Shark sightings happen. If you spend a lot of time in the ocean, you’ve probably come to accept that you will cross paths with one here and there. Of course the other side of that coin is the part where you hope those encounters always send you back to shore in one piece.
So while seeing a shark in California isn’t exactly man bites dog type of news, catching a glimpse of one breaching is actually downright remarkable. If you’ve ever watched Shark Week then you’ve seen images of a great white breaking the surface, jaws wide open, snatching some helpless prey with its teeth mid air. It’s a violent and spectacular sequence. But apparently the fish captured on Orange County surfer Drew Palumbo’s GoPro is a different event entirely.
As the video captions say, Palumbo was out surfing Sunset Beach when, completely by chance, the camera shows a great white shark breaching just outside the lineup. “Once it went horizontal and you could see the whole shape, I instantly looked over at my friend and said, ‘OK, this is not typical,'” Palumbo told ABC news. So he took the hint and paddled back in. End of session. He posted the video on Youtube soon after and it’s been making the rounds on local news ever since.
But unlike those creepy yet fascinating Shark Week videos, experts say this wasn’t a great white chasing down a seal. Chris Lowe, director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach says this 6-foot juvenile great white might have just been “scratching his back.” Lowe told the OC Register this week that the copepods that dig their claws into the backs of sharks and hang on might irritate their hosts. So the sharks jump out of the water, coming down on their back to dislodge the parasites.
Lowe’s other theory was even more simple and straightforward: “Maybe it’s play.”