Tope Sharks – Don’t Call Me Soupfin!

Every summer off the coast of San Diego, there is a shark migration. An unusual species that La Jolla locals call the tope sharks.

It’s not just a name – at least for the tope

The Latin name is Galeorhinus Galeus. But this species has accumulated many nicknames throughout the years. Including Miller’s dogs, penny dogs, sweet williams and schooling. But perhaps the most notorious name given these guys is soupfin.

With the new interest in saving the sharks, this type is of particular focus. Due to its vulnerable status and its many uses to those who hunt them it has become a constant target.

The tope has a long, pointed snout, large mouth and small sharp, blade-like-teeth. Identified by two dorsal fins and are gray in color with a white underside. Growing to be up to 5 feet long and swim together in schools. Often found feeding on fish and bottom creatures such as lobsters and crabs.

Tope sharks in San Diego.
Stephanie filming in head wetsuit.

What to expect from these schooling sharks in La Jolla

In August, La Jolla’s forest of kelp provides an excellent chance to experience one or more of the beauties. Swimming along mid-water column in the kelp forest. If there is a loud exhale of bubbles, more than likely they will high tail it out of the area. These guys are known as a cautious species. But for those on closed circuit or freediving, there is an excellent opportunity to get close.

Freediving into the middle of a school is an experience like no other. The topes will swim by scanning with their eyes moving back and forth. Even when there is no threat, this species will continue to swim. Turning, watching and swimming. Turning, watching and swimming. The most amazing experience is when you lock eyes with the shark. You can feel the peace.

From Soupfin to Honored San Diego Guest – Like Magic

We arrive at the ocean shore early. Within minutes, we have our gear set-up. Today is going to be magical, and we already know it. There will be sharks!

We are always excited when the schooling begins in the kelp off La Jolla Cove. We have become obsessed with them. Sometimes hard to find. We can spend hours scanning water from the surface until we finally find one. Where there is one, there are many. Sometimes we can’t find them, and we wonder, where do they go? But the ability to swim to 800 meters, could explain our inability to find them.

Our magic spot today will be over an area named rock pile. Stephanie has just spied a couple below. It’s just she and I this morning. I look at Stephanie, and she signals ready, and we descend into the thick forest of kelp. Within seconds we see one, then another and another. They are coming at us out of the kelp. Above and below. There are sharks everywhere. And so it will be for the next 60 minutes. San Diego diving is the best!

It is always sad at the end of their season. We have to wait until the next summer for them to come back and see us once again.

Summer brings the most beautiful leopard sharks to the La Jolla marine park. See our experience ‘San Diego Snorkeling – Cove & Caves’  >>

Soupfin sharks in La Jolla.