New Hampshire resident Walter Szulc Jr. laughed it off when his teenage daughter told him they should watch out for sharks when the family went to a Cape Cod beach over the weekend.
He wasn't laughing a few minutes later, when, in his kayak in the ocean not far from shore, he looked behind him and saw the fin of a great white shark within arm's reach.
Szulc, 41, said he immediately "paddled very fast" and was grateful when he reached the shore in the eastern Massachusetts vacation spot.
"I saw the fin out of the water ... I looked down and saw the body and realized that part of the shark was underneath me, and I just proceeded to paddle," Szulc said Monday, adding it all happened very fast and his response "was just instinct — paddle and head out of there."
A photo someone else on the water took of Szulc in his kayak, with the shark's fin clearly visible behind him, has been widely distributed over the Internet.
Szulc, of Manchester, N.H., said he had kayaked as a child on a lake but had never kayaked in the ocean.
After he and his family arrived at Nauset Beach in Orleans on Saturday, his 14-year-old daughter mentioned there had been shark sightings on the Cape recently and said maybe they should watch out while in the water.
Szulc said he "made a little bit of a joke of it" and told his daughter there was not much chance of having an encounter on Cape Cod with a great white shark, the type portrayed in the "Jaws" movies. And, with that, he set out in his kayak.
Szulc said he was about 50 yards from shore when he saw a man on a paddleboard hold up his paddle and point it at him.
"I figured he was trying to tell me something," Szulc said. "I looked back and saw the fin and the body of the shark right behind me."
Nauset Beach, among the most popular beaches on the lower portion of Cape Cod, was closed briefly Saturday after Szulc's encounter with the shark. It reopened Sunday, and there have been no shark sightings since then, town beach director Lee Miller said.
"There have been reports of sharks in the past, but usually they are farther out, not this close to the bathing beach," Miller said.
Experts say the sharks are being drawn to Cape Cod's waters by an increase in the population of seals, a favorite meal of the ocean predators. Swimmers in Chatham, about 10 miles south of Orleans, have been told to stay away from seals after sharks were spotted there last week.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.