Sunday, August 08, 2004

Dancing with Sharks

The sun has yet to rise and a quiet blanket of morning fog still wraps around our hill. I’m having a cup of coffee, trying to wake up for the dawn patrol at Sano. Maybe reading about these recent shark encounters at the local breaks will help to rev me up.

You have to enter a wilderness to surf. Even if you can see cars up on the beach, you see them from untamed world. I like that. Every few trips out a pod of dolphins will glide down the line, sometimes coming in close enough to pop up among the surfers. On Super Special Unicorn and Rainbow days they join us in riding the waves, rippling just under the surface until—POW!—they suddenly leap free into the air.

Only recently have the sharks started showing up. Or, more accurately, only recently have people started reporting having seen sharks. My wife sniffs a conspiracy, claiming that locals make up the stories to scare off tourists and Gomers. The incentives do favor fabrication, or at least marginal exaggeration. It costs little to report a shark encounter and may win you the same, pale glory that fishermen find in their prey. You alone would know that you in fact saw a seal. You would thus enjoy both less crowded breaks and less anxiety riding them. Even if you get caught in the lie, little of consequence would follow.

Alas, a public goods problem stalks the waves. If you have an incentive to make up shark tales, so do other surfers. And you cannot be sure whether others may stretched or even snapped the truth.

I’d ruminate longer, but I’ve got an appointment with the Man in a Grey Suit. Leastwise, I’ll be waiting for him. I hope he shows; that would make for a really good story. Too bad nobody would believe me.

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