Great white courtesy Pelagic Shark Research Institute.jpg

By Paul Lebowitz

To a kayaker, the ocean is a playground. For a great white, it’s a well-stocked fridge. Anything on the shelves could be worth a taste.

This is particularly true in California’s Red Triangle, a tangle of wild water that spans Bodega Bay in the north, the Farallon Islands to the west and south to Big Sur below Monterey Bay. This region is dotted with seal and sea lion rookeries—the meat bin, if you like.

Fortunately, to a great white shark, a kayak (and the passenger on top or inside) is less appealing than a wilted celery stalk is to a meat-and-potatoes man. These fascinating—and let’s face it, terrifying up close—apex predators prefer richer, fat-laden fare such as plump elephant seals to crunchy plastic and fiberglass. Virtually without exception, sharks that mistake a kayak for a tasty snack hit and spit. The kayaker usually comes out fine, if understandably shaken.

The odds of any one kayaker getting hit are infinitesimally small. Keep that thought in mind as you read about this string of great white strikes.

Bean Hollow shark attack courtesy Doug Mar

The First Fisherman

Dan Prather of Concord, California was fishing at Bean Hollow south of San Francisco with a bunch of buddies from the NorCal Kayak Anglers (NCKA) online community on Saturday, July 21 when a suspected great white shark struck his kayak, knocking him into the water.



Red Sees

Sea kayaker Duane Strosaker was comfortably ensconced in his bright crimson fiberglass and wood sit-inside touring kayak. It must have stood out in the foggy seas at offshore oil rig Hondo, the point of his planned 24-mile tour.

About noon, he pointed his nose for home. With five miles to go, a shark suddenly struck the left nose of his boat and took a taste.

Photo credit: Adam Coca


In the most harrowing of these tales, in August 2010, the tables turned on experienced kayak angler Adam Coca. The hunter became the hunted.

Joey Nocchi by Paul Lebowitz

Touch Pool?

“It was like something hit my kayak with a baseball bat,” Joey Nocchi of Paso Robles told KSBY TV in the days following his sudden shark smack-down. Nocchi said he was vaulted five feet into the air by the impact against the bottom of his blue Cobra Fish N Dive kayak.

Photo credit:

Yum Yum Yellow: A Hit in Santa Cruz

A Capitola kelp bed was the scene of a dramatic mid-summer shark encounter. In a story that should sound familiar by now, a kayak angler was vaulted violently into the water when a shark crunched the nose of his yellow Hobie kayak.