At 11am on Tuesday, July 11, Steve Lawson was kayaking outside of Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz when he was thrown into the water. Lawson says at first he assumed he’d hit a rock. “I looked forward and there was a shark holding onto the front of my boat,” he told KPIX. The encounter took place in an area thought to have a high concentration of sharks, although encounters with great whites are extremely rare. Lawson was uninjured, and the shark did not make another appearance.
Following the attack, the city of Santa Cruz immediately closed the area from the San Lorenzo river mouth to Fair Avenue, part of their official “Shark Incident Action Plan.” Anyone who goes in the water before Saturday is subject to citation, but watching news coverage of the incident it’s obvious surfers in the area don’t intend to follow the ban. As Westside local Darryl “Flea” Virotsko told Surfline, “This has never happened since I’ve lived here. I think it’s a little extreme — it should be ‘enter at your own risk.’ Sharks have been there forever, especially outside the kelp line. I think they’re just doing it to scare people. I have my spots that aren’t in that zone, but if the Lane’s pumping, I’m gonna surf it.”
While this may surprise the public, many surfers have made peace with the idea that sharks exist in the ocean. Lawson told KSBW that even after this frightening experience he doesn’t plan to stop. “It’s really not a common occurrence,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for over 25 years, this is the first time. Things happen and it was not a big deal.”