It’s a sight that every surfer dreads: a fin appearing out of the depths of the ocean. During a morning surf session at Coronado Shores in late May, local resident Daniel Perwich spotted a shark about 30 feet away, moving directly toward him. He only had a few moments to decide what to do.
“It was fight or flight,” Perwich said. “In an instant I decided I was going to paddle directly and intentionally straight at the shark. I did not weigh the pros and cons. I just did it.”
He was separated from the main pack of surfers and says the shark was moving fast enough that he knew he couldn’t outrun it.
“I remember having the shark fin directly in my line of sight as we both moved toward each other for a few paddles,” Perwich said. “Now, when I think about those few strokes now, it boggles my mind. Just before the shark and I got to each other it submerged.”
He kept paddling until he was in shallow water. Other surfers nearby seemed unfazed, so he made the decision to paddle back out. But after catching another wave, Perwich decided to make a report to the lifeguards. That’s when he spoke with another surfer who witnessed the encounter. He said the shark had followed Perwich as he paddled to shore.
Perwich hasn’t been back in the water since.
In more than 30 years of surfing, he says he’s knowingly encountered large sharks twice, and both times were in Coronado recently. Earlier this year, he spotted another shark in the same area.
“They say it’s more likely you will get hit by lightning than attacked by a shark,” Perwich said. “That was my belief, and I never really dwelt on the issue before, but things may have changed. I know of no reason to believe that a shark will not strike a surfer or a swimmer. They are totally wild and that is what they do.”
There have been other recent shark sightings in Coronado. In April, a swimmer came face-to-face with an 8-foot shark a couple of hundred yards north of the main lifeguard tower. In December, a juvenile shark nipped a swimmer’s fin. In both incidents, the swimmers made it out of the water safely. And in March, a Shores resident took photos from above of a shark near a surfer.
Despite these reports, Coronado lifeguards have not noticed an increase in sightings.
“However, we expect to, as summer begins and there are more people going into the ocean and encountering sharks in their own habitat,” Lifeguard Captain Sean Carey said.
Perwich and other surfers think something needs to be done, but there isn’t a clear solution. He’s considered using a shark bracelet but doesn’t know if he’s ready to put his trust in that device.
“I have talked to other surfers and I think the expectation is that sooner or later someone is going to get hurt and then some sort of plan will be developed to deal with the situation,” Perwich said. “On the other hand, if I was in a position of power and was a decision maker I am honestly not sure what I would do.”
Despite the uncertainty, he is clear about one thing. He’ll be back in the lineup eventually.
“Honestly, even if we don’t come up with a good remedy, I do see myself getting back in the water, but just not today.”