Your View: A call for honest discussion about sharks, seals

By Roger Raffee

La Jolla

L. Jordan-Smith follows one fallacy with another in dismissing concerns that human-sponsored intentional increasing of the seal population in La Jolla will increase the possibility that great white sharks will visit the area.

First she stated as true an untrue statement that great whites’ movements do not follow the movements of seal populations. Then she made another fallacious argument by revising her earlier statement to then stating that because historically great whites have not been drawn to the meager seal population in La Jolla that we therefore have nothing to worry about.

Her new statement is true but is a new fallacy because it completely ignores the issue being addressed. I agree that historically great whites haven't been paying much attention to the seal population in La Jolla. The real question is whether or not that will continue to be the case if we intentionally encourage increasing the seal population in La Jolla in the future.

Ms. Jordan-Smith also accuses me of trying to scare La Jollans. I'm not trying to scare anyone — I'm scared.

I am 52 and have been surfing all over California and Hawaii since I was 7 years old. I prefer surfing with no leash. I like the exercise I get swimming in for my surfboard. I used to surf the big waves on the North Shore of Oahu, and all over the Hawaiian Islands. I didn't like the feeling of the leash dragging in the water behind me tugging at my leg, slowing me down. I used to surf Sunset Beach on Oahu all winter with no leash. Many surfers use their leashes as lifelines to climb up when they get shoved down deep out there. It takes a lot of skill and being in incredible shape to surf with no leash at Sunset Beach on a regular basis.

I've seen tiger sharks all over Hawaii —no more so than on the island of Kauai. I've seen the silhouettes of the large ones out in the clear blue ocean from shore. I've seen them meandering up the coast. I've seen them when I looked down as they swam by just before I jumped in the water. I saw one on the crest of the next wave one time, heading straight for me. It went underneath me right before it reached me. I didn't realize how scared I was until a friend paddled up and looked in my eyes. I couldn't speak or move, but we both could hear my teeth chattering. He yelled at everyone to go in. I was left stuck out there until I got the nerve to paddle in. Strangely enough, I was the first to go back out an hour later in to the perfect surf. Something about the experience made me feel as though that shark wasn't interested in me that afternoon.

I'm no stranger to swimming with sharks. I saw my first (and so far only) great white about three years ago at North Bird here in La Jolla. It was a cloudy gray day. I was on shore watching the waves. It was swimming north at what seemed like 25 miles per hour. It didn't meander slowly like a tiger shark. It was moving in a straight line, fast. It surfaced and submerged three times. It reminded me of a submarine. It was big, maybe 15 feet or so. It was a rush to see that thing. Whew!

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