The death of Lucas Ransom was a blow to the UCSB community and to the nation. The following is not meant to tarnish his memory. Although circumstances were grim, Lucas died pursuing one of his passions. May we all be as fortunate.
Most of the time, I surf carefree, unfettered by worries of predators and other nonsense. Perhaps it’s because I have prepared myself for the unlikely event that my life may be cut short.
Still, I can’t shake the feeling that in a great white’s eyes, I look like a delicious heap of seal floating on top of a shiny potato chip.
You’ve gotta know that they’re out there. They’re sculpted in the devil’s own image, with massive torpedo-like bodies and gaping jaws. They choose to take a bite out of you, and you’re pretty much done for.
At first, the feeling creeps up and wraps around you like a constricting vest, and makes you wish you didn’t have any limbs dangling off of your board and into the unseen depths below.
That feeling is panic. Primal innate terror — your fight or flight mechanism. In the ocean, that crucial inner “oh shit” alarm kicks in when your body suspects the presence of a predator swimming nearby.
Sometimes it manifests as an eerie tingle or the gut feeling that something is not right. The water becomes hostile and your hackles rise.
“Don’t worry,” you think to yourself. Science suggests that sharks don’t truly appreciate the taste of human flesh, rarely attack humans and will probably spit you out if they happen to bite out of curiosity or hunger.
Ultimately, it’s a fact you’ve got to accept or quit swimming in the sea. The Pacific Ocean is our backyard. Among other things, it’s a hotspot for great white sharks, among other species — most docile, some dangerous, most just dumb and hungry.
Big predators are out there — charging through the unknown beneath, free of conscience or notions of guilt. They don’t care for your career aspirations or how much your family loves you and don’t have qualms about taking a bite out of you just to see how you taste. Inside, they sing their blissful song, “Nat-Ur-Al. Sur-Vi-Val!”
Nobody truly thinks they’re going to be the one. It’s hard to even start pondering, but sometimes you can’t stop yourself.
We don’t know what’s going to happen out there. There’s no way to say that the next time we go surfing our own lives won’t be placed in jeopardy because of a shark. But, there’s also no way to say that you won’t die in a fiery car crash on your way to the beach one day, or perhaps a heart attack on the shitter when you’re 95.
I take some comfort in that fact that you can’t blame sharks for what they do. They aren’t monsters, despite their appearance. They are just big scary-ass animals looking for lunch. And I can’t begrudge them that, as much as I fear and grieve their attacks. Universal balancing power resides in a shark’s jaws just as it does within everything in nature.
To most landlubbers, surfing with the risk of a shark attack hanging on your head seems like an unnecessary risk, but that’s clouded thinking.
Putting your life on the line builds character. Although I could think of more dangerous activities, surfing does pose significant risks, including marine predators. Engaging yourself in vigorous pursuit of your passions is the staple of a healthy life. While danger may sometimes encroach on that sphere, it’s reflective of a strong personality and an unassuming soul to move forward in the face of danger to accomplish personal goals.
It’s an internal decision you have to make with yourself and take to the grave, although most of us will be fortunate enough to not have to take that decision to an early grave. And should that happen, you’ll know, in your last moments or beyond, that your life wasn’t taken in vain — that you were taken as part of a grander plan, a force that guides and cycles life.