LA TIMES 1-28-82

"Lifeguard Wrestles Shark, Gets Sore Nose"

By BORIS YARO, Times Staff Writer

Shark bites are rare along the California coast, almost as rare as what happened to county Lifeguard Norton Wisdom, 23, in a bout with a 200-pound blue shark off Topanga Beach.

It punched him in the nose.

But Wisdom wasn't complaining. No one else was hurt by the seven-foot monster and he and his partner. Bill Powers, finally managed to beach the thing after an hourlong battle.

Wisdom said he and Powers saw the shark Swimming near surfers as they were opening. their lifeguard tower Tuesday morning. 

"His head was above water and his mouth was open," Wisdom said. "He was in kind of feeding frenzy but he didn't have any object in particular that he was attacking. It was apparent that something was wrong."

Surfer Lyn Overby, 29, of Topanga, had already reached that conclusion. Overby said the shark had brushed against his leg--so he "just started paddling in, quickly."

Overby emerged unscathed, and Wisdom and Powers called for a boat. Told no boat was near enough, they entered the water. Powers with a three-foot pole with a gaff hook on the end and Wisdom with a spear gun. They paddled out on surfboards and tried to get the shark to go away, but the shark wouldn't cooperate. First it turned on Wisdom, knocking the butt end of the spear gun into his nose.

It turned on Powers when Powers hit it with the gaff hook, forcing Wisdom to fire the spear gun to distract it. The spear just bounced off the shark's hide.

For the next 40 minutes the two men wrestled with the shark in shallow water.

Once, the shark disappeared. That worried Wisdom.

"It's one thing,'' he said, "when you can see where his head is..."

Finally they gained a solid footing on the beach and--with the aid of spectators--pulled the shark out of the water and tied it to one of the lifeguard tower's support posts.

After they caught their breath, the two lifeguards discovered the probable reason for the shark's strange behavior. Someone, probably a fisherman, had shot it in the head.

Out of its element, it shortly expired.

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