‘Extremely rare’ shark attack on kayaker triggers 4-day restriction on Santa Cruz beaches


A shark attack on a kayaker’s boat Tuesday near a famous surfing spot in Santa Cruz has triggered a four-day swimming ban and closure of beaches in the area.

The attack was reported just after 11 a.m. about a quarter of a mile from Steamer Lane, a popular surfing location, according to the Santa Cruz Fire Department. When the shark chomped on his boat, the kayaker was tossed into the water.

“It was an unprovoked and unpredictable attack,” Santa Cruz Fire Chief Jim Frawley said. “The shark came from beneath in a stealth mode and struck the kayak with full force.”


Steve Lawson, a seasoned kayaker, used a marine radio to alert lifeguards of the attack, the chief said.

Lawson was not injured, but his boat suffered “extensive damage,” Frawley said. Lifeguards found a 12-inch bite mark on the bow of the boat, he said.

A fisherman in the area saw the attack as it unfolded and observed the shark leap out of the water, the chief said.

Lawson told KPIX-TV in San Francisco that he thought he had hit a rock, but he then saw the shark “holding the front of my boat and he let go and I went over.”

Lawson, who has been kayaking for 25 years, was not fazed, telling the television news station that “things happen and it was not a big deal.”

But Santa Cruz officials aren’t taking any risks.

By Tuesday afternoon, signs were posted at beaches within a mile of the attack and water activities were prohibited until sunrise Saturday.

“Attacks like these are extremely rare in Santa Cruz County, and we are so thankful that the kayaker was uninjured,” Frawley said. “This is a reminder that swimming in the ocean does carry some risk and we encourage all swimmers, surfers and kayakers to be mindful of their surroundings and follow directions of lifeguards and Marine Safety staff.”

The advisory comes at a time of increased shark activity along the California coast. Warnings have been issued to swimmers over the past three months as great white sharks have migrated to the coast in search of food.

In April, a woman was bitten by a shark while swimming with her boyfriend at the San Onofre surf break.

Leeanne Ericson, a 35-year-old Vista woman, underwent several surgeries after suffering significant blood loss when she was bitten on her right thigh and buttock.

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12 p.m.: This article was updated with comment from Frawley, the fire chief.

This article was originally published at 8:20 a.m.