Shark Encounters of the Boring Kind

When you are out paddling, it is pretty common for people to come up and start a conversation with you. A recurring conversation point is whether or not you have ever seen a shark while paddling. Well this week, I got to see my first shark, which I believe was a relatively large Black Tip Shark.

On Monday, a buddy and I did a paddle during the partial eclipse. Tides weren’t quite right for a timely launch from his dock, so we loaded up the boats and put in at one of the Emerald Isle beach access points. This means a bit of walking and a fairly long portage, but you can get right out in the surf and it saves about 45 minutes of paddling that it would otherwise take to get out to the inlet.

Magic Seaweed had the surf at about 1 foot, although there were actually some pretty big swell and breaking waves at the beach. After playing for an hour or so close to the beach, it started to get a too bit crowded, so we went out closer to Bogue Inlet and played in a cool spot where there is usually some nice shoaling(especially going into low tide.) Here, the waves were much smaller and probably more in-line with Magic Seaweed’s prediction.

While the surfing wasn’t great, once you get back towards the more shallow area, there is almost always some confused seas that is fun to play around in. As I was sitting there getting tossed around a bit, I noticed a porpoise like fish cross in front of me and began keeping pace with it.

Earlier in the day, we had seen two dolphins and so my initial thought was that it was another dolphin. However, as I followed it, I noticed a few differences from a dolphin…mainly that it wasn’t coming up for air, but instead maintaining a fairly consistent depth as it swam. Typically, a dolphin will dive and surface to catch its breath and when it comes up, you will hear it blow/suck air. This one wasn’t doing that.

It was also lighter in color and upon further inspection, I realized that its tail fin was vertical in relation to the water, as opposed to horizontal. It was then I realized that I was keeping relatively close company(about 12 feet) with a shark.

The water wasn’t clear enough and the shark was far enough away to see its full size, but based on the distance from its tail fin to its dorsal fin, I would put it at about 4-5 feet long. I believe it was probably a Blacktip Shark, because the top of the dorsal fin had a small bit of black on it.

Upon realizing that I was tailing a shark through pretty shallow water, I decided to go back to surfing and went back out to try to catch another wave. The rest of the day was pretty cool, we got to checkout the partial eclipse a few times, including catching it at its max, which was a neat experience.

So now, the next time someone asks me if I have ever seen a shark while paddling, I will have a pretty neat story!

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