Shark attacks are incredibly rare, but they do occur, and they are much more common among surfers. It’s natural to be a little scared of these creatures as they are ferocious predators that can take your arm, leg, and even your life in a single bite. If you want to reduce your chances of being a shark’s snack on your next outing, this guide will help.
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Why Do Sharks Attack?
The first step to preventing shark attacks is to understand why they occur in the first play.
If Hollywood is to be believed, sharks attack because they are blood-thirsty creatures out for revenge. In actual fact, sharks attack humans because they are curious.
Sinking your teeth into something out of pure curiosity might seem like a strange habit, but sharks don’t have the paws to investigate further or the patience to see how things turn out. If they see something thrashing around in the water and mimicking the antics of a seal, and they’re hungry or bored, they’ll bite.
As far as they’re concerned, the worst thing that can happen is that their meal will get angry and start screaming, at which point they’ll just swim away and look for an alternative.
How To Avoid Shark Attacks While Surfing
Although unprovoked shark attacks are rare, they do occur, and you should do everything you can to prevent them.
After all, being struck by lightning is also rare, but that doesn’t mean you should sprint outside and start waving around a metal pole as soon as a storm approaches.
It doesn’t hurt to practice a little caution, and you could be maimed or killed if you don’t.
Stay Away From Shark-Infested Waters
It’s an obvious one, but it’s one that should be mentioned, nonetheless: if you want to avoid being shark food, stay clear of waters known to contain sharks. Do your research in advance and if there have been sharks reported in the area, stay away, or try another spot.
Get Out Of The Water If You See Or Hear About A Shark
If you see a shark or hear someone shout that there is one in the water, get out! Even if it turns out to be nothing, it’s always best to be on the safe side.
Surf With A Group
Sharks are opportunistic predators and will often focus on isolated animals. If you are with a group, they’re less likely to approach.
Avoid Feeding Areas
Avoid surfing in areas where sharks feed, including river mouths, deep water channels, drop off ledges, piers, jetties, and fishing harbors.
Avoid Feeding Times: Dusk, Dawn, And Night
Sharks tend to feed during dusk, dawn, and night, when other animals have very limited visibility and can’t see the sharks approach.
Avoid these times and surf in the late morning or early afternoon, instead.
Don’t Stray Too Far
Don’t venture too far out and if you are with a group, don’t stray too far away from them.
Look For The Signs
There are a few signs that hint at a nearby shark.
Pay attention to how the seabirds and fish are reacting. If they are jumping and diving, it could indicate that a large predator is nearby. You may also be able to see the shark, which is why it’s important to keep your eyes open and your attention sharp as you surf.
Avoid Murky Water
In murky waters, a shark has a harder time determining whether you are food or not. The murkier the water, the more likely you are to be attacked.
Leave Jewelry At Home
If you’re wearing a lot of jewelry and the sun is shining, you’ll be glittering like a disco ball and drawing attention to yourself. That’s the last thing you want to do, so leave those shiny objects at home.
Stay Away From Bright Colors
It’s not just jewelry that can give you away, bright colors may also attract sharks. Stick with neutral colors when choosing your wetsuit and surfboard.
Stay Away From Living Sea Life
If there are a lot of sea turtles, sea lions, seals, and other species that may be targeted by sharks, stay away!
Keep Changing Your Position When Waiting For A Wave
When you keep moving on your board, you’re acting more like a predator to anything that might be watching you from underneath. If you’re just sitting there gently rocking in the water, you may look like easy prey.
Consider Investing In A Shark Deterrent
You can purchase a type of wax that may help to repel sharks or attach shark eyes to the underside of your board. These repellents are not foolproof, but in combination with all of the above, they will greatly reduce your chances of being attacked.
What To Do If You Are Attacked
Most shark attacks are over very quickly, long before you have time to compose yourself and plan a course of action. If you do have time to react, there are a few things that you can do to increase your chances of surviving.
It should be noted, however, that these only apply if you are actually attacked. Doing these things simply because a shark is near could provoke it.
Use Your Board
If possible, place your surfboard between you and the shark. It’ll destroy your board, but it could save your life. Unless the shark is very angry or hungry, it will likely get a taste of your board, realize that you’re not a delicious seal, and then swim away.
Act like a pissed predator and not like vulnerable prey. If the shark attacks, fight back. Latch onto its muzzle to prevent it from thrashing you around and try to aim kicks, punches, and elbows at the animal’s eyes and gills.
Don’t Play Dead
Whatever you do, don’t play dead! You’ll just make yourself an easy prey and will essentially be serving yourself on a plate for the shark.
Get To Shore
If you are bitten and get free, try to make it to the shore as quickly as you can. Apply pressure to the wounds while you seek help. If need be, you can use your surfing leash as a makeshift tourniquet.
The sooner you get help, the more likely you are to survive the attack. Once you get out of the water, be as loud as you can. Call for help from other surfers and beachgoers and ask someone to call an ambulance.
FAQs About Sharks and Surfing
If you still have questions about shark attacks, these FAQs will provide some clarity:
What Are The Chances Of Getting Attacked By A Shark While Surfing?
It is often said that the odds of being attacked by a shark are anywhere from 1 in 11.5 million to 1 in 38 million. In truth, it depends on where you are and what you’re doing.
In certain parts of the United States and Australia, surfers and swimmers are significantly more likely to be attacked, but the odds are still slim at around 1 in 450,000 at their highest.
What To Do If A Shark Approaches You While Surfing?
If you see a shark swimming near you, it’s not the end of the world. Surfers see sharks all of the time and most of the time, they escape unscathed. It’s the ones that you don’t see that you need to worry about.
Sharks are predators. They don’t want to be seen, so if they are swimming nearby and are in plain sight, it means they are probably not going to attack.
Still, if you can get out of the water then you should do so.
What Color Should You Not Wear In The Ocean?
Stay away from bright and contrasting colors, such as black and white.
Do Sharks Come To Shore At Night?
Sharks tend to hunt during dusk, dawn, and during the night. They will venture closer to the shore during these times.
Are Sharks Attracted To Urine?
Sharks are not attracted to urine, so you don’t need to worry if you’ve relieved yourself in your wetsuit. Studies also suggest that they don’t care much about small amounts of human blood. To learn more, we recommend checking out this video by YouTuber and experimenter Mark Rober in which he tests whether sharks can smell a drop of blood.
What Are the Most Dangerous Types of Sharks?
Bull sharks, tiger sharks, and great white sharks are responsible for the most attacks on surfers and swimmers. The bull shark is particularly deadly as it can survive in freshwater and so it can be found in river mouths.
Interestingly, while the aforementioned sharks are the ones most likely to attack humans close to the shore, the Oceanic whitetip shark is often thought to be the deadliest overall.
It is believed that the Oceanic whitetip shark is responsible for hundreds of attacks on shipwrecked sailors. They have been known to swarm shipwrecks and pick off the unfortunate sailors. As these deaths aren’t recorded as shark attacks, the Oceanic whitetip shark goes relatively unnoticed.