Sunday, May 4, 2008

Still Swimming with Sharks

Well, it has been a little while since I have posted. Just about the only topic on my mind for the last week and a half has been made known by the title of the post. I figure writing about it on the blog will decrease my chances of actually getting attacked. You know, maybe I talk nice about a shark and the karma goes my way while I am in the water. Who knows, but I figure at least for my eulogy, this post could help the writer. So here goes.

Let me point out that there hasn't been an attack resulting in death in San Diego County since 1959. As many of you who know, I grew up in the Bay Area, near Great White Shark breeding grounds. Stories of White Shark attacks seemed commonplace growing up and even more so after I left. So for about the next oh 12 years that I was living somewhere other than coastal California, I had nightmare after nightmare of getting eaten by a Great White Shark(out of respect, I will try not to leave the "Great" off too much. He has earned that title, and again, trying to keep the karma positive.) This is truly my deepest phobia. I have several other fears, but this is the grandaddy.

So I decide to move to Southern California where I am told by so many experts, that the water here is just too warm for Whitey's (a bit of a pet name I have for him) liking. I don't argue it, who ever hears about attacks in San Diego. It's always Monterey or Stinson Beach, or somewhere up north. Seriously, you may find it hard to believe, I love surfing, but I do not think I could surf any of those areas. One of the main reasons I have been so willing to surf here is the 'perceived' shark scarcity in these waters. Literally, everyone I know who surfs here, always says the same thing. They are off the coast of La Jolla about 50 miles, but none of em come here. We just get those little reef sharks, sand sharks, leopard sharks, the kind that don't have mouths big enough to bite a human.

No problem, I bought it. I figured, I want to surf in the safest place I can, and enjoy the surf without the slightest thought of sharks. This has been extremely therapeutic for me actually. Anyone who knows me well, is very surprised I surf at all with my phobia. I really dont like being controlled by anything, so I wanted to attack my fear. But for the past year, I have really come to love surfing. I am no expert mind you. I do go out usually at least once a week though, and as it warms up even more.

Then last Friday came the terrible news. A swimmer was bit and killed by a 14-16 foot Great White Shark in Solana Beach. For those who dont know, Carlsbad is less than 10 miles from Solana Beach. I was seriously stunned. I got calls from family and friends who wanted to know what I thought. I called surfing buddies who I wanted to know what they thought. They mostly said there really was no chance we would get that lucky, better odds of winning the lottery. Didnt help much. I had nightmare Friday night, Saturday night and again sunday night.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to overcome this. So Monday, the first day the beaches were reoppened within 17 miles, I went and surfed Swami's in Encinitas. I could literally see the attack site from Swami's, it is less than 3 miles away. But, it was my buddies birthday and it is one of his favorite spots. I took a deep breath when he told me, then figured it was the best way to stare fear down. I have never been so jumpy in the water. When I saw a fin out of the water not far from me, I called to my buddy Dan-o. Not to worry, it was a dolphin. Then I saw it jump out of the water and I wondered what it was jumping from. We caught some good waves, he caught a ton of "birthday waves", and after a couple hours we emerged attack free. Very therapeutic for me to be out there again.

Then Friday and Saturday the swell was really big, so we went out to Tamarack, our local spot with the picture above. It was incredible, each day I thought a little less about Whitey. The waves were 8-9 feet which is huge for these parts so I was thinking about waves not pummeling me. Not enough though cuz one pummeled me so bad it split my board in 2(Kim thinks this is God telling me to get out while I can). I did get some really great rides though, which is sort of the addiction to surfing. You get the rush of being on that board, getting the momentum from nature pushing you through the water. It is just unbelievable. I am hooked.

If there is a point to this post, you may have to figure it out. I just am a guy who loves the ocean and hopes to be able to keep surfing. I know there is no guarantee about anything in life. Very few of us get to go out the way we want. And a shark is The Last Way I want to go. Let me repeat that, The Last Way. But I know it wasn't the sharks fault that she was designed to eat big animals. We are in their water. Can't exactly blame them. Mainly I think we can just be glad we get to do some things we enjoy in this life......, and hope it is at least another 50 years before Whitey strikes San Diego again


Andrew & Holly Larson said...

WOW, what do you say we meet in the middle and go to Orange County this week. I dont think sharks can swim that far. See you there.

Lynn said...

Good stuff Ben.

Jumping into the jaws of "whitey" wouldn't be my first choice on the "fun things to do" list either, but you know as well as I do that when it's time to go and your number is called, there ain't a whole lot you can do about it... and if it happens while you're doing something that you really love (ahem, surfing), then so much the better.

That's the way I see it anyway.

Keep it up, my friend... I'm counting on you to teach me the art someday.

Love ya man...

Della Hill said...

I think some of the best things in life have risks.
For example, if I eat cherry chocolate ice cream everyday, which I love, I'll probably get fat. So I eat it, just not as often as I would like.
I might get creamed on my motorcycle, but I ride anyway. I just wear a helmet and ride as carefully as I can.
My dad is on the Rocky Mountain Search and Rescue team. He puts his life on the line regularly to recover what is usually the remains of lost hikers.
But he wouldn't stop for the world.
In fact, he can't think of a better way to meet God than to be swept away in an avalanche while trying to save someone else.
I agree with Lynn, if you're gonna go, it might as well be doing something you love.
Speaking of surfing, this is my first summer on the beach (Virgina Beach) and surfing sounds like a blast.
Any tips on getting started?