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Santa Barbara Beaches Quiet in Wake of Great White Shark Sighting

City officials post warning signs after a surfer reports seeing the shark 20 to 30 yards off Leadbetter Point

Santa Barbara beaches remained quiet Wednesday despite the reported sighting of a great white shark off Leadbetter Point on Tuesday evening.

A surfer spotted the shark around 5:20 p.m. Tuesday when it swam about 5 feet from him, with its dorsal and tail fins above the surface.

Based on what the surfer reported, the 6 to 7 feet between the shark’s two fins and its reported color and girth, city officials said they’re treating the report as a credible sighting of a great white shark.

As a result, the city’s Waterfront and Parks & Recreation departments have posted warning signs at 14 locations near city beaches, and one on each of five lifeguard towers between Leadbetter Point and East Beach. If there are no other shark sightings or evidence of shark attacks on marine life, the signs will be removed Friday at sunset.

Noozhawk checked in Wednesday with Karl Treiberg, waterfront facilities manager and acting waterfront director, and Mick Kronman, harbor operations manager.

Kronman said he talked at length with the surfer on Tuesday evening, and that the young man had seen the shark 20 to 30 yards off the point.

Treiberg also confirmed that no other sightings had been reported on Wednesday. 

On Leadbetter Beach on Wednesday afternoon, wary lifeguards kept an eye out, though swimmers were sparse in the area.

Earlier this summer, a great white attacked a sea lion off East Beach, and the city put up similar signs, warning swimmers to stay out of the water.

The City of Santa Barbara posted warning signs at local beaches Wednesday to alert swimmers and surfers to the reported shark sighting. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)
The City of Santa Barbara posted warning signs at local beaches Wednesday to alert swimmers and surfers to the reported shark sighting. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

In 2010, the South Coast community was stunned to find out that UCSB student Lucas Ransom, 19, had died after being bitten by a great white shark off Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Surf Beach.

Ransom was the first to die of a shark bite in county history. At the time, Department of Fish & Game officials said that only 13 people had died in California from shark bites since the DFG began keeping records 95 years ago.

Jake Clinton, who coordinates Nite Moves, a weekly event that hosts a swim near the area where the shark was spotted, said he’ll go ahead with Wednesday night’s swim, but that swimmers enter the water at their own risk.

“We have had warnings in the past and had our own lifeguards in the water,” he said, adding that he plans to announce that a shark was sighted in the area before the event starts and that individuals will need to decide for themselves.

“Those of us that swim regularly, especially in the early light — the common feeding time — know that we are in a wildlife area, same as running in the backcountry,” he said. 

Longtime area surfer and photographer Tom Modugno said Tuesday’s sighting won’t keep serious surfers out of the ocean. 

“To those that live to surf, even a shark attack wouldn’t keep them out for more than a day, depending on the waves,” he said, adding that he doesn’t mind some of the crowd staying out of the waves. “Sharks live in the ocean. It’s still way safer than driving to work everyday.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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