunk myself since there were decent waist- to shoulder-high waves within reach. I hoped for a stranger to paddle out and join me, but no one did. A guy walked his dog on the beach and another stood staring out to sea, but I was almost out of sight of the campground.

Last week a great white twice buzzed surfers at Mavericks just over 3 miles away. And two nights ago, while filming a surfing scene at Steamer Lane for Of Men and MavericksHolly Beck saw a shark pass under her surfboard. We like to tell ourselves that sharks don't come into the Santa Cruz town breaks because of the kelp, but it seems that's not the case (or perhaps the rules change at night). We also tell ourselves that sharks don't stay around dolphins (maybe another little fiction), but although there have been dolphin sightings at surf breaks up and down the coast recently, none of those benign sea mammals were currently at Kelly. All these unfortunate thoughts were sloshing about in my head this morning.
I timed my entry well and had a dry-hair paddle but didn't stop far enough out. Caught inside by a set, I took a right from the whitewater and then turned back for more. I rode a nice chest-high left as far as it would go, suddenly seeing the beach rushing up toward me. I bailed off the back in the shallows and grabbed my board, running onto dry sand to get out of the shorepound impact zone. Rinse, and repeat; another fun left, another shore dance. Two waves in a row, the ocean had spit me onto the sand. Perhaps it was telling me to get out of the water? A seal - shark food! - swam by just outside the shorebreak, pausing to look at me with big doe-eyes. Another warning? My rational mind dismissed the thought that the ocean had any benevolent sentience that was trying to protect me from unseen lurking predators, and I paddled out again. Still, I couldn't calm the persistent uneasiness, the feeling of being watched by a malevolence, so I decided to catch one more and go in. Of course a lull ensued. Looking into the murky green water, barely able to see down to my bootie-clad feet, I waited, finally grabbing some whitewater to shore.

Later Heather told me that many shark attack victims claim to have sensed something before they were struck. Was I lucky? Or just a victim of an overactive imagination? I'm glad I'll never know.

Surfline: Soft, crumbly, broken up little lines working through this morning at most breaks off a small mix of NW and SSW swell. Most of the region is good for surf in the 2-3' range, with some occasional larger sets in the chest/shoulder high range at top exposures. Onshore flow and bumpy, jumbled surf keep the surf pretty unappealing across the region. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 3.9 ft at 10.0 s WNW 87 / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 4.2 s W / WVHT: 3.9 ft / APD: 7.4 s / MWD: 300° (Met) WSPD: 8 kts / GST: 12 kts / WVHT: 3.9 ft / DPD: 10.0 s / WDIR: 310° / ATMP: 59.5° F / WTMP: 58.6° F. Tide: 4'.

1 comment:

  1. You know if the feeling persist then sometimes it's worth following those instincts. 90% of the time I don't think about sharks, but if I do get spooked like that I just go in. Especially if I am on my own out there.