San Diego area relieved to see no sign of killer shark

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Associated Press Writer

SOLANA BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- Fear and shock turned to wary relief as a golden Southern California beach weekend unspooled with no sign of the great white shark that killed a swimmer in a rare attack near San Diego.

Thousands fled record inland temperatures for the relative cool of the coast, though 17 miles of San Diego County's coast remain under advisory closure Sunday, patrolled by helicopters and lifeguard trucks keeping an eye on unwitting swimmers.

Only a hardy few paddleboarders on Saturday ignored posted signs warning that the shark could still be lurking below the Pacific's calm surface.

"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.

Beaches were emptier than usual Saturday near where triathlete David Martin was killed Friday. Farther north, Orange and Los Angeles county beaches were packed with people on a bright, hot day. Lifeguards were more concerned with crowds and riptides than sharks.

"The most dangerous part of the day, if you're going to the beach, is getting on the freeway to come here," said Garth Canning, section chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Lifeguard Division.

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.

An autopsy on Saturday confirmed that Martin had bled to death as authorities had believed, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office said.

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 typically 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.