It’s Shark Week on television. The question is, how did the sharks get the word? Late Tuesday afternoon, a lifeguard at Gurney’s Inn in Montauk was knocked from his surfboard close to shore by a shark estimated to have been between five and six feet long. Christian Westergard, the guard, said he thought it was a small white shark.
Mr. Westergard quickly paddled to shore, grabbed a rescue torpedo, and re-entered the water along with fellow guards, who had witnessed Mr. Westergard’s capsizing, to get the 30 or more swimmers out of the water. The Gurney’s guards immediately alerted their counterparts at Napeague State Park, and East Hampton Town lifeguards as well.
Susan Yunker, the nurse at Gurney’s, said: “It came under him, knocked on his legs, then overturned him. He was fairly close to shore. That’s what bothered me. The guards were fantastic. There were people in the water and they got them out.”
According to John McGeehan, East Hampton’s assisant head guard, the too-close encounter, which occurred at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, was the fifth near-shore sighting by guards this summer. Mr. McGeehan said the second scariest report came from a fisherman whose boat was within sight of Ditch Plain, Montauk. The man reportedly called his son on the beach to warn him that a large shark was circling his boat. The younger man passed the word to the lifeguards.
On Tuesday morning, John Morley, a surfcaster on his weekly visit to the East End from New Jersey, landed a slightly smaller shark, estimated to be between four and a half and five feet long, from the beach on Napeague a few miles west of Gurney’s.
A photo of that shark has been forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service shark laboratory in Narragansett, R.I., for identification.
“I had a bird’s-eye view of the situation,” Kate Albrecht, the head lifeguard at Gurney’s, said yesterday. She said that Michael Morris, the guard on the stand, saw Mr. Westergard get tossed from his board, “and saw the shark’s shadow. I saw him run up the beach. He got out quickly. The remarkable thing is he ran and got a torp, and ran back into the water yelling at people to get out.”
“We’ve now had probably four or five credible reports,” Mr. McGeehan said. “They’re in closer this year than in the past. There’s more squid inside, more bait.” The top guard recalled that early last summer, Bob Miller, a guard at Napeague State Park, witnessed what he thought was a large bull shark plow into the shorebreak in an effort to corner striped bass or other fishy prey.
Ms. Albrecht reported Mr. Westergard’s description of the frightening experience: “He was sitting on his board with his legs dangling. He felt it hitting his legs, then it came back and knocked him off the board.”
“Oh my goodness, he said the scariest part was going back into the water.”