Although West Coast paddlers have been reveling in unusually warm Pacific waters as the summer winds to an official end, the unseasonable water temperatures have also attracted other non-native visitors. The coastal waters of Southern California in particular have seen bumper catches of yellowtail, as well as yellowfin and bluefin tuna, dorado and marlin. Anglers and boaters have reported rare whale shark sightings along with manta rays, tiny pelagic red crabs, and most notably for paddlers, hammerhead sharks.
The Huntington Beach Independent recently reported that the possibility of a record-breaking El Niño on the horizon has likely lured the hammerheads as their food sources migrate from more tropical areas. Cal State Long Beach marine biology professor Chris Lowe, director of Cal State Long Beach’s Shark Lab, also stated that hammerheads have been known to visit Southern California waters during an El Niño year, “with their numbers increasing lately as warm water draws them and their food supply, mainly yellowtail and tuna, up from Central America and Baja California.”
On Saturday, kayak fisherman Mark McCracken was fishing for bonito off Gaviota State Beach when he was forced to fend off an aggressive hammerhead for 15 minutes.
"It hit the back of my kayak twice and I turned around to see it," McCracken told NBC News. "I couldn't tell if he was biting [the kayak] or if he was head-butting it, but soon as I saw it I just started going at him with the paddle." (Read more from McCracken’s encounter at GrindTV.)
The prior weekend, kayaker Bill Morales captured the following video of a hammerhead ramming into the side of his paddling partner’s kayak as the pair fished outside of Dana Point, Calif.
Morales and McCracken fared much better than the kayak fisherman paddling off the California coast near Malibu on Sept. 5, who was bitten on the leg by a hammerhead and who required an emergency airlift to a local hospital.
Meanwhile in San Diego, a group of kayakers spotted an aggressive hammerhead off La Jolla shores and alerted lifeguards, who prompted an immediate 24-hour beach closures.
Don’t let this news keep you out of the water though, as Mashable recently reported, you’re more still likely to die from a selfie than a shark attack. And paddlers aren’t immune from selfie related accidents.