How (not) to: get attacked by a shark


Few things in life are as scary as the prospect of being eaten alive by a giant fish. As a surfer, you’re frequently entering the shark food chain and are much more likely to be a victim of a shark attack than landlubbers, or folk who happen to dip their big toe into the sea on their summer hols. And whilst attacks usually have no warning, they do tend to happen in clusters around certain times/events, and thus while not 100% avoidable, can be made less likely.

Trev’s top tips for avoiding shark attacks:

1. Don’t surf at feeding time when the sun is low. Sharks hunt by ambush, and thus prefer early mornings, evenings and overcast days to offer them a greater chance of ambush. Avoiding surfing during these times will dramatically lower your chance of getting attacked.

2. Avoid surfing river mouths especially after heavy rain when rivermouth has opened the lagoon up. Obviously triple avoid rivermouths at dawn on overcast days…

3. Be aware of and steer clear of certain marine life events, like when there are large schools of bait fish, or during the sardine run (Oz/SA). A famous double great white attack in East London, SA in the 90’s took place while a whale was giving birth in the bay. Don’t surf if something sharks like to eat is in the vicinity in abundance. By the same token, seal colonies are known hunting spots.

4. Don’t surf alone. Paddling out as a two reduces your chances by 50%. A Great White was spotted at Snapper on the Gold Coast early in 2014, but your chances of getting bitten are greatly reduced by the people soup effect… Possibly the one and only upside of crowded surf.

5. Try not to urinate or bleed in the water. Sharks are sensitive to mammal urine, blood one part per million. Now trying not to bleed is do-able, but trying to not piss is close to asking the impossible, no?

6. Avoid wearing shiny stuff, like jewellery, which sharks are known to mistake for fish. On one boat trip to the Tuamotus a few years back, Raimana warned us against bling for this very reason.

7. Read the vibe. Without meaning to go all mystic, if it ‘feels’ sharky out in the lineup, it probably is. Humankind has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to have an innate awareness of possible predation. If you paddle out and sense that it seems like a great time for a shark attack, it is probably a great time to paddle back in.


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