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Huntington Beach reopens after teenage boy encounters shark

Huntington Beach reopens after teenage boy encounters shark
A surfer competing in the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach this month. After a 14-year-old boy said he felt a shark butt him in the chest Friday, officials searched the waters and reopened the beach Saturday. (Photo by Joe Scarnici / Getty Images)

Officials reopened the waters of Huntington Beach on Saturday afternoon after a boy’s encounter with a shark a day earlier prompted an overnight closure.

A 14-year-old boy was swimming about 25 yards offshore at about 8 p.m. Friday when he noticed a dorsal fin jutting out of the water, said Huntington Beach Fire Department Lt. Claude Panis. The boy felt the shark butt him in the chest, then saw a tail fin swimming away from him, Panis said.

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“Based on the size of the fin, it was likely a juvenile between 5 and 8 feet long,” Panis said.

The boy was unharmed, but officials closed the beach. A police helicopter and boat crew searched the waters Saturday morning and found no signs of sharks. Officials reopened the beach at 1 p.m., Panis said

Contact between people and sharks is “extremely rare,” Panis said. And shark sightings at Huntington Beach are not as common as they once were. Officials logged just 19 sightings last year, compared with 36 in 2016 and 75 in 2015, Panis said.

The last shark encounter occurred Feb. 8, when a surfer felt a shark bump into him.

Shark attacks are even rarer than shark sightings, Panis said.

“The experts say, you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than actually being attacked by a shark,” Panis said.

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