Sighting of 15 great white sharks prompts warning signs at Aptos beach

APTOS, Calif. (KTVU) – It was a rare sight when more than a dozen great white sharks were spotted at one time within a mile off shore at Seacliff State Beach in Aptos.

Aerial footage from Specialized Helicopters captured the great white sharks swimming in the waters of Seacliff State Beach in Aptos. Giancarlo Thomae was on that helicopter Thursday afternoon when he counted 15 sharks.

"I was stoked," said Thomae. "It's not unheard of to go up in a helicopter in the summer time and see between one to three Great Whites a day but I've been going in the ocean every day for the last 20 years and I've never seen or heard anything like this."

Thomae is a boat captain for whale watching tours. He said the sharks appeared between eight to 15 feet long, and were juveniles to sub-adults.

Out of an abundance of caution, state park officials posted warning signs and cancelled swimming for a junior lifeguard competition after a lifeguard spotted a shark 20 yards off shore.

"There's been shark sightings off and on for years," said State Park Lifeguard Supervisor Eddie Rhee-Pizano. "They are out there. That's their home. When you are in the ocean you have to be aware of your surroundings if you see anything suspicious."

Shark expert Sean Van Sommeran captured video from a boat. He said it's unusual for young sharks to be this far north and are likely feeding at night.

"The sharks as with the sea lions are stampeding north looking for food," said Sean Van Sommeran of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation. "There's been fish caught off the Capitola Wharf. There are warmer currents farther north than usual."

The Prawlocki family is visiting from Chicago, and is opting to stay out of the water. They are enjoying the Great Whites from a distance.

"I don't want them anywhere near the sharks," said Daria Prawlock. "It's not meant to be in the water today that's fine."

The beach remains open and activities will go on as planned for the weekend. State park officials said the only time they will ever close the beach is if there's an actual shark attack.