“Terror from Below” was last week’s History of Surfing post. This one felt a bit personal. Blue Water, White Death (1971) was my big-screen introduction to sharks, Jaws followed four short years later, then a 20-foot white separated Lew Boren from his ribcage in a fatal 1981 attack. Three events designed to scare the hell out of a young surfer, especially if that kid is a big ’fraidy cat by nature. Yet sharks never haunted me. Maybe because I lived and surfed almost exclusively in Santa Monica Bay and points south, and was always good at parsing odds; even at 15 I knew the odds were in my favor. Also, worrying about sharks would have cut into me worrying about Christina Stevens or Sue Drake or whatever teenage femme fatal was chewing up my equilibrium on any given month.
Even after moving to the Bay Area, where I spent 20 years semi-regularly surfing actual sharky breaks, I was okay. More or less. Ass-clenched for sure while paddling in at dusk at a reef just north of Mavs with pinnipeds barking on a huge flat rock behind me and on the distant shore before me. But fine once I hit the beach. Never saw so much as a fin or a suspicious whorl and, again, worrying about death from below would have interfered with worrying about getting caught inside, or head-butting the reef . . . or just kooking out in front of friends and peers, for that matter, prideful thing that I was.
Above the Roar newcomer Neridah Falconer is not afraid of sharks would be my guess. The 2002 Triple Crown winner was the coolest of customers on the women’s pro tour during the ’90s and early ’00s, probably too cool for her own good. Neridah flew so far under radar that you never really saw her till she was raising a winner’s trophy overhead and smiling a shy smile.
Wait a minute. Shy . . . or sharky?
Tom Carroll, he of the perfectly raised eyebrow and bulbous seam-splitting thighs, coming up this week. Power up!