Windsurfer encounters shark in Santa Cruz
Firsthand shark encounter as told to the Shark Research Committee
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 11 October, 2012 : - - On October 7, 2012 Gunnar Proppe was wind surfing about 450 yards from shore at Davenport Landing. He was using a 75 liter windsurfing board (227.5 cm long, 54.4 cm wide), 5 square meter sail clear with red and black and yellow, orange, and blue splotches on the bottom of the board. It was 6:30 PM and he had been on the water about 1 hour. It was sunny and warm with a few high clouds scattered to the South and the wind less than 15 knots. There were a few wind waves with a good swell. There were sea birds diving close to shore. No marine mammals were observed in the area.
Proppe recalled; “I had a great session and was heading in for my last tack since the wind was steadily getting weaker. I was sailing pretty slowly (not planing) as I was heading upwind. I noticed sea birds diving near the beach and remembered that could be a sign of schools of fish under the surface, but I'd seen that before so I wasn't too concerned. A couple of minutes later there was a tremendous jolt under my board which threw me into the air. At first I thought I'd hit some kelp but realized quickly that I hadn't been going fast enough to have that kind of impact.
I landed in the water, between my board and the sail, which had fallen downwind of the board. I simultaneously felt something brush against my right toe and saw a grayish tan fin, which my hand touched. All I saw was a fin grey/tan in color, 8 – 12 inches high sticking out of the water, but I don't think I was seeing the whole thing. I flailed for a few seconds, trying to scramble onto my board. Eventually I made it onto it and looked to the right to find that the impact had broken the mast about 18 inches up from the base, rendering the sail useless. Knowing that the rig would make paddling impossible, I struggled for a few seconds, trying to detach it and finally got it loose.
I lay on my belly and started the long paddle back to shore. My perception of time was probably really skewed at this point, but I estimate that this was about 5 minutes after the attack. At this point there was a surfer in the break and one last windsurfer downwind. I stopped a couple of times, sat up and shouted warnings at them as loud as I could but they didn't seem to hear. After a few more minutes of paddling, I got close enough to the surfer to gesture and shout for him to head to shore, which he eventually did. Just as I was getting to the break, the last windsurfer, Ed, reached me and said he was keeping an eye on me.
I managed to catch a wave on my belly, keeping a vice grip on the board, and rode the wave straight to shore, only stopping once I was in 4 inches of water. Once on the beach, I noticed that my toe was bleeding enough to pool up on the rocks. I don't know if I'd already cut it on the reef or if the contact with the shark had sliced it when it brushed by.”
This is the sixth authenticated, unprovoked shark attack from the Pacific Coast this year. Please report any shark sighting, encounter, or attack to the Shark Research Committee.
Source: Shark Research Committee
Author: Ralph Collier / Gunnar Proppe
Tags: Davenport, Sharks, Santa Cruz
Shark Encounters: Surfersvillage