Marina State Beach. Photo courtesy Rauchbier, CC.

Marina State Beach. Photo courtesy Rauchbier, CC.

Surfers at Marina State Beach near Monterey were enjoying the beautiful Monterey-area weather on Monday when a great white shark appeared.

Surfer Wes Williams had just returned to shore when he spotted the shark, estimated to be 18 feet long. One of his surfing buddies saw the shark apparently charging after one of the surfers in their group, only to realize the shark was actually chasing a seal. They watched from shore as the shark won, eating the seal just 15 yards from shore.

The incident was reported to park rangers, who posted a “shark sighting” sign at Marina State Beach on Monday.

While sharks have bitten surfers in this area in the past, they are actually in pursuit of seals, which is one of their favorite things to eat. It is widely believed that white sharks bite humans because they initially mistake the victim for a seal or sea lion, releasing them when the shark realizes it had not caught what it expected. Sharks reject human victims as low quality food – without a thick, insulating layer of blubber like that of a marine mammal, we humans are simply too bony to bother with.

It’s important to note that none of the surfers were injured by this or any other sharks in this incident. While we’re definitely not encouraging divers to dive here to see the sharks, it’s nice to see that these beautiful animals are still present in these waters and behaving as they have for millions of years.

Marina State Beach is an area where surfers often gather, but it’s a sandy beach and not a great dive site. Most divers prefer to dive nearby San Carlos Beach, Lover’s Cove, Point Lobos, or Monastery Beach.