ORLEANS — It was Roger Freeman’s last day on Cape Cod, meaning it was his last opportunity to spend a morning out on the waves.
After a gloomy week, Sunday morning brought sunshine, calm waves and a soft offshore breeze, conditions ideal for surfing, and the 54-year-old Hingham resident was hoping to spend it paddleboarding off Nauset Beach in Orleans.
As he ventured out to where the waves break, Freeman remembered that a great white shark had eaten a seal the day before in these waters.
“I remember thinking to myself, a little melodramatically, someone might think it’s crazy to be out here with sharks in the water,” he said. “But on this glorious Cape Cod morning I say it’s crazy not to be.”
At one point, he looked up and was alone. He saw a drone flying overhead, which settled his nerves.
“I thought, huh, that’s interesting,” Freeman said. The drone felt like a security blanket, like someone had eyes on the water beneath him.
And they did.
After a little more than an hour and a half on the water, Freeman paddled ashore. He was greeted by someone who knew the drone operator, Cody DeGroff.
The person showed Freeman a photo DeGroff had taken with the drone. It showed Freeman standing on his paddleboard just feet away from a great white shark.
Freeman contacted DeGroff, who shared a series of photos in which the shadow of the shark could be seen advancing toward him.
DeGroff did not return phone calls by the Times deadline Monday night.
At one point on the water, Freeman said, he remembered seeing a shadow that he thought was a seal.
“I’m still processing it,” he said of the close encounter.
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy tweeted the photos, suggesting the ominous shadow fit the profile of a great white shark.
“Close encounter of a peaceful kind,” the tweet says.
The conservancy’s airplane spotted two other great whites close to shore at Head of Meadow Beach earlier in the day, prompting lifeguards to call swimmers in. The beach was closed to swimming for an hour.
One of the sharks measured 12 feet long.
The conservancy is in its final year of a five-year population study. The group has been tagging sharks to allow researchers to track local and long-range movements, study behavior and biology and estimate population size, according to the conservancy website.
A fifth great white shark also was tagged Monday a quarter-mile off Nauset Beach by Gregory Skomal, chief shark scientist for the state Division of Marine Fisheries.
With mixed feelings about his brush with “Jaws,” Freeman said he wished authorities on Cape Cod were a little more proactive about deploying safety measures to protect surfers, swimmers and beachgoers from the dangers posed by sharks and other sea life.
“I would have certainly appreciated if there was a warning system,” he said.
At the same time, Freeman said people should learn to co-exist with marine life.
“We’re going into their world, and we have the knowledge and capacity to adjust to their behavior,” he said. “They don’t.”
Despite the episode, Freeman said he might venture out to sea again.
“Life is full of risks, and for me the key is taking measured risks,” he said.