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Pro Event Enjoys a Shark-Free Day

September 06, 2003|Dan Arritt and Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writers

Like farmers returning to work after a tornado warning, pro surfers have eased into the water at Lower Trestles after two weeks' worth of great white shark sightings less than two miles away.

Three sharks, ranging from 6 to 7 1/2 feet long, have continued to loiter on the southern end of San Onofre State Park, but the second day of the Boost Mobile Pro, an Assn. of Surfing Professionals' competition at Lower Trestles in San Clemente, concluded without a hitch.

"Nothing's been sighted over here," said Steve Long, lifeguard supervisor at San Onofre. "We're not anticipating anything."

Rumors circulated Friday that a 20-foot shark had been spotted offshore, but lifeguards continued to assure spectators that if that were true, they would have cleared the water.

Just the same, a shark buoy was placed just beyond the surf line Friday with an attached sonar device intended to scare them off. And for the second consecutive day, a lifeguard boat remained in the vicinity of the competition, which had two or three surfers in the water for each 30-minute heat.

There hasn't been a definitive explanation for the sharks' presence. One theory is that they are attracted to the decaying remains of a whale buried near the power plant two years ago.

To pro surfers, sharks are part of the job description.

Taj Burrow, a world-class surfer from Australia, was competing at Jefferys Bay in South Africa two months ago when a 20-foot great white slithered under his board.

"I kind of feel like they're following us from South Africa," Burrow said. "What I experienced freaked me out, but I don't think they're going to bother us."

The prevailing mentality of the surfers: The show must go on.

"It's not comforting knowing there [are] great white sharks in the water, but guys are here to compete," said 2000 world champion Sunny Garcia, who will sit out the Lower Trestles competition because of a knee injury.

"I think the guys are more concerned with getting good results."

*

Bruce Irons of Hawaii scored a last-second victory in the second round of the Boost Mobile Pro.

Irons advanced to face his older brother, Andy, the defending world champion, in a third-round heat this morning.

Bruce Irons needed a wave score of at least 8.34 to catch Kieren Perrow of Australia. With five seconds remaining in the 30-minute heat, Irons took off on a head-high right and was awarded an 8.50.

Other second-round heat winners included Pat O'Connell of Laguna Beach.

The Boost Mobile Pro is the only ASP World Championship Tour event held on the U.S. mainland.

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