Most 19-year-olds would probably panic if they spotted a great white shark swimming next to their paddle board.
But Francesca Nash, a marine science major at Cal Poly, had the opposite reaction when she and her friend, Rose Lebow, spotted a shark last weekend at Santa Claus Beach in Carpinteria.
Nash caught the minute-long encounter on camera from her paddle board, remaining completely calm and directing her less-experienced friend through the potentially dicey situation.
“Being that Santa Barbara is across from the Channel Islands and that Carpinteria is home to the Seal Sanctuary, it is very evident that great whites are present here,” said Nash, who grew up in Carpinteria and is familiar with the waters there. “I have found carcasses of dead seals that have been bitten by sharks, and there have always been sightings of great whites here, but I (had) never personally encountered one.”
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Nash said her legs were a bit shaky when she spotted the shark, and she was overwhelmed with excitement. Though Nash has a “healthy respect for sharks” and knows what they’re capable of, she felt confident the most the shark would do was bite her paddle board.
Nash also said she’s glad her video is being shared online because “our reaction in the video demonstrates that sharks do not need to be solely feared but can also be appreciated.”
“I consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity to encounter a great white in its natural habitat, unencumbered and peaceful,” Nash added. “I love sharks, and I am sad knowing that they have such a stigma around them. I don't think enough people understand them, and many people still hold onto irrational fears. But I am glad to see that their population is making a comeback.”