Veteran surfer Mark Hull raptly watched a great white shark attack a sea lion about 150 yards from a dozen surfers at Moss Landing State Beach on Thursday morning.
Hull, 60, a retired Aptos High School teacher, was getting ready to go in the water about 10 a.m. and was checking the surf line a quarter mile north of the harbor entrance when he saw a big splash about 100 yards offshore.
At first, he thought a pelican had dived, but then gulls flocked to the site. And seconds later, he saw a shark — "maybe 10 to 12 feet" — lift a seal lion out of the water.
"It was like a nature video. The (sea lion) was lifted out the water and shaken violently," he said. "It was a classic shark hit."
Another surfer had just gotten out of the water near the spot where the shark and gulls were feeding. Hull told him about what was going on and handed him the binoculars.
The other surfer said he had seen a sea lion swim by when he was in the water, Hull said.
"The reality is (sharks) are here," Hull said. "That's the reality, wherever there is a lot of food ... They aren't fools."
Word quickly spread and all but a few surfers "way, way up the beach" got out of the water, he said.
Hull didn't think anyone shot a video of the attack — a good telephoto lens would have been needed — but he said he had a detailed look with binoculars.
Hull has been surfing Monterey Bay waters for 35 years.
He said there was no doubt the shark was a great white.
Surfers spotted a great white shark in late June 2012 at Marina State Beach, close to the spot where another surfer was attacked by a great white in August 2007.
Sal Jorgensen, a shark ecologist and researcher at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, said sightings of white sharks off the Central Coast aren't rare events.
"Anywhere there are large numbers of sea lions and seals, there's a chance white sharks will get them," he said.
"A lot of times they probably go undetected," he said.
Larry Parsons can be reached at 646-4379 or firstname.lastname@example.org.