Great White Shark Stalks Surfer in Southern California

Written by Kellianne Matthews
Updated: October 20, 2023
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Seasoned surfers know that they share the water with all kinds of marine animals, including sharks. Movies like Jaws have given sharks a pretty fearsome reputation. However, the truth is that people swim and surf with sharks every day—they just don’t see them. In fact, most surfers do not worry too much about sharks. These large predators do not intentionally hunt and attack humans. Although they are shocking, shark attacks are also extremely rare. In fact, surfers are more likely to suffer a wave-related injury than a shark attack.

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David Woodward has been surfing long enough that he does not worry about sharks either. In fact, in this video Woodward confesses that he has seen four juvenile great white sharks in just the past two years, and none of them bothered him. So, excited to try out his new GoPro camera, Woodward headed out into the ocean waters of Southern California alone. Within a few minutes, however, he discovered that a great white shark was stalking him!

The video opens with Woodward paddling on his longboard with the shoreline behind him. The experienced surfer appears calm and collected, even when he sees a great white shark swimming just 10 feet in front of him. Suddenly, the shark decides to change direction, heading straight for the surfer!

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Alone on his longboard, Woodward is completely vulnerable. However, even as the shark swims toward him, he does not panic. Instead, he changes direction by quickly sweeping his arms backwards through the water. As he spins his board toward the shore, a dark shape appears in the water just over Woodward’s shoulder. The video briefly switches into slow motion, and we can clearly see a large shark swimming along the wave just behind Woodward.

Fortunately, Woodward sees the shark as well, but he remains calm as he quickly paddles toward the shoreline. The video ends with Woodward climbing onto the safety of the beach. The surfer looks directly into the camera with astonishment and relief, confessing that this was the closest he has ever come to a shark in the water.

After posting the video, experts and surfers commended Woodward for how he handled his encounter with the shark. In particular, they praised the fact that he remained calm and never panicked throughout the entire experience. His only mistake was going out into the water alone that day (you should never surf alone! Sharks are much less likely to attack when there are multiple people in the water). Fortunately, however, both shark and human went their separate ways without any damage done.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © bearacreative/

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About the Author

Kellianne Matthews is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on anthrozoology, conservation, human-animal relationships, and animal behavior. Kellianne has been writing and researching animals for over ten years and has decades of hands-on experience working with a variety of different animals. She holds a Master’s Degree from Brigham Young University, which she earned in 2017. A resident of Utah, Kellianne enjoys creating, exploring and learning new things, caring for animals, and playing with her cats.

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