Experts say great white shark killed surfer

An expert has determined that a surfer was killed off California’s Central Coast by a 15- to 16-foot (4.8-meter) great white shark.

LOS ANGELES — An expert has determined that a surfer was killed off California’s Central Coast by a 15- to 16-foot (4.8-meter) great white shark.

Ralph Collier of the Shark Research Committee examined the body of 39-year-old Francisco Javier Solorio Jr. of Orcutt before making the determination Wednesday.

The surfer was bitten in the upper torso in the waters off Surf Beach in Santa Barbara County on Tuesday. He died at the scene despite a friend’s efforts to save him.

“His friend ended up swimming over and pulling him from the water where he received first aid,” sheriff’s Sgt. Mark A. Williams said.

Friends said Solorio had ridden the waves there since he was a boy.

“He was a really good surfer,” friend Nathan Winkles told KEYT-TV in Santa Barbara.

The beach, about 150 miles (240 kilometres) northwest of Los Angeles, also was the site of an October 2010 fatal attack.

Lucas Ransom, a 19-year-old student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, died when a shark nearly severed his leg as he body-boarded.

Surf Beach is near Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Air Force said Solorio was not affiliated with the base, which allows public access to some of its beaches.

All beaches on the base’s coastline were closed for at least 72 hours as a precaution, Col. Nina Armagno said.

Great white sharks are found from tropical to polar regions and are not uncommon up and down the California coast, experts said.

However, they do not attack humans as a rule, experts said.

“If white sharks were going to target humans for prey, I would never talk to any survivors,” Collier said. “Because there’s no way you or I could ever survive an attack by a 17-foot shark that weighs 4,000 pounds.”

There have been nearly 100 shark attacks in California since the 1920s, including a dozen that were fatal, according to the California Department of Fish and Game.

But attacks have remained relatively rare even as the population of swimmers, divers and surfers sharing the waters has soared.

An average of 65 shark attacks happen each year around the world that typically result in two or three deaths, according to the Pew Environment Group.

Last month, warning signs were posted at Santa Barbara Harbor, about 65 miles (105 kilometres) southeast of Surf Beach, after a 14-foot (4.2-meter) great white shark was spotted by a surfer.

In July, a man escaped injury near Santa Cruz after being thrown from his kayak by a great white shark that bit through the vessel. An almost identical incident occurred off the coast of Cambria in May.

Hundreds of miles south near the coast of San Diego, a 15-foot (4.5-meter) great white shark is believed to have killed triathlete David Martin in 2008.

Great white sharks are inquisitive and use smell, vision and taste to identify objects in the water, which can be more difficult if the ocean is churned up or murky, he said.

It is likely that the shark that bit Solorio failed to identify the surfer and “struck out at this shape assuming it was a natural prey,” Collier said.

“The way it investigates is by taking a gentle bite but unfortunately, what seems like a gentle bite to a shark can cause a devastating injury to a human,” Nosal said.

Some sharks come closer to shore from around October to January because that is when some of their favourite prey — nutritious, blubber-rich seals and elephant seals — are abundant on land, said Sean Van Sommeran, executive director of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in Santa Cruz.

“Shark-tober is a phrase we coined,” he said.

Collier said he has seen sharks as close as 20 feet (6 metres) to beaches.

No large seal colonies are near Surf Beach, a locally popular rural area that is known for its treacherous riptides, said Robin Dunaetz, who owns a surf shop in nearby Lompoc.

Since the deadly attack two years, surfers have been aware that sharks may lurk offshore.

“They take it into consideration, like with anything” she said. “When you get on a highway you take a risk; when you get out in the water, you take a risk.”

Shark sightings appeared to have become more frequent in the past four to six years but that may simply be a result of more people being in the water, she said.

In fact, experts said humans pose more of a threat to sharks. Collier said shark populations have been decimated by fishermen, shark-fin poachers and others who have killed 60 million to 100 million sharks annually in the past decade.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People board and leave at the Century Park light-rail transit station in Edmonton on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Growing number of attacks against Black Muslim women

‘Racism is a real problem:’ Growing number of attacks against Black Muslim women

Alberta Health Services declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Revera Aspen Ridge on Feb. 1. (Photo by Advocate staff)
Two COVID deaths linked to Revera seniors residence in Red Deer

35 active COVID cases at seniors residence

Red Deer musician Lorry Boschman has written a song about love in the time of COVID-19. Proceeds from his single, Romance during a Pandemic, will be donated to the local United Way. (Contributed photo).
Local musician records a song about love in the time of COVID-19 — for charity

Lorry Boschman will donate some proceeds to the United Way

Preliminary data shows Alberta’s suicide rate declined in 2020 — but some mental health critics say it’s too early to draw any conclusions since more dire pandemic impacts are only now being felt. (metrocreative stock)
Alberta’s suicide rate seems to have declined in 2020

But some experts say it’s too early to credit the pandemic

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre can accommodate up to 20 patients requiring a ventilator, says Alberta Health Services.  File photo by Advocate staff
Opinion: UCP government reneging on Red Deer hospital funding

Another year, another Alberta budget and another blow to central Albertans. Budget… Continue reading

Seattle Storm guards Sue Bird, right, and Jordin Canada pose for photos Wednesday, March 3, 2021, on the roof of the Space Needle in Seattle after they raised a flag with the team's new logo on it. Bird re-signed with the Storm earlier in the week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Sue Bird staying busy with 20th Seattle season on horizon

Sue Bird staying busy with 20th Seattle season on horizon

Lille players celebrate after Jonathan David scored his side's second goal during the French League One soccer match between Lille and Marseille at the Stade Pierre Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve-d'Ascq, France, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
David scores 2 as Lille wins to stay two points clear of PSG

David scores 2 as Lille wins to stay two points clear of PSG

Canada defender Shelina Zadorsky, right, passes the ball in front of Argentina forward Sole Jaimes (9) during the second half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Alphonso Davies and Shelina Zadorsky have been named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Phelan M. Ebenhack
Davies, Zadorsky named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February

Davies, Zadorsky named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February

Manchester United's Fred, left, and Crystal Palace's Jordan Ayew challenge for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park stadium in London, England, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Mike Hewitt/Pool via AP)
Grueling season starting to catch up with Man U, Leicester

Grueling season starting to catch up with Man U, Leicester

Gary Sanchez goes deep, Yankees hit three home runs to beat Blue Jays 4-1

Gary Sanchez goes deep, Yankees hit three home runs to beat Blue Jays 4-1

Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) dunks as Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Detroit, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The undermanned Toronto Raptors, down five players and six members of their coaching staff due to health and safety protocols, are scheduled to host the Detroit Pistons in their first action since last Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Carlos Osorio
Powell, Lowry do their bit but undermanned Raptors beaten handily by the Pistons

Powell, Lowry do their bit but undermanned Raptors beaten handily by the Pistons

Canada's Ghislaine Landry, left, runs past France players during the Women's Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco, Friday, July 20, 2018. The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, grounded last year by the pandemic, will return for the women in May. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeff Chiu
World Rugby unveils condensed 2021 sevens schedule with Vancouver a question-mark

World Rugby unveils condensed 2021 sevens schedule with Vancouver a question-mark

Most Read