Friday, July 14, 2006

Surfing with a 10 foot Hammerhead, Navarre Pier, Florida

Growing up, my surf crew (group of surfing friends) and I loved dawn patrol (O'dark thirty, early morning) wave sessions growing up. We would arise before the sun and head to our favorite beach breaks. We would watch the sun rise over the horizon and the early morning ray’s glisten on the glassy waves. Of course, we all had chilly goose pimples from the brisk morning air, but we were charged by the adrenaline rush of an empty line-up (no one else in the water- except the sharks). Navarre Pier was one of our favorite dawn patrol locations. Navarre is an isolated place between Pensacola and Ft. Walton Beach. Fishermen loved to pull the midnight shift, drinking strong Irish coffee and attracting sharks with chum to lure them into a feeding frenzy and ultimately capture them with their lines and imbedded hooks. Sharks were a common sighting on the sand, often times with their teeth removed, blood draining back into the water. Death was in the air.

The shark hunters thought we were all crazy, but one crazy surfer takes crazy to the next level, insanity. This guy used to run fishing pole lines out for the fishermen on the pier, for a few dollars. This guy would throw two bloody Bonita’s with hooks and tackle over his shoulder and paddle the lines out into the deep water. I get a shiver down my spine just thinking about the risks involved. Florida’s continental shelf is fairly close to shore and sharks smell really well, enough said.

Our nerves were a bit jumpy seeing all the dead sharks on the beach. However, we were destined to surf and surf is what we did. As we paddled out about thirty feet next to pier, my younger brother starts to yell shark and hyper-paddles back to shore. He screams, “Get out, there is a ten-foot Hammerhead by the pier.” Everyone else begins to panic or should I even go as far as to say, freak-out. I perceived this as a golden opportunity to add to the excitement and slip off of my surfboard and into the water to start slapping it hard with my flapping arms and screaming at the top of my lungs. Once I had everyone’s attention, including the fishermen, I disappeared under the pier, undoing my leash, to leave my board lifeless and afloat.

In the ocean, I always swim with my eyes wide open. Just as I reach the middle of the pier, I look over and see the infamous shark was in fact real and not at all a figment of my younger brother’s imagination. I thought to myself, oh crap, what a foolish boy I am. All ten feet of this beautiful shark swam by me as my life began to flash and I realized that I had only done foolish things with my life to this point. This foolishness is scary. Just as the tail past by me, I shot to the surface for a gasp of air and began to swim back to my board. I wondered where the shark would bite me first. After reaching my board, I climbed back on and began to paddle in. If there was an Indy 500 of surfing, I would have placed first. I paddled so fast that it seemed like I past waves on the way into the beach.

My friends and little brother were not happy campers at my little stint and I learned a great lesson in life. More sharks have seen us, than we have seen sharks. I still surf and I always will, as long as I have breath.


Anonymous said...

Kind of funny, but also not...Glad you came out of it okay. Regarding the dead sharks on the beach, with teeth removed...what a shame. Shark is actually quite good as long as it's cleaned right away after being killed.

Mike Kline said...

Thanks for commenting! As this happened in the early 80's - things were really different. New laws on shark fishing have stopped a lot of the abuse. You are right about the taste, I personally like most deep sea fish.