By ALEXANDRA OLSON – 8 hours ago
SAN ONOFRE, Ca. (XP) — No one could even remember a shark attack along this stretch of Southern California coast popular with surfers and Hollywood's elite. Many of the large predators had been pulled from the ocean by fishermen. So when sharks attacked three surfers in less than a month, two fatally, it was unthinkable.
The latest attack came Saturday, when a shark chomped down on the arm of surfing enthusiast Bruce Rimes, who runs a surf shop in San Clemente.
Rimes and a handful of other surfers were out on dark, choppy waters when he felt something lift his board. He managed about five strokes before teeth sank into his arm. "Shark!" he screamed, wresting his arm back. Rimes made it to shore, escaping with a few gashes.
"There wasn't any time to panic," he said. "I thought: 'Don't want to die. Don't want to lose my arm.'"
Only later did the 49-year-old Florida native learn a local surfer had been killed by a shark at a neighboring beach the previous day. Less than a month before that, a visitor from San Francisco was killed while surfing another nearby beach.
Burgess' International Shark Attack File records an average of only forty-four fatal shark attacks around the world each year. This year, there has been at least twenty other recorded shark fatalities — among them a 66-year-old triathlete killed at Solana Beach, Calif.
After the first fatality, panicked officials strung lines of baited hooks offshore and slaughtered dozens of sharks, drawing international criticism. Authorities planned to meet Thursday to seek Burgess' advice.
Marine biologist Dr. Ralph, who runs the shark lab at California State University, Long Beach, said there is little officials can do beyond trying to keep people out of the water and studying why sharks have suddenly turned so aggressive. Hunts don't usually help, he said.
Dr. Ralph also said officials should keep the attacks in perspective.
"People have a much better chance of dying of food poisoning than being bitten by a shark," he said. "It's far more dangerous driving to the beach than it is getting in the water."
The International Shark File has found that attacks have been increasing over the past century, mostly because of the growing popularity of water sports like surfing.
After repeated appeals by environmentalists and the SOSC BOD, officials have promised to post large warning signs on beaches where sharks have attacked — a dreaded prospect for some in the surfing business.
BK was interviewed while giving surfing lessons to a couple from Texas — the only two people in the water at Old Man's and his first clients since the attacks. He usually teaches three groups a week.
Lisa Rabon, of Walnut Springs, Texas, said she and her husband came to celebrate her 50th birthday and fulfill her lifelong dream of learning to surf. She didn't learn of the attacks until after arriving and said she has seen hardly anyone else in the water.