It was a dramatic weekend for kayakers in waters off Cambria: A Paso Robles fisherman escaped an attack by a great white shark Saturday, although his kayak didn’t, and another Paso Robles kayaker was plucked from the 51-degree-water Sunday in time to save his life.
Joey Nocchi, 30, of Paso Robles, had the big-fish tale to tell, after his kayak was upended and bitten by a great white shark. Nocchi and friends James Byon of Paso Robles and Matt Kerschke of Los Osos were fishing for rockfish at 1:30 p.m. Saturday near Leffingwell Landing off Moonstone Beach.
“We’d just about limited out on rock cod, and Matt caught two halibut,” Nocchi said. “We were cruising along together and talking.”
He was reaching for his knife when “I got hit from underneath and started coming up out of the water. My buddies said I came out of the water 4 to 5 feet — it flipped me over the side. The shark rolled the whole kayak over, rolled me out of it, and he went over the top of it. He swam across me — his tail touched me.” His friends estimated the shark was 12 feet to 14 feet long.
Nocchi’s buddies told him “the shark came all the way out of the water, jaws open, extra eyelids closed like they do when they’re making a kill strike.
“I swam back as fast as I could and got back on the back of the kayak. I didn’t even think to turn it back over.”
Kershke told him, “The shark knows it made a mistake. You’ll have to get off, turn the kayak over, and get back in. I’m going to go get the paddle, and I want you in the kayak when I get back.”
Nocchi said, “I did, and I got back to shore as fast as I could, even though the kayak was taking on a bunch of water from the bite. The bite looks to be around 20 inches long, more than 22 inches wide.”
Nocchi said he was glad he did not fish alone, and added he’d likely stay out of the ocean for a while. “I’ll be bass fishing for a while, probably from the shore.”
Signs were posted along Moonstone Beach warning beach goers about the shark attack.
In the second incident, George Sanderson, 50, of Paso Robles, was in critical condition about 7:30 p.m. Sunday when the Cambria Community Healthcare District’s ambulance brought him to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo. As of late Monday afternoon, Sanderson was listed in fair condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
Sanderson’s kayak apparently took on water about five miles south of San Simeon Beach, perhaps because of an improperly secured drain plug, according to Richard Stacy of the North Coast Ocean Rescue Team, which pulled the man from the water Sunday.
Sanderson was “wearing a life jacket but was not wearing a wet suit,” Stacy said. Sanderson was breathing, volunteer diver-rescuers told Stacy, but the patient’s pulse was so weak it couldn’t be detected without equipment.
Sanderson’s survival is “due to the quick response of the Cal Fire and North Coast Ocean Rescue personnel and boats,” Stacy said. The rescue divers were George Kaperonis, Willbur Walker, Emitt Hoey and Michael Castellanos.
Cal Fire’s reconnaissance plane also was there, as was a battalion chief, according to a spokesman, and the agency’s urban search and rescue team was activated. Coast Guard, Hearst Castle Fire and the Sheriff’s Office also participated in the rescue.
Sanderson was initially reported as missing by his daughter, said Lisa Remington, a supervising ranger with the State Parks Department.