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World & Nation

Shark! Cape Cod beach-goers scream as great white stalks kayaker

 

The shark’s giant dorsal fin sliced through the sparkling blue waters off Cape Cod, trailing an oblivious kayaker as wide-eyed beach-goers watched in horror. The only thing missing was the ominous, thumping soundtrack from “Jaws,” the 1975 blockbuster about a great white shark that terrorizes a seaside resort.

“Shark!” people began screaming at the kayaker, who looked over his shoulder, spotted the looming fin, and paddled faster. He got away and the beach has reopened following Saturday’s drama.

But some wildlife officials say the area’s burgeoning seal population is proving a lure for sharks like the one that haunted swimmers over the weekend.

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RELATED: More sharks, more people, more run-ins

According to the Cape Cod Times, there have been at least 15 shark sightings in the region since September 2009, and while none has led to attacks on humans, they have rattled beach-goers and caused several beach closures. Few have been as dramatic as the one Saturday afternoon at Nauset Beach, an idyllic strip of sand that is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Walter Szulc Jr., of Manchester, N.H., was paddling a kayak about 300 feet from shore when people began pointing his way and yelling “Shark! Shark!”

They included Dana Richardson, who had spotted the shark earlier about a mile south as he was out on his paddleboard. Richardson told the Cape Cod Times the shark began trailing him some 150 feet from shore, in about 8 feet of water, but moved away after he got over a sandbar. He then headed for Nauset Beach to warn lifeguards.

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The shark got there first.

“I didn’t want to just yell, ‘Shark, shark,’ and scare people,” said Richardson, a Cape Cod resident and longtime surfer and paddleboarder. “But when I saw the fin following the kayaker, I began yelling and waving my paddle.”

So did a lot of other people as the shark, a great white estimated at 12 to 14 feet long, followed a few feet behind Szulc. “So I looked behind me, and that’s when I saw the shark; it was pretty much right there,” Szulc told WHDH-TV, the Boston NBC affiliate. “It was good-sized, it had a fin sticking out, so I just turned and paddled.”

“It was longer than the kayak,” said Debbie Dutton, who witnessed the scene from the sand, where hundreds of swimmers had fled after the fin came into sight. “It was crazy big.”

The sighting came on the same day that a great white drew attention in Santa Cruz after chomping off the end of a kayak. The kayaker was thrown into the water and stunned, but he was not injured. “He was very fortunate that in fact there were other boaters nearby who were able to rescue him and help him get out of the water,” Sgt. Esther Beckman of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department told ABC News.

Marine experts said the best way to avoid uncomfortably close encounters with sharks is to stick close to shore and avoid seal colonies, the equivalent of food courts to great whites.

In the meantime, beaches were reopened and swimmers were being assured it was safe to go back into the water.

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tina.susman@latimes.com


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