Kayaker's Close Encounter With Great White Shark

A first-time kayaker had a close encounter with a great white shark off the coast of Massachusetts over the weekend.

Sunbathers first spotted the shark following two kayakers on Saturday afternoon off Nauset Beach, the Cape Cod Times reported, and yelled to the men offshore.

One of the kayakers saw the shark and quickly paddled in, while it took the other one, Walter Szulc Jr., of Manchester, N.H., a little while longer to notice the dorsal fin just feet away from him.

“There were hundreds of people on the beach, and they were all at the edge, yelling paddle paddle, paddle!” Dave Alexander told the NBC News affiliate in Boston, WHDH.com.

Szulc said when he looked behind him, the shark "was pretty much right there."

"It was good-sized, it had a fin sticking out, so I just turned and paddled," he told WHDH.com. It was the first time Szulc had kayaked.

Since June 30, three sharks have been seen plying the waters off Cape Cod for food, the Cape Cod Times reported. The large number of seals in the area is believed to be drawing the sharks.

Orleans Harbormaster Dawson Farber said he and his team went out in a boat to confirm the sighting – he noted the shark was an estimated 12 to 14 feet long -- and they had all bathers get out of the water. The beach was also closed.

“Everyone was very relaxed and the shark put on quite a show moving back and forth out in front of the beach, but it was done in a very orderly fashion,” Farber told ABC News.

Witness Debbie Sutton said Szulc “started booking it.”

“You could see the darkness of it,” she told WHDH.com. “It was longer than the kayak … it was crazy big.”

Not all beachgoers were scared by the great white. Some even got into the water at the beach later in the day.

"Everyone wanted to see it," Karen O'Connell of Medfield told the Cape Cod Times. "There were people running toward it."

The last shark attack on a human in the area was in 1936, when a man was killed swimming near Mattapoisett, the newspaper reported.

In central California on Saturday, a shark lifted up a man's kayak, throwing him into the water. The man was rescued by a boater, but the shark bit the kayak, damaging it, according to NBCBayArea.com. In May, two kayakers escaped a great white in California, though the shark gouged one of the kayaks, leaving a 20-inch long and 22-inch wide hole, local media reported.

A kayaker was fishing off the waters of Capitola Beach, Calif., when his boat was overturned by what some witnesses say was a great white shark. KSBW's Margot Dunphy reports.

In 2011, there were 75 unprovoked shark attacks on humans, with 35 percent of those happening in U.S. waters, according to the International Shark Attack File. That number was down from 81 in 2010.

The total number of unprovoked global shark attacks has grown since 1900, the group said, noting that did not necessarily mean there was an increase in the rate of attacks, but that people were spending more time in the water, increasing the chances for interactions between the two.

By Erin B 07/09/2012 06:03:00