To supplement the joys of the pandemic, of the “special military operation” in Ukraine, and the joys of aging, I’ve been swimming lately off the westernmost of the two Depressions, so-named because of two dips in the cliff line just around the bend from Campus Point. These provide beach access and are the first spot I surfed, in the late ’50s.
In the water and stroking up the coast, I was startled by a sea lion surfacing and charging straight toward me. I waved an arm and shouted as the creature homed in on my face, glared into my eyes, snorted, and slid effortlessly beneath me, disappearing.
I wasn’t through swimming, but calculated my risk-reward ratio and headed for shore, grabbed my gear, and, tail between my legs, headed up the beach.
A lady approached and said that from atop the cliff, she had taken in the whole thing: the sea lion approaching me from behind, speeding toward me for about 30 seconds, passing me from underwater, then turning and surfacing while charging.
I’ve been surfing around Santa Barbara for about 60 years, much of it up at Government Point, just around the bend from Point Conception, the nearest major landfall from San Miguel Island, a well-populated sea lion rookery. I usually surfed alone up there and was often surrounded by sea lions, but never one in such a frisky mood.
Evidently, they can act that way during breeding season, and with increasing global warming and algae growth, their brains can become infected and they become ornery.
The witness turned out to be a researcher at UCSB, her current field of interest is investigating how various societies around the globe treat elders.