Jaws, Again

Surf Beach near Lompoc California
(Click for bigger image)

Pretty beach!

Oh look, there’s a sign about a fatal shark attack. But that was two years ago.

That shark’s gone by now. I’m sure it’s OK.

Wanna bet your life?

Driving to the Bay area in the summer of 2011, we had a couple of days to spend some time in Santa Barbara where we planned to visit a favorite restaurant or two, walk the beach and visit a “rich people junk” thrift shop we’d found on a previous visit.

But as won’t surprise you for summer beach lodging in Santa Barbara, there were no rooms available, not even at the priciest joints. The on-line reservation system scanned up and down the coastline, from Oxnard to San Luis Obispo, and the closest we could find was an Embassy Suites an hour away in Lompoc.

But we only planned to sleep there so, sure, why not.

Artichoke field

Nonetheless, the morning after we arrived and before driving down to Santa Barbara, we decided to have a look around Lompoc — there was an artichoke field we passed on the way in. I never knew what they looked like while growing.

Interesting!

Maybe there would be something else worth seeing in Lompoc. Who knows?

Unfortunately, it’s not much of a town and the nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base doesn’t particularly help. It was Ok for a almost-military town but that was about it.

Or so we thought.

But then, purely on a whim, we drove west down the two lane road next to that artichoke field,

“The ocean has to be over this way. Let’s go see how it looks.”

And just over the rise on which sat the tracks of the rail line that runs up to San Francisco, we found what we briefly thought was the perfect beach. It was isolated and not marked on the main highway. Looking up and down the beach from where we parked, there were no people, no trash and … it was perfect!

2010 attack sign

Then we saw the sign.

In an instant, all thoughts of the kids and grandkids going on a beach vacation with gramma and grampa to this secret, pristine spot were eradicated.

What was initially and spectacularly “California beach au naturale” suddenly became the site of screaming, bloody horror. Death was here. Violent, painful, horrible death.

We left the beach and fled to the smiling shopkeepers, waiters and waitresses of Santa Barbara.

It’s now two years since that earlier fatal attack that prompted the sign that so shocked us.

And now there’s been another fatal attack. Same beach, same time of year, same result, two years later.

2012 attack sign?
(Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office)

In both cases, experts speculate the shark was only taking a taste, just a small bite mind you, to see if it was something he might like. And in both cases, it wasn’t.

No “chomp, wrench and tear.”

Instead, “that’s bad, spit it out.”

But that “small bite” by a Great White was fatal in both cases.

The surfers say — not ask but say — “What’re the odds of it happening again” and then shrug their shoulders before paddling out.

Pleasure in the present moment does, I guess, drown out the horrors of what might happen.

Is it part of our optimistic, hope for the best, genetic make-up, or are we just being foolish when we decide to take the risk?

Youth and folly often go together. The victim in the first attack was 19 but the second was 39. That’s old enough to know better.

“Enjoy the moment. Tomorrow will take care of itself.”

Beaches in the area were closed after this second attack, but then re-opened 72 hours later.

“That shark’s gone by now,” I’m sure someone said.

I wonder if they’ll post an additional sign or add a notice of the second attack to the first sign?

Oh wait, California’s broke. Forget the sign.

They can’t afford it.

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