Shark Sighting at Lower Trestles, San Clemente

posted by / News / June 29, 2005

On the morning of June 29th, local San Clemente surfer Jon Steele stopped by SURFINGthemag.com to tell us what he saw in the water at Lower Trestles. His story just might change your mind about that next planned session at Lowers.

SURFING MAGAZINE: So Jon, what happened to you during your daily Lowers session this morning?

Jon Steele: We got to Lowers before light, paddled out and were having a great little session. Shared a few good waves with all the boys. As I was paddling back out from a wave, I happened to notice a little rustle outside the lineup.

SURFING: Could it have been a dolphin?

Jon: Well, we had seen a lot of dolphin activity over the past few weeks. Even while the NSSA was holding it’s National Championships there were a lot of dolphins. But they were more “playing” in the water. The dolphins were slapping their tails, doing little flips and having fun. This was different.

SURFING: So what drew your attention?

Jon: Well, normally you just give the dolphins a quick look and you can tell, “Hey that’s a dolphin or a porpoise” . So I was wary of the dolphins and how they can spook you a little if you aren’t paying attention. So I saw this little thin line out of the corner of my eye, and I thought, “Wow, that’s a fin”. So I took a closer look and then I saw the body come up. And that’s when I noticed it was a different color than a porpoise or dolphin.

SURFING: What did this one look like?

Jon: This one was brown and rough. I could actually see the texture of the skin. And it wasn’t making the smooth moves of a dolphin, it was “thrashing” from side to side, going after some bait fish.

SURFING: So did you paddle in after seeing it?

Jon: No, I just kind of put it in the back of my mind, but I kept looking around for it. And you know, I always doubt myself a little – not wanting to be the boy that cried wolf. Because the last thing you want everyone to do is get in a big panic. But then again, [with the crowds at Lowers], maybe I do want to cry wolf. [laughs]But then I took another look in the same spot, and saw the fin come up again. That’s when I knew for a fact that it was a shark.

SURFING: How big do you think the shark was?

Jon: I would say that the shark was easily 5 feet long. Easily. And he had some girth to him.

SURFING: It wasn’t just some little baby shark / toe nibbler?

Jon: No. I grew up around sharks, and I don’t really mind the little ones. I could live without a toe or two, but this one could have taken a leg easily.

SURFING: Wow. Sounds like fluffy or maybe one of her relatives might be back. How many guys would you estimate were in the water when the sighting occurred?

Jon: At that point there were about 30 guys in the water. About 15 of us were sitting on the outside where it could be seen.

SURFING: At what point did you get out of the water?

Jon: I caught a few more waves and told a few people in the lineup what I had seen. Then I went in a watched Tom Carroll and Jeff Booth surf for a little bit.

SURFING: Can anyone else verify what you saw?

Jon: My buddy came in after me, and we watched the area where I had seen the shark. After a little while, we saw the same thrashing going on in the same area. And my buddy looks at me and says, “THAT wasn’t a dolphin”.And there was another local named Vic, that claims he saw the shark on the inside in about waist-deep water earlier in the week.

SURFING: Great. Not only are there plenty of snakes out in the water at Lowers, but the sharks are back as well.

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