We recently spent a week at Newport Beach, just an hour from home but a vacation-getaway nonetheless.
California has 1,100 miles of coastline, and each point along the way has something distinctly different to offer. The pristine beauty of the northern beaches are spectacular and offer quiet serenity that is often missed from the Southern California beach experience.
Southern California beaches are more heavily populated. There are always negotiations and adaptations to be made when staking out your particular claim on a spot of ocean front real estate, but we typically head down early, beach umbrella and chairs in hand, and get a front row seat.
I have thousands, maybe tens of thousands of archived photos of not much more than beautiful ocean vistas–early morning when the beach is still, mid to late afternoon when the sun’s slant creates a particular sheen on the water, and my favorite, close of day at sunset.
My sunset photography leaves room for great improvement, but I can’t stop myself. I even take photos of the houses reflecting the light coming back from the western sunset over the water. The glow on the houses along the boardwalk is warm and changeable in the last hour before sunset.
There’s a wonderful quiet that comes over us as people have left the sand for home.
These quiet moments of serenity may be why we choose to vacation here as often as we do, but I also thoroughly enjoy watching other people, of all ages, enjoy the beach as much as I do. I love the sounds of parents playing with their children, or young people assisting others in learning how to surf, and whether it’s on the sand or in the water, soaking up sand and surf, because summer only comes once a year.
This year, while sitting on the beach doing just that–people-watching–I began to notice a helicopter flying overhead, starting a bit up the beach from us, but circling in ever-widening patterns. A children’s surf camp was two lifeguard stations up from us. Maybe they were the target of interest.
So as Sophia and Karina played in the surf without a worry or a care,…
I don’t now what those in the surf heard, but those of us on sand with loved ones in the water heard, “Large shark sighting! Get out of the water.”
Well, that changed the atmosphere rather quickly. It certainly wasn’t Amity Island, but families quickly mobilized. Children and adults, well, at least most of the adults, headed for shore, and we all just stared out to sea as if we thought from our shoreline vantage point we were going to view a Great White open its mouth in a menacing act of theater proportions.
I didn’t hear a formal “all clear,” but within an hour, and despite the presence of lifeguard boats quite obviously patrolling the area, children and adults began to resume their former activity, perhaps a bit less oblivious to the fact that we share the ocean with predator creatures.
A surfer received a serious shark bite earlier this summer and there have been several shark warnings and clearing of the beaches up and down the Southern California coast. Some new warning systems have been put in place.
Lifeguards have deployed acoustic receivers at the Newport Pier, Balboa Pier and in specific swim lines, gathering information from animals within 500 to 1,000 yards of one of the devices.
This past week Newport Beach became the first city in Orange County to launch a page on its website dedicated to logging sharks and other marine animals found near the coast. The emphasis on safety is coupled with public education.
The waters off of Southern California have warmed–El Niño’s disappointing influence on rainfall notwithstanding, and most marine experts seem to speculate that warmer ocean temps and perhaps other environmental factors may be changing some of the species’ habits. We may now be in THEIR swim lane.
We live in California. Fires, earthquakes…
Sharks don’t seem to worry me…
Not from where I sit anyway.