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Santa Cruz Sentinel

September 30, 2000
Paul Evwer of Santa Barbara was at the San Mateo County surf break to shoot some footage for a documentary film. Associated Press photo

Maverick’s surfer escapes shark attack with minor cut

Sentinel staff writer

HALF MOON BAY — A surfer paddling out to mighty Maverick’s was attacked by a shark Friday morning, giving him a scare but leaving him unscathed.

Paul Evwer of Santa Barbara was at the San Mateo County surf break to shoot some footage for a documentary film, said Pillar Point Harbormaster Dan Temko, who spoke to the surfer shortly after the attack.

At 9 a.m., Evwer was midway through the half-mile paddle to the break — he just wanted to get a look at the break and wasn’t planning to surf, Temko said — when an 8- to 10-foot shark lunged at his midsection. Evwer pushed at the shark’s nose, then, along with friend and fellow surfer Mike Kasic, turned and paddled hard for shore.

The attack left Evwer shaking and his board scarred by a 13-inch-wide bite mark.

"The guy was really shaken up but happy to be alive," Temko said.

His only injury was a small cut on his left thigh, where a tooth had pierced his wetsuit.

The Southern California surfers didn’t stick around to talk. "I think they just wanted to get out of here," Temko said.

Maverick’s, just outside the harbor, has some of the largest waves in the world and draws surfers from around the globe.

Five other men surfing the break didn’t see the attack. When a Harbor Patrol boat motored out to warn them, at first they didn’t believe it.

"It took a little convincing," Temko said. "Then they headed in pretty quick."

Sean Van Sommeran, executive director of the Santa Cruz-based Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, guessed the attacking shark was a juvenile or sub-adult great white.

"They are the most inquisitive and curious of the sharks that are considered dangerous," Van Sommeran said.

He said shark attacks will happen as people continue to venture into areas like Maverick’s, which very few people surfed until a few years ago.

"As people venture into areas in greater numbers, there will be more and more encounters because we are moving into their territories," he said.

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the entire Central Coast is a "hot spot" for marine mammals at this time of year, Van Sommeran said, and that means the ocean’s most-feared predator considers the area a prime feeding ground.

He said the silhouette of a surfboard might appear to be a sea lion or harbor seal to a shark.

Van Sommeran said that of the 21 species of sharks, only three — the mako, blue and white sharks — are considered dangerous. Only the white shark, Van Sommeran said, has been implicated in "unprovoked" attacks on humans.

Since 1926, at least 12 people have been killed by white sharks, Van Sommeran said.

The most recent great white attack in California occurred in August 1998. Boogie-boarder Jonathan Kathrein warded off what appeared to be a great white at Stinson Beach north of San Francisco.

Harbormaster Temko said people were surfing the first good swell of the winter season at Maverick’s on Friday.

"I guess the Maverick’s mystique takes on a whole new layer," Temko said. "It’s like rock reefs and massive waves weren’t enough."

City editor Marc DesJardins contributed to this article

Contact Darrel W. Cole at dcole@santa-cruz.com.

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