Kayak shark attack: California kayaker says great white rolled him over

Dylan Stableford
The Sideshow

Summer is a little over a month away—and that means shark story season is just around the corner.

California got a jump on the perennial wave over the weekend when a kayaker says a 14-foot great white shark flipped and knocked him out of his kayak near the Central California town of Cambria.

"I got hit from underneath and started coming up out of the water," Joey Nocchi told the San Luis Obispo Tribune. "My buddies said I came out of the water 4 to 5 feet—it flipped me over the side. The shark rolled the whole kayak over, rolled me out of it, and he went over the top of it. He swam across me—his tail touched me."

"The shark came all the way out of the water, jaws open, extra eyelids closed like they do when they're making a kill strike," one of his buddies said, according to Nocchi.

The 30-year-old, who was returning from fishing, continued: "I swam back as fast as I could and got back on the back of the kayak. I didn't even think to turn it back over. I did, and I got back to shore as fast as I could, even though the kayak was taking on a bunch of water." The bite appears to be "around 20 inches long, more than 22 inches wide," Nocchi added.

Unprovoked shark attacks are pretty rare, even in California.

According to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File, there were just 104 confirmed attacks between 1926 and 2011—and just nine of those were fatal.

If you do encounter a shark while kayaking, "do not panic," according George H. Burgess, author of the article "What to Do if Your Kayak is Attacked by a Shark":

If you see a shark from your kayak, do not panic. Most likely the shark was attracted by something you were doing or by something in the area of your activity. If you are fishing and have a bait bucket over the side, let it go. If you think some catch of yours is attracting him, let him have it.

Regardless of the reason for its attraction do what you can to eliminate it and calmly start toward shore, keeping your eye on him, paddling with smooth gliding strokes, not frantic splashing. Gather up close to a paddle buddy as sharks are less likely to go after a group. Stay in your kayak until you reach shore. If you are far from a landing try to get up against a cliff (in calm water of course) or wall to minimize the directions he can approach you from.

Should the shark be making aggressive advances toward the boat, your paddle is the best weapon to discourage him. Hitting him on the snout should work but if he comes back go for the sensitive gill or eye area.

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