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Trip Report - GWS - Santa Monica Bay


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Posted by Patrick on August 30, 2010 at 09:20:32:

With the current less than diver –friendly water conditions and temperatures – we found 55-degrees, SURFACE TEMP! on Saturday – it was decided to do something a bit different on Sunday. The daily reports of multiple sightings of Great White Sharks (some estimated to18-feet) around the Topanga, Sunset Beach, Gladstone’s area north of Santa Monica, prompted us to just take a boat ride up there to see what we could see and maybe get some pictures of these hopefully temporary visitors.

The crew aboard Moby Kate was Capt. Andy and his lovely wife Admiral Gaye, Captain Cindy and me. A late, leisurely arrival at the del Rey launch ramp found it clear of traffic and we launched immediately. On the main channel we had (another) del Rey experience. There was a bright yellow RIB – maybe 14-foot in length with three people aboard – whose bow was pointed nearly straight up. The guy at the tiller had to lean out around the inflatable tubes to see to steer. It was a trim issue that I hadn’t ever seen in a lot of years at sea. If they were to go out of the harbor like that, they would all end up in the water. Not to worry. Realizing the trim issue, the crew on the yellow inflatable addressed the trim issue by moving the CASES of beer on board from the stern to the bow – problem solved. Well one problem solved.

Once we avoided the Miller Lite Special, we cleared the main channel and headed north, already scanning the glassy waters for the apparently not so elusive GWS’s. About 5 minutes up the coast, north of the Venice Breakwater at the south end of Santa Monica Beach, just a ¼-mile off the beach, Captain Andy pointed inshore and said, “Hey, there’s a fin.” Sure enough, there was something dark and triangular a bit inside of us.

I turned the Kate to check it more closely, thinking it was probably just a corner of a kelp frond or some other floating debris, but on slowly motoring up, we could plainly see it was a dorsal fin, and it was bigger that it had first appeared.

As I took the boat out of gear and we coasted toward the beach, the fin moved toward us. In a few moments, despite the early morning glare off the water, we confirmed it – A Great White Shark!


A little guy (yes, claspers present) about 8-feet. He was pretty much oblivious to our presence. He kept circling the general area, perhaps looking at some of the bait balls that were rippling the surface throughout the area, though he didn’t seem to be feeding. For the next 15 minutes he cruised around the boat moving closer then away from the drifting Kate. His shape movements and coloration were magnificent! The effortlessness with which he moved was mesmerizing. The sharp boundary between his snow-white belly and slat blue-gray back was amazing. The experience of being there and sharing that chunk of ocean with such a creature while looking at the skyline of Santa Monica so near by was mind-blowing.

When he finally submerged, and we stopped repeating, “Wow!, a freaking Great White Shark! Wow! we cranked up the Kate and headed to the area off Sunset Beach where the majority of sightings have been recently made. We settled in about 200 yards off the point and watched and waited.

There was plenty of chum, I mean surfers in the water, and more coming as the swell picked up through the morning. Sadly, several hours of watching turned up nothing except several pods of cavorting dolphin and their sea lion escorts, feeding pelicans and terns and the opportunity to spend an awesome morning on some beautiful water without having to get into or out of dive gear.

For whatever reason, the GWS are in this year and it would be a good idea for all of us who submerge and marinate in our offshore (and inshore) waters to keep that in mind.

Enjoy the diving…





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