Paddling with Leopard Sharks in La Jolla

Leopard Shark Sighting

If you are like us and spend as much time in the water as you do on land, you are bound to run into the creatures who live there. As a waterman or waterwoman you have likely seen some fish swimming around you, stepped on a couple stingrays whether they stung you or not, and maybe seen a jellyfish or two. But only few of us are lucky enough to have an encounter with a shark like our friend Christian Bribiesca :

About Leopard Sharks in La Jolla

Leopard sharks migrate annually to the warm waters of La Jolla to give birth. If you are looking out for these guys, August and September are their peak months-but sometimes they linger all the way through October! They have been spotted at the shores in groups of more than 100, and on any given day during these months you can plan on swimming with dozens of them.

Leopard Sharks

Leopard sharks are typically harmless to humans as they are bottom feeders with small teeth and a timid nature. If you are trying to snorkel near them, minimize splashes because large kicks will scare them away. Of course you can’t predict the behavior of animals, so try to avoid provoking them in order to stay clear of harm! You typically see them in the calm water around three to ten feet deep because there is abundant food. The prime spot for sighting these guys is directly in front of the Marine Room restaurant at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.

The Interview

Can you describe the day? Were you going there specifically to see the sharks?

It was a beautiful day to be outside in sweet home San Diego.  The sun was warm and the water temp was good (just a rash guard and board shorts).  Yes, I was going to La Jolla Shores to use my new paddle board and to see if the Leopard Sharks were still here, so brought my snorkel/mask and camera just in case and headed out.  I had seen them out on my last scuba dive last weekend and I was super excited when I saw that they were still out since it is towards the end of there season.  

What was the biggest shark you saw?

The biggest sharks were about 5 ft (2 of them).  On average the rest were about 3 – 4 ft.

Were you scared? What was going through your mind?

No, I wasn’t scared, just excited!  The Leopard Sharks are very docile and chill and won’t hurt you if you are respectful.  I go to LJS a lot and I see them sometimes during my night time scuba dives; scuba diving is my other hobby (PADI Divemaster).  At that time what was going through my mind was a sense of “This is awesome” and that “I’m so blessed to be able to enjoy this experience.”

What was the shark’s behavior like?

They were just being sharks, very chill and just looking for food on the sea floor.  They cruise around in packs or solo and if you just float around and don’t disturb them too much they will get closer and closer to you.

How do you like your soft top SUP?

I love it!  It is a smooth ride and very stable.    I’m 5’6″ and 205 lbs so the board handled well with me on it in the small surf, in the shallows and in deeper water.  I sat and chilled for awhile past the break and just watched the waves, very nice.  I was able to maneuver quickly when I needed to and the paddle was on point as well when I need propulsion.  Also the board was so light to carry from my parking spot to beach and back again.  I bought the Classic ST and the ISLE Glider Woody that Saturday at your warehouse sale. The Glider is in the repair shop right now since I bought it with some minor damage at a discounted price.  I can’t wait to take them both out with my lady next week so she can check them out too.

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed hearing about Christian’s experience of paddling with leopard sharks. Now that you know a little bit more about these amazing animals and the best times to go find them, we hope to see you in La Jolla (if you are also daring enough to paddle among sharks)!

Posted in Travel
Austin Cox - I have a passion for surfing, paddling and the ocean. I grew up surfing the chilly waters of Northern California and recently made the move to beautiful San Diego. Reach out to me if you have any questions or ideas you want to talk about. - austin@islesurfandsup.com

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