Five weird things about this summer

Summer at the beach is one thing, usually an excellent thing.

But summer at the beach involving wayward sharks, and stinky crabs, and a dolphin jumping into a boat, and lightning – lightning? in July? — keeping people off the sand?

That’s something only seen during summer at the beach, 2015.

So, today, as summer unofficially signs off, here’s a look at five of the beach events that made us scared, shocked, or even smile.

1. Great white summer

We get it. The ocean is their home, and we shouldn’t be surprised that sharks are living in our local waters.

But great white sharks haven’t previously made such a blatant appearance along Orange County’s coastline.

The most famous sharks we’ve had locally over the past decade or so were Fluffy and Bumper, a pair who lived off San Onofre a few years back. Usually, great whites are born in spring, linger for a bit, and take off for deeper waters.

Not this year.

Biologists think unusually warm water (a driver for many of our weird summer stories this year), and abundant food source of sting rays, made the sharks decide O.C. was a fine place to live full time.

A few sightings last April in San Clemente prompted lifeguards to shut down beaches. Soon after, a group of young great whites was spotted living off Surfside, near Seal Beach.

And they stuck around. About a dozen still call the area just south of the Huntington Harbour home. Biologists from Shark Lab at California State Long Beach have been tracking them to learn more about the species.

Their presence has even brought out the daredevil curious. A few stand-up paddlers and surfers snapped selfies with the sharks and posted them online.

Cue your “Jaws” music here.

But there were some scares, too. Surfers got bumped by curious sharks. This twice caused beaches in Huntington to be closed.

So, hey, let’s be honest. The sharks have been fun neighbors for a bit. But now that they’re getting bigger, and probably looking for something a little meatier to eat than sting rays, we’d be stoked to see them venture off to deeper waters.

2. Jumping the dolphin

This was one of the strangest news stories to ever come out of the water – literally.

What was supposed to be a fun family outing last June in Dana Point turned painful as one of the dolphins putting on a show nearby somehow miscalculated its jump and landed inside a 21-foot boat. The animal also landed on Chrissie Frickman, breaking her ankles.

As Frickman was rushed to the hospital, husband Dirk Frickman and their kids Tristan and Courtney, 12 and 16 at the time, worked to save the dolphin’s life, throwing buckets of water on it and, with others, getting it back into the water.

Dave Anderson, owner of Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching, said he’s heard of this happening a few times in Florida, but never off local waters.

”Even dolphins that are so agile and so able to dodge and weave around each other can make a mistake, and that’s what happened,” Anderson said.

3. Surf record returns to Surf City

Usually, surfers don’t want another person riding their same wave.

But a big exception — the world’s biggest, actually — was made on June 21 when 66 surfers crammed onto a 42-foot surfboard on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier. Both numbers are records.

The party wave was part of a publicity stunt to earn Huntington bragging rights for the Guinness World Record title of “most people riding one wave.”

About 5,000 people watched from the sand as Orange County essentially punked Queensland, Australia, which had hosted the old – now quaintly smallish record — of 47 people atop the same board.

The big party wave was part of the city’s celebration of 100 years of surfing, marking the century since Hawaiian George Freeth showcased his surfing skills here as a way for Henry Huntington to promote real estate and tourism in 1914.

We’ll see how long Huntington Beach can hang on to this wave-riding record. It might another decade until we write about this wacky attempt again.

4. Invasion of the red crabs

It was like something out of a horror story.

Orange County’s pristine beaches were covered in thousands, perhaps millions, of dead red crabs mid-June, shocking beachgoers who showed up looking for a place to set their towels down for a day in the sun.

The crabs brought with them an unbearable stench as they kept washing up for days, first appearing at Salt Creek Beach and Laguna Beach, followed by invasions in Newport Harbor and landing on Balboa Island.

Then, as quickly as they appeared, they were gone. Workers got rid of some of the bodies, while the tide did the rest. Eventually, humans reclaimed the beaches.

Experts again said the die off of the pelagic red crabs was another unusual event sparked by unusually warm water — perhaps linked to El Nino.

5. Lightning strikes

It’s rare for the entire 42-miles of Orange County coastline to shut down.

But that’s what happened in mid-July, when a tropical storm brought rare lightning strikes and thunderstorms right off the coast. It prompted lifeguards to usher people off the beach.

Huntington Beach Lt. Mike Beuerlein said local lightning scares are so rare they had to consult with beach lifeguards on the east coast to find out what their protocol is in case of lightning off the coast.

As beachgoer John Jeager said while leaving a lightening-closed beach in San Clemente:

“You can’t mess with Mother Nature.”

Contact the writer: lconnelly@ocregister.com

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