Paddleboarders venture out after fatal SoCal shark attack

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By ALLISON HOFFMAN

Associated Press Writer

SOLANA BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- A few paddleboarders ignored posted signs warning that a great white shark still could be lurking below the surface Saturday, just a day after a swimmer was killed in a rare attack near San Diego.

"It's like going to see 'Jaws' -- getting in the water the next day, all you could think about was the music," said Bob Rief, 63, who was teaching a friend how to stand up on a paddleboard. "But if you're afraid of the ocean, you shouldn't be in it."

The San Diego-area native was worried that the attack would scare away vacationers or weekend beachgoers and hurt businesses. Solana Beach is 14 miles northwest of San Diego.

Despite the summer-like temperatures and cloudless skies that normally lure large crowds, beaches were mostly empty near where triathlete David Martin was killed Friday.

A shark, presumed to be a great white, lifted Martin, 66, out of the water with his legs in its jaws, leaving deep lacerations and shredding the retired veterinarian's black wetsuit.

On Saturday, about eight miles of shoreline from San Diego north to Carlsbad remained under advisory closure as sheriff's helicopters scanned the shore for signs of the shark -- and for unwitting swimmers.

The beaches in San Diego will be patrolled throughout the weekend, according to city and county officials. A weekend surfing competition in Encinitas, a seaside town north of the attack, was canceled because of safety concerns.

Few surfers dotted the normally crowded breaks off Tide Beach Park or Cardiff State Beach -- perhaps as much because of shark fears as weak swells.

"I thought twice only because the waves are so small," said Lynn Richardson, 63, a retiree who nosed his orange kayak straight out toward Tabletop Reef, where the shark struck. A lifeguard with a megaphone called Richardson in for a stern talking-to but shrugged after Richardson said he was willing to play the odds.

Shark expert Richard Rosenblatt said Friday that, judging by Martin's wounds and the nature of the attack, the shark probably was a great white 12 to 17 feet long. Experts said the likelihood of finding the shark that attacked Martin was slim.

Great white sharks are rare in Southern California, though female great whites sometimes come south from their usual territory in the cooler waters of the central and northern coast to pup. Few make the mistake of attacking humans instead of seals or sea lions, their usual prey.

Martin was the first shark fatality in San Diego County since 1994, when a woman's body was found with bites off Ocean Beach, near downtown San Diego.

The last fatal shark attack in California, according to data from the state Department of Fish and Game, took place Aug. 15, 2004, off the coast of Mendocino County. The victim was a man diving for shellfish with a friend. On Aug. 19, 2003, a female swimmer was killed by a great white at Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County on the central California coast.

Overall, shark attacks are extremely rare. There were 71 reported worldwide last year, up from 63 in 2006. Only one attack, in the South Pacific, was fatal, according to the University of Florida.