Shark attacks near Los Angeles are rare, but they do happen. Southern California has hot spots of juvenile great white sharks. These younger white sharks hang out near the shoreline to evade predators and are more likely to attack humans as they learn. People are often unaware of the dangers that lurk underneath as they swim, surf, and paddleboard. It’s essential to be aware of your surroundings, especially these six beaches near Los Angeles with the most shark attacks.
1. Santa Monica Bay
Santa Monica has some of the most famous beaches in the world. This iconic stretch of shoreline brings millions of visitors every year. People enjoy swimming, surfing, and other water sports. Again, shark attacks in Santa Monica Bay are sporadic, especially for the number of people in the water, but they can be damaging or fatal when they happen.
On July 27, 1952, a 12-man crew was aboard a ship 14 miles off the coast of Santa Monica when its engine failed. While trying to repair it, the boat exploded and sank to the depths. The crew was forced to wade in shark-infested waters for over 24 hours. Seven sharks were swimming below their feet, picking them off. Only three of the men survived. It’s unknown how many died from shark attacks or whether they drowned from exhaustion. The sharks were either great whites, blue tips, or white tips. Four other non-fatal attacks have been reported over the years, including one involving a mako shark.
The specific number of shark attacks in Santa Monica Bay is unknown, but at least six are confirmed.
2. Santa Barbara Coast
Santa Barbara has miles of uninterrupted white sandy beaches, but its warm, temperate water brings a large following of surfers and, unfortunately, sharks. This area of the coast is a nursery hot spot for great whites. While uncommon, surfers, paddleboarders, and kayakers may experience a shark trying to take a bite out of their boards and boats. There are over 13 confirmed shark attacks on this strip of water near Santa Barbara.
In October 2010, two teenage friends surfed near the Air Force base (Surf Beach) in Santa Barbara. They were excited about what they called “glassy” waves and couldn’t wait to get into the water. Shortly after, a shark latched onto one of the boy’s boards and pulled him under, leaving a pool of blood. The shark had wholly bitten off his left leg, and he bled to death in the water. This story is just one of many along this coastline.
3. Morro Bay
Researchers believe the San Luis Obispo area is a new hunting ground for great white sharks. Morro Bay is home to miles of unspoiled beaches, perfect for those wanting more of a private getaway. Visitors come to the area for its many recreational opportunities like paddleboarding, fishing, and whale watching. However, many are starting to keep their eye on this beach after a white shark killed a young man in 2021.
On December 24, 2021, a woman surfer spotted a man floating in the water face down. She pulled him to shore and quickly realized he was deceased. Examiners state he was paddleboarding when a great white attacked him. It was the first fatality in the area after 18 years. San Luis Obispo County has confirmed 11 shark attacks since 1956. Officials state that it’s still very rare, but to always be on the lookout.
4. Monterey Bay
Monterey Bay is part of the “Red Triangle,” an area infamous for white shark attacks (approximately 38% of all great white attacks in the US). A study in 2021 concluded there were around 300 adult and sub-adult white sharks living in the area; some are saying the numbers are unprecedented. There is even a spot near a sunken ship where you can shark watch.
In June of 2022, a 62-year-old suffered injuries to his leg, stomach, and arm from a single bite. He miraculously survived. Based on the size of the bite, officials state that the shark was upwards of 20 feet long. Shark attacks in this area could increase with the significant amount of great whites migrating to Monterey Bay. It is one of the worst beaches near Los Angeles, with the most shark attacks.
5. San Onofre Beach
Another white shark “hot spot” is in San Onofre Beach in Northern San Diego. San Onofre is a 3,000-acre state park that offers a world-renowned surf break. This classic California beach is popular among swimmers and surfers, drawing over two million visitors annually. Many beach-goers don’t know that the sea around them is dotted with great whites. And while most of these sharks are harmless, a severe attack occasionally happens, leaving everyone stunned.
In the Spring of 2017, a woman surfed near a popular spot during the early evening hours. Her boyfriend watched in horror as a shark came up, bit the back of her leg off, and dragged her underwater. Thinking quickly, he dived under and grabbed her, pulling her to shore. The attack happened on a Saturday, and by Monday, she was still in critical condition (she eventually pulled through). She could have died if it wasn’t for her boyfriend’s and onlookers’ immediate actions.
6. Marina State Beach
Marina State Beach offers panoramic views of Monterey Bay nestled next to rugged dunes. Due to the intense riptides, most visitors participate in activities like hang gliding, whale watching, and parasailing. The rough water, however, doesn’t deter hardcore surfers—some report seeing massive great whites in the area. You will even see a shark warning sign posted once in a while near the shore.
A great white shark viciously attacked a 27-year-old man off the coast of Marina State Beach in the early morning of October 2011. The white shark took a large bite from his neck, forearm, and surfboard. He was life-flighted to a nearby hospital, where he recovered from his injuries. Several years prior, another man was attacked by a 12-foot great white on his surfboard, sustaining gashes to his torso and thigh. He also recovered from the attack.
Be cautious when visiting these six beaches near Los Angeles with the most shark attacks.
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