Friday, February 17, 2012

Horny Blacktips on the Rise - An Old Tall Tale

Blacktip Shark by Dr. James McVey, NOAA Sea Grant

I once said, in a drunken stupor, that I did not need anyone to build a monument to my stupidity, because I intended to build it myself. 

It's in that vein that I bring you "idiotic encounters with horny sharks."  Not from the internet.  Oh, no.  Mine.  My idiotic encounters (plural) with sharks.  With the haze of time, each case's example of my inability to assess the situation  each seems equally ignorant, so instead of bringing you the whole list (about 10), here's my favorite, and it's a great story.


Virginia Beach, 1998.  My buddy Dave and I were making arrangements for the next morning's typical weekday surf.  It was a great time in my life.  Dave mentioned that an old...err...friend... - Nicole - wanted to come with us so Dave could "teach her to surf" (groan).   Now, Nicole was a legitimate college athlete,  and she was an absolutely smokin' hot 23 years old, so I didn't actually see any downside to spending 6am-9am with her in the water on a warm summer morning.  I mean, there was actually a decent chance she might learn to surf.  And gas money don't care about gender. REAL TALK.

Dave and Nicole showed up at my little beach apartment around 5am - on time!!!  Go Nicole!  As Dave and I both predicted, the surf was up.  It was a great morning of fun, clean, punchy waves.  As we also predicted, Nicole picked up surfing immediately.  She was super stoked, and absolutely did not give up (unlike most guys I've ever tried to teach to surf).  And as I also predicted, Nicole's bikini was totally ridiculous. Yeah, it was pretty much the best Friday morning ever.

Who spoils the party?
This guy!
Suddenly, there were little black and white fins.  Lots of them. Slashing through the calm water. Splashing straight up out of the surf.  Why today, of all days? I mean, really.

Blacktip reef sharks had moved into the warm shallow water to mate.  It was for real.  Easily 40 or 50 sharks set up right where we were surfing.  Luckily, at that exact moment, Nicole had paddled in to the beach to grab a quick swig of gatorade.  Dave and I looked at each other and calmly paddled in, agreeing that it'd be a great time to nonchalantly move south to another submerged rock groin.

Nicole took a casual look out to the surf, as we gave her a nonsense reason for our sudden migration down the beach.  She said, "Hey, those aren't sharks, are they?" To which we replied, "OH No of course not, it's just stingrays in the surf.  They are harmless (how many lies can I pack into one sentence?)."  Honestly, it wasn't so much that we didn't want "bikini time" to be over, as we didn't want our possible new surf buddy (remember: gas money) to totally freak out and want to go home (a normal person's reaction after hearing they have been swimming with sharks all morning without knowing it). All three of us had another 90 minutes before we needed to be at work, and there was no way I was calling it quits on such a fun little surf session.

A pretty famous image of a Blacktip
jumping in Florida surf.
And so we paddled back out at the other sunken groin and had another 90 minutes of fun.  Did at least one blacktip shark try to make sweet love to my leg, as I straddled my surfboard? Yup.  That happened.  Dave got some shark lovin' too.  We finally called it a morning, with all three of us having to get to work.  Nicole never knew about the sharks, and that's okay.   I never surfed with her again, which is okay too.  Hopefully she had a great day and decided that it'd be a good sport for her, or now, given our age, maybe for her kids as well.

And thank God we didn't get bitten.
Photo: National Geographic

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