Despite possible shark sighting, SF surf contest went off without a wipeout

The first day of a pro-surfing contest in San Francisco went off without a wipeout despite an early sighting of what appeared to be a shark.

The Rip Curl Pro Search, an event in the Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour, took advantage of a rare sunny day at Ocean Beach and good wave conditions Tuesday for a full day of surfing — despite an early report that one competitor, Dusty Payne of Hawaii, spotted a shark during his heat.

But authorities who searched for the shark from a boat could not confirm the sighting. The event continued under the assumption that even if Payne had seen a shark, it had left the area, said Dave Prodan, the surfing association’s media director.

“Dealing with the ocean, it’s a dynamic place. Sharks are part of the formula,” Prodan said.

Sharks are not known to live near Ocean Beach, but a large group of jumbo-size dolphins regularly come within 30 yards of the beach, said George Durgerian, a ranger with the National Park Service.

Still, authorities stationed a lifeguard on a personal watercraft to patrol from Kelly’s Cove past Lincoln Way, Durgerian said. Rip Curl also had hired security from the park service, he said.

“We’ve never seen a shark here, but neither can we predict what nature is going to do,” Durgerian said.

Sharks have been spotted at Stinson Beach in Marin County in the past, Durgerian said. And on Saturday, a shark attacked a surfer at Marina State Beach in Monterey County.

A confirmed shark sighting would have closed the beach and put the competition on hold until authorities determined it was safe, Durgerian said.

San Francisco is the 10th of 11 stops in the surfing world championship. Surfers will compete a total of four days during a 12-day window.

The competition is expected to draw thousands of people to Ocean Beach and is being streamed live on Rip Curl’s website.

Despite the spotlight on San Francisco’s surf spot, local surfers said they are not worried about Ocean Beach becoming too famous.

“It is putting San Francisco more as a surf destination, without a doubt,” said James Mitchell, who owns Sunset Shapers, a board-building shop.

Ocean Beach’s 15 minutes of fame could bring some extra surfers in the short term, but that won’t last, Mitchell said — once they see Ocean Beach isn’t the sunny picture they saw on TV, they will hightail it for warmer waters.

Rob Aschero, manager of Wise Surfboards, agreed that Ocean Beach’s reputation as foggy, cold and unpredictable precedes it, and it isn’t likely to draw hordes of new surfers just because the pros once graced its waves.

“There are gazillions of other places that are nicer places to surf than Ocean Beach,” Aschero said. “Some kid in Brazil is not going to spend his hard-earned savings to come to Ocean Beach.”



Rip Curl Pro Search

– When: Tuesday to Nov. 12, tentative start at 8:30 a.m.

– Where: Stairway 18-20 near Beach Chalet, Ocean Beach

– Online:

– Details: Surfers compete on the four best days during the 12-day event window; officials will make a call on whether to surf by 7:30 a.m.; check Rip Curl’s website for most up-to-date information


Wave stats from Day 1

In the 16 heats that took place Tuesday, competitors surfed 292 waves of varying quality.

– Excellent: 14 waves

– Good: 36 waves

– Regular: 38 waves

– Poor: 44 waves

Source: Rip Curl Pro Search

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