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July 20. 2012 12:30AM

After encounter on Cape Cod, city dad faced media feeding frenzy


Walter Szulc Jr. of Manchester found himself the subject of a media feeding frenzy after an encounter with a great white shark on Cape Cod. (MARK HAYWARD/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER -- Manchester resident Walter Szulc Jr. stumbled onto a Cape Cod beach two weeks ago, just a few kayak paddles in front of a great white shark.

Soon after, the feeding frenzy began.

For the rest of his vacation, Szulc was stalked by reporters, their pencils as sharp as ichthyoidal teeth, and videographers, their shoulders touting heavy cameras that cut through crowds like dorsal fins through open water.

By now, nearly everyone knows what happened to Szulc on July 7, as the 41-year-old worked on his kayak skills about 200 feet from shore off Nauset Beach in Orleans.

A photographer captured him turning to see a dorsal fin behind him. He paddled for the shore, reached it and the photograph became a news sensation.

Szulc was happy to give an interview or two. Then they kept coming. A Google News search under Szulc's name retrieves 716 articles.

When he left the Cape four days later, reporters were still trying to contact him. Even two weeks later, on Wednesday, Szulc was interviewed at Arms Park in Manchester.

“I got a little exhausted from the whole week,” said Szulc, a divorced father who had his two teenage children with him on the Cape.

“The media was all over us; it was constant,” said Szulc. “Everybody was nice. I get it; it was a big story.”

His children, who also ended up on newscasts, eventually got annoyed, he said.

Szulc grew up in Bedford, attended Trinity High School in Manchester and graduated from Manchester High West. He pours concrete floors for a living, in a family business his father started.

He lives in a modest, two-family home on Wilson Street, but hopes to move closer to his children, who live in Concord.

Szulc is something of a thrill-seeker. He has gone white water rafting, and he skis regularly. But he said he's always been wary of the ocean. It's immense, he said. Waves and tides can take control of a swimmer. Fish are big, not to mention sharks.

So he said he was pushing his comfort boundary that Saturday. As he's told other media, he didn't have time to really think or be scared.

And two weeks later, he hasn't really processed it all. But he knew he could have ended up in the shark's belly.

“I was ready; this is it,” he recounted. “I was a little perturbed; my kids were on the beach. These were the thoughts going through my mind.”

He glanced skyward to heaven as he spoke. “Really? You're going to do this, with my kids on the beach?”

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Mark Hayward may be reached at mhayward@unionleader.com.


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