Monday, July 17, 2006

Bumped by a Black-Tip Reef Shark

It was a beautiful day in June and the surf was up in Virginia Beach. I was totally stoked, sitting on my board in a fairly crowded line-up, near second-street. There is something about being in the ocean, taking it all in, that I can not explain – you have to experience it first hand.

The nose of my surfboard was angled toward the beach and my right hand held on to it as I looked back at the incoming swell, trying to ensure I was aligned well for the next good set wave and my next ride. I was deep in my element. As all this activity is taking place, I notice out of my peripheral vision, a large, light object, driving up at me from out of the water. My full attention and focus was directed toward the moving object. Looking directly into the on coming terror’s eyes, I am thankful my first reaction was to yell loudly and to throw my right arm into the air, as I twisted my body back. I probably looked like a bull rider, holding on to the surfboard with one hand and letting the other one fly. The shark’s mouth was open and ready for a tasty bite, but for some reason the shark came out of the water and immediately turned, thrusting or bumping my stomach and ribs with the right side of its body. The shark went under. This time I yelled a recognizable word, “SHARK!” No one seemed to listen.

I paddled as fast as I could for shore. When I finally arrived on land, I sprinted to the lifeguard tower to tell him what I had experienced. The lifeguard looked down at me at said, “Ah yeah, go back out in the water and if you see it again, come tell me and I will get everyone out of the water.”

I sat fearfully in shock on the beach for about 45 minutes, wondering who would be attacked. Nothing happened. Although my nerves were a bit frazzled, I finally got up the courage to go back into the water, but I was definitely gun shy.

Why in the world would I go back into the water? If you are not a surfer you will never understand. The surf was pumping and surf is a commodity which is not to be taken for granted or wasted.

My heart took a beating that day as my feet and shadow’s reflecting off the ocean scared the crud out of me more than once. Every time I caught a wave I was thinking of the experience (incentive to stay on the board), and every time I went under I heard the deep Jaws movie theme notes, Da, Da, Da, Da!

Fortunately, I believe I scared the black-tip reef shark just as bad as it scared me. Sharks are intelligent creatures. I faced my fear of sharks on many more occasions and to this day I still have a healthy respect for sharks embedded within the inner most me.