Christopher Turgeon knows when one of his parasailing passengers has seen a great white shark lingering below as the thrill-seekers hover above the sea.
“You can tell when they see the sharks, they don’t want to get their feet wet. Sometimes we drag their feet in the water,” said Turgeon, owner of Dana Point Parasailing. “All of a sudden, they have their feet lifted up.”
Then, of course, there’s the screams of “shaaaaaaark” that pierce the otherwise calm coastal waters.
It’s a new adventure for adrenaline junkies who want to get up-close with great whites that have been hanging around near Dana Point: parasailing over sharks.
It wasn’t an intentional part of the business plan when Turgeon launched Dana Point Parasailing in the Dana Point Harbor last spring, but with shark sightings exploding in nearby waters since May, it’s become a thrill for people hoping to get an aerial glimpse of great whites.
Experts say they’ve never seen so many sharks close to shore, from Seal Beach to San Clemente. They credit protections against sharks and their food sources that have been in place for the past three decades, as well as other factors such as changing sea temperatures and El Niño conditions in recent years.
Those sightings — while hurting some local businesses such as surf shops and schools — have prompted creative ventures for tour companies.
Shark Tours, launched this year by Dana Wharf Whale Watching, sold out week after week when great whites were spotted off Capo Beach in Dana Point. But the charter boat company recently stopped offering the shark-specific tours, instead incorporating the sporadic sightings into their regular whale-watching outings, said Dana Wharf Whale Watching manager Donna Kalez.