- When a shark leaps out of the water – it is called breaching.
- Sharks may jump out of the water to signal to other sharks that it is ready to mate.
- It takes tremendous energy for a shark to propel itself from deep water up and out into the air – so the action must have a purpose.
Just another day surfing at the beach, until you hear a huge splash! And it’s not a fellow surfer making an epic spin out. This video opens with a group of surfers catching a wave at the Lower Trestles off the beach just south of San Clemente, California. The sky is overcast and it must be a bit chilly with the surfers wearing wet suits. This area along the coast is a popular spot for surfing. It has several designated surfing spots; the Cottons, Uppers, Lowers, Middles, and Church, with the Lower Trestles recognized by surfers as being for intermediates or experts.
The experienced surfers in the video clearly have skills but they are not the highlight of the clip. Within seconds, just in the distance, a huge Great White leaps directly behind a group of surfers! The huge Great White completely clears the water in a massive breach. It lands back in the water creating a billowing splash as it hits the surface.
Great White sharks can get to be 20 feet long or more with most adult sharks being around 15 feet long. They can weigh between 1,500-5,000lbs! You can see why seeing a shark that size completely clear the water in one jump is an impressive sight! Compare that to the average surfer which is 5-6 feet tall on a longboard that is 8-10 feet long. This shark could be nearly twice the size of the surfboard.
The video replays the scene in slow motion, with the overcast sky in the background. The surfers are going about their business without noticing the potential danger directly behind the group of surfers. You can see even clearer how the shark leaps out of the water with its strong tail propelling it sideways. Sharks move their tails side to side for propulsion compared to whales and dolphins that move their tales up and down to swim. Not only do sharks have powerful tails for breaching but it makes them fast swimmers as well. The five fastest sharks are the Shortfin Mako, Salmon Shark, Blue Shark, Great White, and Grey Reef. The Great White in this video has the potential of reaching top speeds around 30-34 mph.
The last shot in the video zooms in on a still shot of the shark in mid-air. It is poised to land and create waves. You can tell it is not a dolphin, not a small whale, it is definitely a Great White. Although the video cuts out here you have to imagine the following scene after a huge Great White leaps directly behind a group of surfers, would be the startled surfers clearing the beach! They may be expert-level surfers but are no match to a Great White that can swim 30+ miles per hour!
Is it Normal for Sharks to Leap Out of the Water?
Some shark species do jump out of the water – although scientists can only speculate as to why. Unlike dolphins, who jump gracefully from the water’s surface – sharks have to start their ascent from deep water – building speed and power as they go. This maneuver, called breaching, uses a significant amount of energy, so it has to be important in the shark’s life. Some theories about breaching include: to pursue prey – like jumping up to reach a bird or seal, to dislodge parasites, or to indicate to other sharks that it is ready to reproduce. Whatever the reason – it’s certainly not jumping for fun!
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- , Available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/white-shark
- , Available here: https://a-z-animals.com/animals/great-white-shark/
- , Available here: https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/surfing-lower-trestles-the-jewel-of-southern-california