La Jolla Shores in San Diego had been closed since mid-afternoon on Monday, when lifeguards spotted a great white shark about 50 yards off the coast.
“When the sighting occurred, there was more than 4,000 people in the water," said lifeguard Andy Lerum. "So it took a little bit of effort to get the word out, but we used our public announcement system and we let everybody know as fast as we could that we had a shark sighting and we were trying to clear the water.”
One of Lerum's colleagues got a close-up encounter with the shark when she swam out on an 11-foot rescue board to warn swimmers of rip currents. Lerum says the shark swam directly underneath her, at which point she came in and reported the incident to her supervisor
“It was a bit ominous in that it was a beautiful afternoon. Everybody was standing up on the beach looking out to the ocean and there wasn’t a soul in the ocean except for a lifeguard patrol boat," said Lerum. "It was a bit odd, I’ve never seen something like that before in my career.”
To add to the confusion, beachgoers spotted a number of dolphins in the water Monday.
“We had a lot of dolphin activity in the area as well," said Lerum. "So every time a dolphin jumped up or showed its fin you’d see everybody’s head turn and point kind of in unison. But in fact there were no further sightings of sharks.”
Lerum says it’s not common to see sharks so close to shore, but that whenever a shark is spotted, lifeguards drive along the beach alerting beachgoers and broadcast closure announcements from their stations.
Though there haven’t been any further shark sightings reported near the beach, La Jolla Shores lifeguards are keeping an eye out a return visit, and are planning to step up their presence at the beach.
“Whether there’s a shark sighting or not, it’s always a good idea to have a partner if you go out in the water," says Lerum. "Whether you’re surfing or swimming, always use the buddy system. That way, if something were to happen, there’s somebody there to assist you or flag for help.”
The Fourth of July is typically the busiest beach day in San Diego.