California

10-foot great whites circle kayaker off California coast — and drone video captures it all

Great white sharks circle Nicolle Otman as she paddles in a kayak in the waters off New Brighton State Beach near Aptos in Santa Cruz County on June 23, 2018.
Great white sharks circle Nicolle Otman as she paddles in a kayak in the waters off New Brighton State Beach near Aptos in Santa Cruz County on June 23, 2018.

Giancarlo Thomae has never seen more great white sharks in the waters off Santa Cruz County than he has in 2018. And the toothy predators he's spotted are bigger in than years past.

"Four years ago, we would see about 10 sharks and they were about 8 feet long," Thomae told The Tribune on Wednesday. "Now we are seeing about 25 sharks a day and they are anywhere from 10 to 13 feet."

Thomae used a drone to capture heart-stopping video of a group of large white sharks circling a kayaker close to the shore of New Brighton State Beach in Aptos on June 23.

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The kayaker, Nicolle Otman, said she wasn't scared during the close encounter and spoke to The San Francisco Chronicle about the experience.

"I felt at home," Otman, told the Chronicle. "It's a pretty humbling and relaxing experience."

Thomae, a marine biologist and boat captain for Sanctuary Cruises, told The Tribune that sharks haven't acted aggressively toward any kayakers since they started showing up in large numbers in May.

Pacific Shark Research Center program director Dave Ebert told the Chronicle the numbers are also increasing in Monterey Bay. Reports are similar up and down the California coast — from Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara — where great white numbers appear to be rebounding.

Thomae said he's using the recent influx of sharks near New Brighton State Beach to conduct his own research using his drone and kayak to track their size and number.

"I use the aerial footage and the kayak to estimate the shark's size," Thomae said. "Plus, the kayak is great because they are not afraid of a small, silent vessel."

He expects the sharks to be around for at least another month. And Thomae is no stranger to capturing incredible video of marine wildlife.

Chip Michalove, captain of Outcast Fishing, submitted this video of the great white shark he caught off Hilton Head Island.

In April, Thomae captured footage of an orca pod attacking a gray whale and her calf in Monterey Bay.

Based in Moss Landing, Sanctuary Cruises offers whale watching cruises and other ocean excursions. If the sharks return next year, co-owner Brian Sack said, the company plans to offer shark tours, too.

Santa Barbara paddle boarder Mario Guilin captures drone footage of a peaceful encounter with a great white shark in Carpinteria, California.

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