A photographer captured the photo of a lifetime during a southern California surf competition.
Jordan Anast was photographing surfboard maker Tyler Warren riding a wave at the San Onofre Surfing Club contest at around 11:00 a.m. on October 23 when he noticed something leap out of the water.
“I thought, ‘That’s a big dolphin,’ Anast told the Orange County Register. Upon reviewing the images he captured of the jumping sea creature, he realized that he had instead captured photos of a Great White Shark photobombing his shot of the surfer.
Anast was stunned.
“It’s a shot I’ll never get again,” he added. “It just looks like ‘Sharknado,’ it doesn’t look real.”
Warren told the photographer he did not even realize a shark was behind him at the time.
Shark sightings have become such a regular occurrence for other surfers in the region that it does not even phase them anymore.
San Onofre Surfing Club member Matt Enright is among those who do not get rattled by shark sightings. He told the Register that he even once saw two juvenile sharks six feet from him once.
“There’s been plenty of sightings over the years,” he said. “No one was really that worried.”
Another photographer, Rick Fegley, also captured the airborne shark, which the Surf Club shared on Facebook.
San Onofre State Beach — approximately three miles south of San Clemente, California — is a common breeding ground for young great white sharks, which has caused many shark sightings in the area. The beach has even had a shark attack as recently as 2017.
A full-size Great White Shark can reach between 15 to 20 feet in length and weigh approximately 2.5 tons.
It is not uncommon for sharks to breach, according to shark expert Chris Lowe, director of the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach, via the Register.
Lowe lists multiple hypotheses as to why it breached, ranging from trying to escape other sharks, catching prey, practicing catching prey, attempting to get rid of parasites, and even just playing.
Other instances where sharks have breached at surf competitions include the 2019 USA Surf Contest, which occurred near the San Onofre, and in 2021 when the World Surf League Finals was temporality halted after a shark breached near competitors.
Since taking the photo, Anast has been overwhelmed but enjoying the attention it has brought, as family and friends from across the nation have reached out to him.
“It’s gotten to the point where it just feels over the top. Every person I see that I know and don’t know, they bring it up,” he told the Washington Post.
Of all the over two million photos Anast believes he has filed, he says this is the “one-in-a-million” shot.
You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.