by Paul Tompkins, Phycology Lab
The gulls first caught my attention, a small flock in a tight swarm above the waves just beyond my surfboard. Others floated on the surface below. Suddenly the sea below them erupted, and the birds on the surface took flight. A frothy pink spray of water shot into the air; there was blood in the water. As the water calmed the gulls swooped and dove, feeding. A few seconds later the scene repeated itself, another violent splash of bloody water. My instincts were screaming, telling me turn and paddle in, to get out of the water.
My curiosity got the better of me, and I sat transfixed as something was being ripped to pieces only a few hundred yards away. Other gulls were making a beeline to join in the feast, and the flock grew. I watched the attack for another minute, until at last a large black fin broke the horizon and my suspicions were confirmed. This was no sea lion or orca, but a large white shark, eating lunch.
I swung towards the beach, catching my last wave on the way in. As I crested the dunes to get a better vantage, I saw the shark hit twice more. I ran to the parking lot to grab my binoculars. By the time I looked back to sea, the gulls had stopped flying, all were swimming on the surface. I peered through the lenses for a few more minutes, but the attack had ended. I walked back down to my car, relieved that I had been a witness to a raw display of nature’s brutality, rather than an unwilling participant.