California kayaker survives attack by great white shark

LOS ANGELES Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:07am EDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A great white shark attacked a California man's kayak off the Pacific coast, biting a chunk out of the boat and throwing the kayaker from the vessel, but the man survived without a scratch, police said on Monday.

The man, who was not identified by authorities, was fishing about a mile ( 1.5 km) o ff Capitola on Saturday when the shark -- estimated to be 15 to 18 feet (4 .5 to 5.5 metres) long and weighing more than 2,000 pounds (90 0 kg) -- attacked his kayak.

"The shark bit the front of his kayak and he could see the head and teeth. It threw him into the water," Capitola police officer Leland Blankenship said.

Blankenship said people on a boat nearby saw the attack and quickly pulled the man out of the water to safety off Capitola, about 65 miles (1 00 km) south of San Francisco.

Shark researcher Sean van Sommeran, who went to the scene after the attack and examined the kayak, said serrations on the bite marks showed that the shark was almost certainly a great white.

"There are some punctures which are impressive, almost like ice pick punctures and some long gashes that almost look like claws raked against it. You can really see the serrations," said van Sommeran, head of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation.

He said great white sharks have been seen in most years in the Pacific Ocean waters off Monterey, California, but they typically do not attack swimmers.

"It's far more common than most people realize, but then again it's impressive that they are usually so well-behaved," he said.

Van Sommeran said the sharks typically stick to a diet of seal, sea lions and dolphins. He said the shark could have mistaken the man's kayak for prey or been seeking to drive him out of his hunting area. (Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)

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