SANTA CRUZ -- A great white shark, estimated to be up to 18 feet long, sheared through the front end of a kayak about a quarter-mile from the popular surfing spot known as Pleasure Point on Saturday, authorities said.
A 52-year-old Fremont man was fishing from his 13.5-foot kayak when he felt the shark bump up against the back of the boat. Within seconds, the shark lifted up the kayak and attacked the front, Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputies said.
The man, thrown from the kayak, was unharmed in the 8:30 a.m. attack. He was plucked from the ocean by a boater nearby who had witnessed the incident.
The man was fishing with two friends in about 40 feet of water just outside a kelp bed when the attack happened. The man's friends, in separate kayaks, were not injured.
The shark's teeth sliced through the thick shell of the yellow kayak, and investigators extracted tooth fragments from the bite marks.
Sean Van Sommeran of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation was called to inspect the bite, and he immediately confirmed it was the work of a great white -- the world's largest predatory shark.
"Those teeth can go right through bones and saw apart seals," Van Sommeran said. "They're designed to dismantle sea animals. They rarely bite humans."
Although great whites were made infamous by Peter Benchley's best-selling novel and Steven Spielberg's 1975 film "Jaws," they rarely attack humans. Between 1952 and 2011, there were
The last life-threatening shark attack in the county occurred in 1991, when Eric Larsen, a San Jose computer engineer, was attacked by a white shark off Davenport. He lost half the blood in his body, was nearly killed and his wounds required 400 stitches. But Larsen returned to surfing several months later.
Van Sommeran said it's not unusual to hear of sharks being spotted near Seacliff and La Selva beaches.
Van Sommeran recalled a 1960 shark attack in which a woman was badly bitten near Sand Dollar Beach between La Selva and Watsonville.
In July 2007, near Bean Hollow State Beach in San Mateo County, a kayak fisherman had a brush with a great white.
The attack on the nose of the small boat threw the victim into the water. He jumped back on and was able to get back to shore before his boat took on too much water, witnesses said.
Sharks are known to cruise the California coast between October and January, feeding off seals and other sea life before heading farther out to sea for the winter.
Capitola police issued a text message alert on Saturday to warn surfers and beachgoers about the attack and advise caution when playing near the ocean.
"Enter at your own risk," the message read.
Surfers and beachgoers appeared undaunted by news of the attack.
The head-high waves churning on Saturday brought large numbers out to enjoy the swell, including Fredrik Thorsteidsson, who heard about the shark bite while standing in line for coffee at Verve in Capitola.
"So many people have surfed here for so many years and never been bit," said the 37-year-old, as he contemplated surfing The Hook. "The probability is so low. It's more dangerous to fly a plane or drive a car. It doesn't worry me."
Staff writer Paul Rogers contributed to this report.