The conditions off Nauset Beach on Sunday were excellent for paddleboarding.
It had been blustery and choppy all week, so Roger Freeman headed out early to take advantage of the calm sea and crystal-clear morning.
“I knew that there was a fair amount of shark activity in the water,” the 54-year-old Hingham resident said. “There had been an attack on a seal the day before. But I also knew that sharks are pretty discerning in most cases, and I thought the chance of an encounter would be pretty remote.”
When he went out on the water around 7 a.m. there were a few other people out. But they eventually left, and Freeman found himself alone on the water, enjoying the day. He heard a drone overhead, but otherwise wasn’t disturbed.
It wasn’t until Freeman made his way back to the Cape Cod shore later that he found out he hadn’t, in fact, been alone. A man approached to tell him he had to see some photos that his friend had taken.
The images captured from above by a drone revealed a shark had been keeping Freeman company.
Freeman said he was “shocked and amazed” when he saw one of the photos.
“When I saw the photo, I was really happy that I was going home for breakfast and that I wasn’t the shark’s breakfast,” he said. “And I was grateful to be alive — but I was grateful to be alive out there on the water, enjoying that time.”
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy shared the photos, taken by Cody DeGroff, on Monday night, identifying the ocean predator as a great white shark.
‘Close encounter of a peaceful kind.’ Yesterday morning Cody DeGroff (@Cdegroff10) captured these amazing photos of a white shark near a SUP just north of Nauset public Beach. The paddle boarder did not see the shark. pic.twitter.com/DQCeM3w7nf
— Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (@A_WhiteShark) July 30, 2018
It is not the first time a shark has gotten up close to a paddleboarder off the Cape. Last summer, a 69-year-old man was half-kneeling, half-standing off Wellfleet when a shark took a bite out of the board he was riding.
Freeman said he believes the takeaway from his experience is the importance of coexistence in the environment that allows people to be safe but also includes sharks in their natural habitat.
“I recognize that we are sharing their environment, and we have the capability to control the interaction,” he said. “I think it’s incumbent on us, with that responsibility, to do that safely and responsibly. Both for the people who are out there swimming and enjoying the beautiful water, but also for the sharks that live there.”
Freeman said he’s been paddleboarding for about four or five years and that the unknown shadow he had with him on Sunday isn’t going to stop him from keeping up the hobby.
“I’m sure I’ll surf again, but, once I get on the water, it will be interesting to [see] how I react at a primal level,” he said. “Seeing that photo is kind of chilling. I can tell you, I’d have been a little bit more concerned if I’d have seen him following me from behind because I think that’s how they tend to strike.”