A shark makes a brief beach appearance…do you get back in the water?

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.


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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.

DSC_4457A 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.



34 thoughts on “A shark makes a brief beach appearance…do you get back in the water?

  1. It must be a worry if you have family, but I suppose the chances of being bitten are still slim. The worst thing I have had to contend with was a swarm of jelly fish… they kept us all out the water for several days!

    1. Oh yes, Cathy. I don’t worry about sharks, but it was definitely the first time there was a warning while were vacationing. I suspect that the new sensors are responsible for warnings, and it is likely the warmer water is attracting them. I think it’s more interesting than troubling. And anyway, truth be told, it would take a lot more than sharks to keep me away from the ocean. 🙂

  2. The most dangerous predator of all is the human – not only do we kill other animals, but we kill our own kind too. More humans are killed by humans than by any other species..; Unless you’re a surfer, and look unfortunately similar to a turtle for the shark beneath, there’s probably little risk… Hope you’re having a lovely summer, Deborah xxx

    1. I certainly don’t feel at risk, that’s certain. It is interesting when climate drives species into new territory, however, and then we find out how adaptable we’re willing to be. I have thought of you many times in recent months, Joanna. Recent events certainly drive home your deeply emotional perspective. I can’t imagine that thinking people anywhere would be unaffected by the way human beings destroy life. I’m so glad to hear from you. All is well here, and I hope for you and your family as well. Bless you. xx

  3. Oh, my – how I enjoyed your photos, Debra, and could almost hear the sound of the surf. I would be the other woman, camera in hand, capturing the sunset on the Pacific too.

    While sharks don’t find their way to Lake Michigan, our greatest predator is the mosquito! Even now, early morning, just to go out and water a few of my potted plants, I need mosquito repellent. 🙂 or 😦 One got me on the ankle last night and I’m scratching like a dog with fleas).

    We have had quite a bit of rain here – with the blame game on El Niño. It sounds like you are enjoying your summer, my friend. Good for you.

    1. I had to laugh at your crediting El Niño with rain. Perhaps you’ve had much more rain than you’d really like to have, but after all our buildup with “no show” now I know where “our” rain went…all the way to the midwest. Honestly, it does make me laugh! Mosquitos are more of a hazard than sharks will ever be! I think for those who really react to them there is a concern and they’re more than just annoying! And now these days they have us all worried about what disease they’re carrying. If we didn’t enjoy our gardens so much, we should probably just stay indoors and eliminate a good portion of potential hazards, Penny! LOL!

  4. We don’t spend much time IN the Gulf . . . other than wading ankle deep at water’s edge. I’d pay more attention to shark sightings if I was caring for tiny tots who are not yet old enough to balance potential risks and rewards.

    Glad you enjoyed your get-away. The beach is so calming.

    1. I always enjoy your photos of the water, Nancy, and envy that you are living right there! I can’t complain about distance, as we live close enough to go often, but I’d be very happy to live even closer! The sharks aren’t going to be much of a problem, I’m certain, but I am always interested in the way that climate conditions change familiar patterns. There was a hammerhead reported in the same water just this week, and from what I know, that’s really rare. I won’t be taking up surfing in my retirement, so I think I’m clear. 🙂

      1. Being 5 minutes from the beach is perfect for us. I grew up 30 minutes from the Jersey Shore. Close enough for weekly visits, but not for a quick visit before dinner. Here, we can head over for a short stroll, a long walk, or a lingering sunset. (But we love the mountains too. When we start traveling again, we’ll spend more of the summer months “in the hills.”)

        Enjoy the calm of the ocean tides . . . the ebb and flow of life.

    1. I’m always very content at the beach, Andrew. I am certain I’ve never had a “bad” day at the beach…except once when the wind kicked up so much the sand drove us indoors. 🙂

  5. The shark warnings added an interesting touch, but it was so funny to see that within an hour everyone was back in the water as though there wasn’t a bit of concern. Even Sophia and Karina were right back in, but we aren’t out there very deep, that’s for sure. 🙂 The rhythm of the waves is indeed tranquil, Kate. I love the sound!

  6. I’ve only seen one sunset from a California beach (Pismo), I must say it was wonderful. I’m with you – that is no shark fear from that position.

    Hope all is well. Just returned from a 1-week vacation to find a notification of your post … thus had to stop by.

  7. The vast majority of my swimming has taken place in fresh water where the only “danger” is a curious minnow or two. I did go snorkeling off Fiji once and small fish came up from the coral to greet me before softly cleaning my skin of previously unseen skin flecks. But sharks? That’s another story completely. I don’t know if I could go back into the water later in the day when an alert has been sounded. Call me “chicken” if you like but better that than “lunch”. 🙂

  8. My favorite part of the day on the beach is close to sunset too! I have always been an Aegean girl but the Pacific just lured me in this year for the first time in the seven years that I have lived by it with the serene (and warm) Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach–it’s simply dreamy. That’s of course without any sharks visible. I am going to miss it tremendously…do enjoy it Debra, but with caution of course!

  9. Moot point for me Debra – closest I normally get to water outside of the shower is the ponds on Hampstead Heath and when visiting Brent Reservoir. Last time I did anything resembling paddling was crossing a small woodland stream!

  10. My guess is that you’ll be safe from the sharks at that distance up the beach. The sand might still get you, though. Any time I visit a beach, I always seem to get sand in my lunch.

    1. Your comment about the sand made me laugh, Bun, because one granddaughter didn’t care at all about the shark, but complained a lot about the sand getting caught in her bathing suit! For some, that sand really is a nuisance! 🙂

  11. What a beautiful post and recollection of your trip! I’ve heard the same thing – that the warmer water is affecting the shark activity. I don’t swim out very far in the ocean because of all the critters in there! I’ve been stung by sea lice and adult jellyfish and have stepped on sting rays one too many times! I share your passion for the beach and especially photography of the sunset and changing colors down there – there’s nothing like it! Beautifully written post, Debra, as always. xo

    1. Thank you for such a lovely comment, Kelly. I don’t swim out very far at all in the ocean, but I almost always need to just get in for at least a quick dip! The warmer water is creating all sorts of havoc with the fish populations and driving some of the sea creatures into new feeding patterns. I think we humans are going to need to adapt a little if we’re going to be swimming with the sharks. 🙂

  12. I am like you, Debra, in that I would be cautious but not afraid. Someone may get killed crossing a street or eating a “dirty” fruit or vegetable! I get worried more of everyday dangers. . .
    I love Lake Erie and am glad they test water every day. Our favorite beach is Huntington Beach in Bay Village, Ohio. (ironically since there is a California one. . .) My Mom lives about ten minutes away, wherwasshe used to live with hers and Dad’s”back yard” as Lake Erie. Anyway, they hang flags on the cliffs of each beach declaring safe or unsafe water. We have to worry about bacteria of course, not sharks! Lol

  13. Hopefully, on ground you are safe from sharks! It’s almost surreal to think about all the people jumping in shark infested waters. But I can also understand it; water is so soothing for every part of the body. 🙂

    1. It sometimes seems like people either create more fear and drama in a situation than necessary, or go in the opposite direction and pay no attention at all. Wisdom is often lacking. Apparently sharks aren’t a serious threat in some people’s minds. That particular day I enjoyed people watching! I was amused at the way swimmers either listened to the lifeguards or ignored them completely! 🙂

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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