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Juvenile white sharks mingle with surfers at Manresa State Beach!


A video shot from a helicopter last week shows 6-foot-long juvenile white sharks just a few feet from the dangling legs of surfers at Manresa State Beach (my image above).

No one was attacked or touched, and the surfers in the video don’t even see the sharks because of the reflection they see on the water and the waves on the surface. From the air, sharks are much more easily seen, said Specialized Helicopters Chief Pilot Chris Gularte. The company offers tours from Watsonville and Monterey airports.

“It’s clear, it’s shallow and we can see them. When you’re standing on a wharf, you can see about three feet in the water,” Gularte said. “When you’re flying at 1,000 feet, it’s unbelievable what you can see.”

Warmer water and a huge expanse of bait fish have been noted by researchers at Moss Landing Marine Laboratory’s Pacific Shark Research Center. These have been a magnet for sharks, whales, sea lions, fish, and other marine life. The Santa Cruz Sentinel continues:

“There’s more bait out there than I’ve ever seen,” said Gularte, who’s been flying over South County waters for more than 25 years.

David Ebert, program director of the Shark Research Center, also flew with Gularte recently. After the juvenile white sharks such as the ones in the video eat fish and other prey in colder, deeper water, they tend to swim to warmer water closer to shore and rest, he said. That’s what they’re doing in the video.

“They’re basking in shallow water, and they’re in an inactive state or resting,” Ebert said.

“When they’re active, their body language is different. They’re on the move.”

Even languid sharks investigate unknown objects (like surfboards and boats) with their sharp teeth, so they COULD be a threat. Since the 6-foot white sharks do not have fully developed rows of teeth yet, they are more likely to feed on fish than mammals.

Gularte, a lifelong surfer in Santa Cruz County, said he’s sworn off surfing at Manresa and South County beaches because of the sharks he’s seen over the years and especially in the past six months. This week, he took a Surfing Magazine writer and photographer on a flight to spot sharks for an upcoming story.

Seacliff State Beach’s Cement Ship, for instance, teemed with sharks in late June and prompted Junior Lifeguard leaders to move a kids competition. State Parks leaders also posted signs on the beach that warned of sharks.

Shark sightings at Manresa can be reported by calling State Parks’ Sunset Beach station at 831-763-7063 or by emailing

Be careful out there! This has been a very unusual year!

-Bill at

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