How To Avoid Shark Attacks While Surfing

shark attacks while surfing

Surfing is a water gliding sport that has been around for a while, and like all other sporting activities, it has its own fair share of dangers.  Some of the dangers or risks in surfing includes; drowning, waves, riptides, and shark attacks.

Sharks are aquatic animals commonly found in the open sea or a very large body of water. Sharks are carnivorous in nature which means there’s a chance that you might smell and look like food to them.

Unfortunately, the major ”ingredient” to making the surfing sport possible is found in the open sea – waves.

While the chances of getting attacked by a shark aren’t huge, it still makes sense that you’re aware of the danger they pose to you as a surfer.

In this article, we’ll be discussing some measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of getting attacked by a shark while you’re out surfing.

Avoid Surfing During The “Feeding Time”

Everything biological is characterized by a time-table of processes, i.e. there is a time for everything. Man, animals or plants cannot have some processes done at the same time.

Sharks aren’t any different, they sleep, mate, hunt, and eat at different times. As a surfer, it’s wise to know what time of the day is for what activity.

For sharks, dawn and dusk are perfect times for hunting prey. It just so happens that these times of day are also the best time for surfing.

At dawn and dusk, there is more wind, heavier closeouts, and fast-breaking waves during these periods. For surfers, it’s the prime time to catch some tides and waves. However, it’s also smart to avoid getting attacked by a shark so it’s better to plan out your adventure differently.

Another reason to avoid surfing during dawn or dusk is that; there will be low visibility, and sharks aren’t exactly known for their eagle vision. You don’t want a shark to mistake you for breakfast.

Never Surf if You’re Bleeding

Sharks may not have the best vision in the business, but they possess a magnificent sense of smell. Especially when it comes to blood, some sharks can smell a single drop of blood from a quarter mile away.

Great White Sharks are so well attuned to the scent of blood that they can smell it up to 3 miles away. They can trace the scent back to you with little effort and they can sneak up without making a sound.

great white shark swimming in the sea

Leaving a drop of your blood in a shark territory is like standing at the top of a rise when it’s pitch black, and waving a torch to signal someone close by who’s searching for you (that analogy might be a tad overboard, but you get the point).

It’s important that you get out of the water once you notice any cuts or bleeding. Wait till the injury is completely healed before getting back on a surfboard. Females who are menstruating should also avoid surfing.

Avoid Loitering and Avoid Surfing After Rain

Channels and river mouths are ramparts with sharks. These are the major areas where shark food (fishes) flow out into the sea.

Sharks have been known to loiter around channels for many minutes in search of food. You may think they don’t usually eat human but you never know, so it’s best to avoid them entirely.

It would also help to reduce the risk of being attacked by a shark if you avoid surfing just after it rains. The murky waters may reduce visibility for the sharks. As a result, sharks may not be able to tell the difference between you and real food.

Avoid Quick Erratic Movements

While in the water, you may feel the urge to play a bit by splashing water or flailing. Well, it’s possible that you’re calling the attention of any nearby sharks. Just like with man, sharks and other animals take cues also.

If a shark notices a disturbance in the water, it may decide it’s prey in distress and happily go serve itself some late lunch. Sharks tend to swim dip and prefer catching their prey by surprise. Like most fishes, they have a streamlined body that allows them to move fast and silently in water.

Stay sharp at all times and beware your surroundings. The extra second you gain by anticipating a shark may be what saves your life.

And also, pay attention to warning signs and precautions placed around the beach. Knowing beforehand about the presence of sharks will help you stay prepared and alert while surfing.

Don’t Wear Anything That Reflects Light

A large percentage of the creatures that inhabit the seas are scaly in nature, and scales are very good at reflecting light. It is reasonable to assume that sharks are familiar with scales and anything that shines may call their attention.

Avoid the use of shiny jewelry or ornaments while surfing as they may resemble the scales of fishes to a shark, sharks are attracted to very bright colors and may not be able to discriminate a shiny piece of jewelry from the scale of a fish.

Spotted a Shark? Stay Calm

Never seen a shark? or you’re skeptical about how scary sharks are? A quick preview of THE MEG – a 2018 movie about sharks – will set your doubts straight about the level of terror sharks can inspire.

sharks swimming in the deep ocean

It’s understandable that you may be frightened if you see a shark. However, it does not do you any good to panic and lose any advantage you get by spotting the shark early.

Stay calm and get in a defensive position if the shark is headed in your direction. If it’s not, then you want to calmly swim to safety as fast as you can without calling its attention.

Usually, if you spot a shark first, chances are you’re not the object of its desires at that moment. They don’t play by the rules and they favor sneak attacks. But don’t take any chance by dallying close to it because you think it doesn’t want you.

What To Do If You’re Attacked By a Shark

1. Don’t panic: The best and foremost advice anyone can give you about defending an attack from a shark is to not panic.

Panic blinds you to reason and that in itself may be the deciding factor in whether you go home in one piece or many pieces.

Don’t flail about, you’d only get the big fish more excited for breakfast, and never make the mistake of trying to scream underwater, fighting off a shark and trying to get water out of your lungs while you’re still in the water isn’t your idea of defense.

2. Don’t play dead: Real life isn’t Hollywood, sharks aren’t bears and you’re not Tarzan. Sharks don’t care if their meal is dead or alive, as long as it looks like food, then it’s edible – to a shark.

In fact, do the opposite of playing dead, put up a fight. Kick, punch, and jab at vulnerable areas you can find. You have one distinct advantage and that’s your limbs.

Sharks can only attack with their heads which narrows things down somewhat, always keep eye contact as that may put it off long enough for help to arrive.

3. Keep moving slowly away from the shark: Try your possible best to not call attention to yourself even when you think the shark has locked on you.

Swim backward slowly and be ready to take up a defensive position as soon as you feel an attack is imminent.


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