But something was off, because the size and shape reminded him more of a tiger shark at first.
“I kept looking at the head, I’m like, ‘That is not a tiger shark.’ And it got closer and closer,” Verbeck said. “It just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger and I was like, ‘That is for sure 100% a great white.'”
The beast — which Verbeck estimated to be over 15 feet — was not behaving in a threatening way, so he stuck around to capture some footage.
“And I just shot as much as I could as she went by, and she just disappeared back off the drop, then I was just shaking like, ‘Woah! That was insane!'”
Dr. Carl Meyer with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology said great whites are likely in the area because of humpback whales, which breed in Hawaiian waters from November through April. According to Dr. Meyer, the behavior Verbeck saw is fairly normal for great whites.
“Typical behavior of these big sharks is one of wariness around people,” Meyer said. “So even though they might be curious, they’re also wary. And so the only time that you see aggressive behavior is typically when they’re actively foraging.”
Verbeck said he was unnerved and overwhelmed by the experience, but never felt in danger.
“If she wanted to take me, she would have taken me,” Verbeck said, “and her demeanor was just curiosity. She just came up to look to see what I was doing.”