'Aggressive shark behavior' closes ocean access in San Clemente

San Clemente, CA, Thursday, August 5, 2022 - High tide near San Clemente's North Beach at Dije Court. San Clemente City Council is proposing an abortion ban. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
San Clemente's North Beach is shown in 2022. A shark knocked a surfer off their board on Sunday night in the Orange County city, prompting ocean access closures. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Water access at all San Clemente beaches was closed Monday due to "aggressive shark behavior," according to city officials. The Memorial Day edict came after a shark knocked a surfer off their board Sunday evening.

The ocean will remain closed until 8 p.m. Monday night, pending no additional shark sightings, according to the city. Beaches in the Orange County city are still open, but visitors will not be able to wade into the waves or swim.

A San Clemente lifeguard first received a report of a shark encounter at the popular surfing destination T-Street Beach just before 8 p.m., according to San Clemente Marine Safety Lt. Sean Staudenbaur.

"The surfer and one other surfer were sitting on their boards waiting for a wave when they saw a dark gray object approach and knock one of the surfers off their surfboard," Staudenbaur said. The surfers then came to the shore and reported the incident, at which point officials made the decision to close water access for 24 hours.

Staudenbaur said it was "unusual" for a shark to get that close to a surfer, noting that "the majority of our shark sightings are just sightings where there's no signs of aggressive behavior."

A photo taken by San Clemente lifeguards and shared with The Times showed damage to the surfboard, with two indentations near the tip of the board where the shark was thought to have knocked it.

"We have pretty-good-sized crowds on the beach, obviously not in the water today, but it is typically one of our busier weekends of the year," Staudenbaur said of San Clemente beaches Monday.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.