Surfing is a fun sport that offers countless benefits to those who do it. It’s also one of the most dangerous sports out there when things really go wrong.
With warm temperatures, you’ll end up surfing with all sorts of marine life, including sharks! While most sharks are harmless there are a few you need to look out for that pose a serious risk to humans.
This article will help you understand how dangerous sharks really are when you’re surfing, which sharks to look out for and some famous surfers that have had run-ins with the ocean’s number one apex predator.
How likely is a shark attack while surfing?
The odds of being attacked by a shark while surfing are actually pretty low. In fact, according to the International Shark Attack File, there were only 29 attacks in 2018—and that’s in an entire year!
Surfing is a very popular sport and many people do it every day. But if you compare the number of people who surf with the number of shark attacks, you’ll see that you have a much better chance of winning the lottery than getting attacked by a shark while surfing.
If you’re worried about your four-legged friends check out our short read on do dogs attract sharks?
Which sharks are most dangerous to surfers
Let’s take a look at the ocean’s most dangerous predators and which sharks you’re most likely to run into while you surf.
Bull sharks are one of the most dangerous species of shark in the world. They can be found in warm, shallow waters all over the world, from the western Atlantic Ocean to the eastern Pacific Ocean. Bull sharks are also known as Zambezi sharks, though they can be found in many other rivers as well.
Bull sharks are aggressive and territorial, so if you’re surfing in their territory, there is a possibility they will come after you. They have been known to attack humans despite being completely unprovoked and even kill people who have tried to swim with them.
Their teeth aren’t very sharp, so they rely on brute force rather than finesse when they attack their victims.
They prefer to stay close to shore, where there is a good supply of food available to them. They hunt small fish and other marine animals that live in shallow waters near shorelines such as estuaries and bays. Bull sharks have been seen swimming freely up rivers and into lakes, which is unusual behaviour for a shark species since they typically prefer saltwater environments.
Tiger sharks are one of the largest sharks in the world—and they’re also one of the most aggressive. They’re known to eat anything they can fit into their mouths, including sea turtles, dolphins, and other sharks.
But these sharks aren’t just scary-looking—they’re also incredibly important to marine ecosystems. They help maintain a balance between sea life by keeping prey populations in check, which means that there’s more food left for everyone else. Their wide range also makes them excellent indicators of environmental health: if tiger sharks are thriving in an area it means that there’s enough food for them to survive and reproduce there as well!
Tiger sharks are very aggressive predators which means they will eat almost anything they can get their jaws around – including surfers They have been known to attack surfers and even boats because they mistake them for sea creatures like seals or whales when hunting in low water clarity or low light.
Great white sharks are the largest predatory fish in the world. They can be found in all oceans, from the surface to the deep sea. Great white sharks are thought to live for up to 70 years and reach maturity at about 15 years of age. They can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh 4,000 pounds. Their favourite prey is seals and sea lions, but they will also eat sea turtles, fish and even dolphins.
But despite their fearsome reputation, great whites are not man-eaters. In fact, humans are not on their menu at all—they prefer seals and sea lions. And while great white attacks do sometimes happen, they’re quite rare. Basically, you’re more likely to get bitten by another human than by a shark.
The great white shark has a heavy build and is torpedo-shaped, allowing it to swim at speeds of up to 15 mph. It has an extra long lower jaw that holds up to 300 teeth arranged in triangular rows. These teeth are serrated, pointed and triangular in shape with razor-sharp edges that are used for tearing into prey.
Still, great whites are amazing creatures that deserve our respect and admiration—and it’s important that we protect them from overfishing so they can continue thriving in our oceans!
How to avoid sharks while you surf
While you can’t completely avoid sharks while you’re surfing there are some tips you can follow to try and avoid them as much as possible:
- Don’t wear bright colours. Sharks are attracted to bright colours, so you should avoid wearing anything that’s red or yellow.
- Be aware of your surroundings, if you see a shark, don’t panic—just get out of the water as quickly as possible and look for a lifeguard. If there’s no lifeguard around and you’re alone, call 911 immediately!
- Don’t swim at night, sharks are more active at night than during the day, so if you want to avoid them while surfing, stay out of the water after sunset.
- Don’t splash around: Sharks can smell blood from a mile away, so don’t make waves and try not to splash yourself with water if possible.
- Stay away from large groups of fish: Sharks will be drawn to the smell of all those fishy bodies in one place. So if you do see a group of fish, just stay away.
Mick Fanning’s shark attack while surfing at Jeffreys Bay
Jeffreys Bay is one of the most popular surfing destinations in South Africa, and it’s no wonder why. It’s got the perfect mix of waves and weather, which make it an ideal destination for a surf trip.
Shark cage diving is a popular activity in South Africa, especially around Jeffreys Bay. During the summer months (November through April), you can sign up with one of the many tour companies that offer this opportunity. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and includes snorkel gear and an inflatable boat ride out to where the sharks are known to congregate.
But what happens when there’s no cage between you and the shark? That’s exactly what happened to pro surfer Mick Fanning during the 2015 WSL J Bay Pro.
Mick Fanning, an Australian professional surfer who’s been featured in magazines like Surfer and Transworld Surf since 1994, has spent over a decade riding massive waves around the globe—and he’s never been attacked by a shark before or since (thankfully).
Bethany Hamilton was only 13 years old when she lost her left arm in a shark attack. She was surfing with her best friend Alana Blanchard off Kauai’s North Shore in 2003 when the shark bit off Bethany’s left arm above her elbow. Although this incident was extremely traumatic for Bethany, she didn’t let it stop her from living life to its fullest.
Since the incident, Bethany has continued to surf at a professional level being the stand-out at many world tour competition stops.
Head over to our read on why are surfers attacked by sharks for more fascinating facts about the ocean’s greatest predator.