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Pier to Pier Swimmers Encounter Great White Sharks

Aug 03, 2014 08:10PM ● By Dig Mb Staff

Swimmers head to the finish line after rounding the Manhattan Beach Pier.

Some swimmers saw them, some did not. 

For Hermosa Beach resident Wendy Barreda, a first-time competitor in the Dwight Crum Pier to Pier Swim Sunday morning, spotting a juvenile great white shark about 8-10 feet below her just south of the Manhattan Beach Pier was a bit more than she'd expected.

"I stopped and I looked around and I started breathing heavily," she told DigMB after the race Sunday. Noticing a lifeguard on a board next to her, she took him up on his offer to get out of the water and sit on his board. She said the lifeguard told her the shark's name was "Bruce."

After a pep talk and not seeing the shark, she slipped back into the ocean to complete the two-mile swim.

And so it went Sunday: some swimmers saw the juvenile white sharks, others saw sand sharks, other saw sand dollars.

For those gathered on the end of the MB Pier near the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium, the sighting of two juvenile great white sharks before racers were even close to the pier raised apprehension levels. An MB resident of some 65 years said the "bait line" was right there in the water, pointing tot the area of water he was talking about, and saying the sharks were probably there to feed. At 8:30 a.m., he told DigMB he'd seen something he'd never seen before: a juvenile great white shark breach.

As swimmers in the pier to pier race approached, onlookers on the pier alerted lifeguards to the sharks. Lifeguards on jet skis whizzed past, hoping to move the sharks along, out of the path of swimmers. Race personnel on paddleboards floated nearby, keeping a watchful eye.

Concern over sharks in local waters were recently amplified when a swimmer was bitten by a juvenile great white shark just south of the pier on July 5. The shark had been hooked on a line for some 40-45 minutes, battling the fishermen who were trying to bring him in, when it bit Steven Robles, who survived the incident and fired the shot to start Sunday's race from the Hermosa Beach Pier.

Marine biologists say the juvenile great whites have been frequenting Santa Monica Bay shorelines for years and haven't any desire to eat humans or marine mammals. Instead juveniles fish for mackerel, squid, bat rays and the like.

The sharks seen Sunday during the race were considered harmless race organizer Gary Crum told USA Today. Surfers, paddlers and swimmers often see juvenile great white sharks in the area and are not phased by them.

MB resident Steve Cho also swam near a white shark, telling DigMB he considered getting out of the water but that when the shark headed to shore, he figured it'd out swim him so he decided to continue in the race.

Said Cho, "Like Bruce in the Nemo movie, it had scarring across its top and dorsal fin.  Even though I was cringing inside and thinking how random, I remember thinking it was amazingly beautiful."

Ryan Bullock of Torrance was the race's overall winner with a time of 37 minutes, 54 seconds. The 30-year-old's closest competitor, Kevin Fink, 18, of San Pedro came in at 38 minutes, 57 seconds.

The first woman to cross the finish line was Mallory Mead, 28, of Los Angeles in 43 minutes and 21 seconds one second ahead of Manhattan Beach's Diane Graner Gallas, 50, whose time was 43 minutes and 22 seconds. Jennifer Temperley, 41, of Manhattan Beach finished first in her division and in the top 10 with a time of 53 minutes, 8 seconds.

There were countless Beach Cities locals among the estimated 1,200 swimmers. For MB resident Anne Ozer, who ocean swims 3 days a week, it was her fifth time swimming the race. Peggy Sullivan, another MB resident, raced in the pier to pier paddleboard event just prior to then swimming the pier to pier race as she's done some 4 years in a row.

Sunday's International Surf Festival included a sand castle competition on the sand south of the MB Pier. Youth paddles and swims and beach volleyball took place in Hermosa Beach. Sunday was the last day of the 2014 festival, which began Wednesday in MB with the Charlie Saikley 6-Man Beach Volleyball Tournament.

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