With at least three unconfirmed sightings of Great White Sharks in the near shore waters just south of Pt. Conception in recent weeks, including Hollister Ranch’s fabled surf break, data on the subject of human and shark interactions in 2007 along the West Coast has taken on increased local relevance. According to the folks at the Shark Research Committee — a nonprofit dedicated to documenting shark encounters of all kinds along the West Coast — the year 2007 tied an all-time high, with nine unprovoked shark attacks along the Pacific Coast of North America, the majority of them right here California. Of even greater interest to area code 805-based surfers, divers, and boogie-boarders, the Research Committee documented at least five shark-related incidents in waters they tend to frequent, including Emma Wood State Beach, Faria Point, Malibu, and the Yellow Banks area south of Santa Cruz Island.
The Shark Research Committee, headed by Ralph Collier, started compiling eye-witness accounts via volunteer research efforts four decades ago. It not only offers first-person descriptions of several of the incidents — both the biting and the harmless varieties on its website, but also crunches the numbers to reveal a trend that can’t help but rest uneasy with the surfboard riding masses. Of the nine attacks, five were perpetrated against surfers, two on swimmers, and one apiece for kayakers and paddle boarders. Also of note is the fact that the 37 documented attacks since 2000 translate to more than five times the annual average during the 20th Century. However, in the good news department, Collier’s data shows that the bulk of the attacks have happened during the summer months — a time of year when, at least for Santa Barbara surfers, the wave conditions generally have more in common with tranquil waters of a bathtub than an actual oceanic body of water.