First, the bad news. If you’re a Canadian shark fan, you already know this:
You’re not going to see a great white shark in the great white north. Sorry, but it’s not gonna happen, unless you head to Sable Island or get extremely lucky off the east coast of Canada.
Yet ironically you’ve got a reasonably good chance of seeing one just a three hour flight south of Vancouver. I don’t actively recommend doing this – and the lifeguards of LA aren’t fans of it either – but we’ve seen several videos in recent years of paddle board encounters with white sharks in Los Angeles and Southern California.
You Shouldn’t Do This, But…
A little perspective before we go further. We’ve seen some folks go a little batty around wild life in the past (remember the guys who ‘rode’ the whale shark off Mexico’?).
Plus a great white shark is, well, it’s a great white shark. Most people don’t actively go out of their way to get so close to our friend Mr. Whitey – even I was in the safety of a cage when I went great white shark diving!
So I don’t advocate folks paddle out in droves and take shark selfies.
And relax, if you’re a surfer in LA. Most of the great white sharks people see off the beaches are juveniles. They’re great white sharks in training – and essential to the marine ecosystems of California. Shark attacks are exceptionally rare and there’s no indication you’ll see any more of them.
Actually, I’m kinda jealous…
Paddle Board Videos With Great White Sharks
With all this said, we’ve seen a few intense encounters between paddle boarders and white sharks since 2013. Two beaches stand out: Manhattan Beach, just south of LAX, and most recently, Sunset Beach, near Huntington Beach, at the southern reach of the Los Angeles region.
A summary of paddle board encounters with great white sharks off Los Angeles in the past three years:
October 2013 – Local surfer Mike Durand films several juvenile white sharks get up close and personal with his paddle board off Manhattan Beach. Shark #2 swims right underneath his board as the adolescent great white gets curious about that strange thing up on the surface. Cover your ears if you’re offended by colourful language – though it’s understandable when you see this video(!).
November 2013 – Surfer Nathan Anderson hops off his board and films multiple great white sharks at El Porto (part of Manhattan Beach). This one’s intense – really, really intense – yet again they’re juveniles, and seem more curious than aggressive.
June 2015 – Paddle boarders Courtney Hemerick and Joseph Trucksess encounter juvenile white sharks off Sunset Beach (a section of Huntington Beach) and film the interaction as the sharks swim under, next to and very close to the two stoked dudes who heard white sharks were in the area and wanted to see them in the flesh as it were.
More On the Way?
As most marine biologists have said on the subject, it’s good to see white sharks back off California. This means the ecosystem is healthy enough to sustain the apex predators, who seem to see the beaches of LA as their own kindergarten.
And the guys seemed pretty respectful of the sharks in these videos, so that’s cool.
Put it all together and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more paddle board videos of white shark encounters off Los Angeles and southern California in general – where human and great whites come together – in an exciting, and reasonably controlled classroom of shark and observer.