Anticipating Shark Week {My True Shark Encounter}

National Geographic Photo: Great site for great SHOTS!

There is one week each year I allow myself to unabashedly, without guilt, or restrictions to bask in the light of my Television screen. Shark Week is that most anticipated and adored week. Discovery Channel hosts this amazing, intense, sometimes disturbing event which has many enthusiastic fans.
You are probably thinking, “Egad, Why?”
I don’t know why.
But I will tell you it started in Middle School. 
My 6th Grade Science Project was on Sharks, and after that my shark intrigue and fascination grew.
Of course, over the years it was fed intermittently at best, with those Jacques Cousteau specials.
 I saw Jaws when it opened in theaters.
At twelve, I found it difficult to go in my Aunt’s pool on the deep end for years, 
forget the ocean.Youthful imagination.
But then came cable. 
Shark specials, which tapped into this dark fascination shared by many 
and Discovery Channel’s ultimate triumph: Shark Week,
which starts August 12, 2012.
I may have to have a Bloggy vacation that week, friends.
I confess I am a crazy Shark Week and Shark fan!
Let me share with you a real life shark encounter I had while visiting Florida
in 1994 on July 31st.
I was with friends and excited for my first beach visit of the vacation. 
We headed to Waveland Beach – the Southern most end of Jensen Beach
(live web cam- really cool-scroll to bottom).
Understand, I am one who is known at times to be oblivious to my surroundings. 
However, I was with 3 other people.
I know that the beach had a number of beach goers that day. 
Lifeguards were on duty.
Swimming was allowed. 
Par for the course beach day.
We were enjoying the beautiful clear green water, standing in about waist to chest deep.
We were actually facing away from the beach and toward the ocean.
I suggest, you never do that.
Always keep one eye toward the lifeguards and shore.
I really do, now. 
I feel I am one with the Lifeguards and I frequently touch base 
with them when I hit the beach.
To this day. 
However, on this day while I was freely frolicking, I failed to do it.
This incident was not without an insightful lesson, either.
 God really showed me something about myself, 
who I was, and who I believed I was with this incident.
He revealed to me the very lack of my love for others in this moment.
He also showed me my own mortality with this brief brush 
with what could have been, but was not to be.
However a defining moment, it was for me.
We were immersed in conversation, unaware that during our time of oblivious wading, 
the beach mood and dynamic at the shore had drastically changed.

Let me speak to the day as I remember:

I am not sure of what prompted our attention.
But as if in slow motion we turn toward the beach.

What we face now is at approximately 40-50  feet between us and the sand and to our shock, 
We are standing alone in the water.
I imagine about 4 1/2 feet, deep water.

What I see causes a feeling in my gut and heart that 
I have failed to experience in my life prior and since.
Thank God.

Fear that is so present that death itself feels near.
I believe I smelled death that day.

On the shore the lifeguard stands, waving
 frantically, holding a red flag, as the beach goers stare at us waving and jumping as if they 
could make us move faster with their own movement.

What we see is not encouraging friends, I sense fear in the hundreds of faces facing us.
I see the backsides of a handful of people, ankle deep having already hastily exited the water.

It gets worse. 
Of the three others with me, I am furthest to the left and closest to what I see skimming through the water.
About 10 feet away a large black-grey mass is swimming to my left and I feel fear as my mind 
processes the size. 
Bigger than me.
Coming. Toward. Me.

We are all pushing in toward the beach and the only thing I see or feel is the moment.
It looms large and I feel as if I am about to fall into an unknown, incomprehensible abyss. 
This moment, even as I write it wells up from within.
My eyes are piercing the lifeguard as if she is Jesus.
I never let my eyes depart from her.
There is no doubt that I must not look back at what I dare not see.
There is not a second to even consider it. 
It is forever etched in my memory banks.
Ten to Twelve feet of grey doom under clear green beauty. 
Death wells up in me and feels as close as suffocation but for 
the adrenaline coursing through my body.
I care for no one or nothing at this moment but my own survival.
I see nothing but a shore of freaking people and one life guard coaching me from
what I know pursues me.
I forget I am with friends.
I am alone.
We make it to shore.
People applaud, look relieved, smile at us, some back pats for the guys and 
thumbs up from others.
Here is what the lifeguard said when we got out:
She looked at me visibly shaken and said,
 “That shark was coming right at YOU!” 
She added, “I’ve never seen a shark swim so fast towards people before.”

Thus began my “shark magnet” reputation and joking.

We decided to head off for lunch.
We had asked the Lifguard why she thought the shark darted so suddenly.
She did not know.
How could she?
We debated the possibilities and enjoyed retelling
our shark tale over chowder
from the safety of a
surf-side table.

There is much we do not understand about the creatures God created.
All cannot be understood or known.

I do want to say, I have an immense love and appreciation for these mysterious creatures.
I am grateful that the shark darted away on that fateful day.

The bottom line is we share this good earth, with creatures that He has put here.
It’s their world, too.
Remember that when you go in the water.

Days left until Shark Week Starts:

Happy Swimming, Friends!

Published by enthusiasticallydawn

Dawn Paoletta is the author of Journaling for Discovery and Delight. Her writing is included in several anthologies and her poems have been included in the Wickford Poetry and Art Exhibit and Books. Dawn is currently working on her next book. Inquiries at

15 thoughts on “Anticipating Shark Week {My True Shark Encounter}

  1. Friend, my heart is still palpitating! I don't have cable and would you believe when people find that out, most of them say “So you miss shark week?!?” haha! you're not alone in this fascination! Oh if only PBS would play the re-runs, I'm sure I'd be glued to the set, too 😉


  2. Holy cow! That's my worst personal nightmare come to life. I'm not sure I'd have been able to pull it together to enough to keep walking or if I'd have frozen on the spot.I know what you mean, though. Even here in my suburban neighborhood, that was surrounded by farm and woodlands not all that long ago (and actually still isn't far from either), we have plenty of wildlife encounters. In our backyard alone, we've seen deer, wild turkeys, skunks, possums, ducks, a large hawk, a small hawk, groundhogs, and a momma bear and her cub. There are coyotes and bobcats in the region so it really wouldn't surprise me to see either of those in the yard one day. As we keep encroaching on their habitats it's to be expected that run-ins will increase. We just need to be educated and think a little bit. God did put them here for a reason, too.


  3. I am a horrible swimmer. The last time I was in the ocean up to my waste, it was a huge mistake. It was Acapulco and the beach was rocky and it sloped down. So whenever the tide came in it knocked up into the glass like beach. I got out quickly. It was more than I could handle. To this day, when I go to the beach I don't go in up past my calves. God was surely looking out for you that day. Wow, what a story to share, and you tell it so well.


  4. wow, that's quite an experience, Dawn and the way you tell it, makes my heart pound! i specially like the line “My eyes are piercing the lifeguard as if she is Jesus.” i am sure there are so many unseen dangers around us that we should be running from. if we could see them like you saw that shark, i'm sure we would be running to Jesus much more! great post!


  5. OH my Goodness!!! I KNOW what caused that shark to turn away at the last minute…GOD did…He got the shark's attention and set you free. WOW! What a powerful story! My heart is racing and I'm sweating, but it was definitely a great story. Whew! I'm still shaking. But I know God had a better plan for your life than to become shark-lunch. Thank you, Jesus!!! Amen!!! whew…that was a close one…


  6. Wow…I never knew you were up close and personal with JAWS! What a frightening experience…glad you are here to tell the story and be my photo chaser friend! Guess what…I went to a cocktail party at Peter Benchley's house some years back and met the JAWS man in person…! See how God brought us together…lol!


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