Sharks are one of the most fascinating creatures in the ocean, with over 500 species found in seas and oceans around the world. They are known for their sharp teeth, powerful jaws, and sleek bodies that allow them to move quickly through the water. Sharks have been around for over 400 million years, and they have evolved to become some of the most efficient predators in the ocean.
There are many different types of sharks, each with their own unique characteristics and behaviors. Some sharks, like the great white shark and tiger shark, are apex predators that can grow to be over 20 feet long and weigh thousands of pounds. Other sharks, like the pygmy shark and lantern shark, are much smaller and can fit in the palm of your hand. Despite their differences, all sharks are important members of the ocean ecosystem and play a vital role in keeping it healthy and balanced.
Sharks and Surfers
Ever since the movie Jaws came out, our toothy neighbors have had trouble with their reputation. People tend to think that if a shark happens to be in the water within a half mile radius then it will make a beeline to bite them in half. This is completely untrue. As a species, they don’t really like to eat humans very much. We’re too bony for them. They also tend to avoid contact with humans, and they’re usually rather wary of us. Even the biggest white shark, Deep Blue, has swam peacefully with humans.
Sharks are bloodthirsty man-eating beasts that often hunt humans for food.
It’s true, sharks are a hazard when you’re in the ocean. It’s ok to have respect for sharks, but don’t let your fear keep you from surfing or enjoying your time in the ocean. Shark attacks are very, very rare. You’re more likely to be killed in an automobile accident on your way to the beach, or struck by lightning while changing into your wetsuit. More people are killed by bees and snakes in the US than sharks.
That said, there are some places where sharks are quite common. Colder, deeper water or certain geographical locations have a greater number of sharks. One of the most popular exotic surf breaks, Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa, is known to be frequented by the men in the grey suits. Maverick’s in Half Moon Bay, CA is also a known sharky spot.
Burgess, George H. “Reducing the Risk of Shark Attacks.” 1991. :
How do you escape a shark attack?
“Well, obviously you want to get out of there fast,” Burgess said, “but you should try to make your escape as quietly and evenly as possible.” He explained that sharks are attracted to splashing and are likely to be enthused by further activity, so the calmer you can make your panicked retreat, the better. “Of course, you want to do whatever you can to get away quickly if the shark’s following you, whether or not that means splashing,” he added.
What if you witness an attack?
“There are very few cases in which a rescuer suffered while trying to help a victim,” said Burgess. “Actually, helping a victim probably decreases the chances of a second attack, because the additional person may spook the shark and drive it away.” So if your friend is beyond the breakers and rehearsing for the next “Jaws” movie, try to overcome your natural instincts and dive in to help.
I’d like to say that you should not let fear of sharks ruin your enjoyment of the ocean. Many experienced surfers often start feeling “sharky” while out in the water by themselves on a gray, cloudy day. This is quite normal. Some surfers will suppress the feelings, and others will exit the water if their “shark sense” becomes overwhelming. With some experience you’ll know what’s right for you.
It’s also common to see “shadows” in the water around your board. This is caused by the reflective and uneven quality of the water, as well as burns in your vision caused by the sun. I often see shadows and get a little thrill, but it’s important to think realistically.
What to do if you see a shark while surfing
Surfers are no strangers to the ocean and the creatures that inhabit it. While shark attacks on surfers are rare, it’s important to know what to do in case you encounter a shark while surfing. The first and most important thing to do is to remain calm. Do not panic or thrash around in the water, as this can attract the shark’s attention. Slowly and calmly paddle back to shore, keeping your eyes on the shark at all times.
If you’re attacked by a shark, you can do your best to try to fight it off. Several people have successfully fought off sharks by bashing them in the nose. I’m not joking around! Since the shark is usually put off by the boniness of our bodies and the fiberglass of the surfboard, most of the time sharks do not come back for another bite. You can add to its decision not to come back by striking at its nose and eyes as these are sensitive areas.
Shark attack statistics
Despite the rarity of shark attacks on surfers, it’s important to be aware of the statistics. According to the International Shark Attack File, there were 64 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks worldwide in 2022, with 40 of those occurring in the United States. Of those attacks, only 10 were fatal. While the number of shark attacks may seem high, it’s important to remember that millions of people swim and surf in the ocean every year without incident. It’s also worth noting that not all sharks are the same. Some species, such as the great white shark, are responsible for the majority of shark attacks on humans. Other species, such as the nurse shark, are more docile and rarely pose a threat to humans. It’s important to educate yourself on the different species of sharks and their behavior in order to better understand the risks associated with surfing in the ocean.
Well Known Types of Sharks
Sharks are fascinating creatures that come in many different shapes and sizes. This section will explore some of the basic types of sharks that are commonly found in the world’s oceans.
Great White Sharks
Great white sharks are perhaps the most famous of all shark species. They are known for their distinctive appearance, with a large, powerful body and sharp, triangular teeth. Great whites are found in many parts of the world, including the coastal waters of Australia, South Africa, and California. They are apex predators, meaning that they are at the top of the food chain and have few natural enemies. Despite their fearsome reputation, great white sharks are not typically aggressive towards humans and are more likely to attack if they mistake a person for their natural prey.
Hammerhead sharks are named for their distinctive head shape, which looks like a hammer or a T-shaped blade. These sharks are found in warm waters around the world and are known for their excellent vision and sense of smell.
Hammerheads are generally harmless to humans and are not considered a threat.
Tiger sharks are known for their distinctive stripes and are found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. They are known for their aggressive behavior and are responsible for a large number of shark attacks on humans.
Tiger sharks are also known for their varied diet, which includes everything from fish and squid to sea turtles and even garbage.
Bull sharks are found in warm, shallow waters around the world and are known for their aggressive behavior. They are responsible for a large number of shark attacks on humans, as they are often found in areas where people swim and surf. Bull sharks are also unique in that they are able to survive in freshwater rivers and lakes, making them one of the few shark species that can live in both saltwater and freshwater environments.
Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world and can grow up to 40 feet in length. They are found in warm waters around the world and are known for their gentle nature. Whale sharks are filter feeders, meaning that they feed on plankton and small fish by swimming with their mouths open. Despite their massive size, whale sharks are not considered a threat to humans and are often sought out by divers and snorkelers for their unique beauty.
Lesser-Known Types of Sharks
Leopard sharks are a type of ground shark that are found in the Pacific Ocean. They are named for their distinctive leopard-like spots on their skin. They are relatively small, typically growing to around 4-5 feet in length. Leopard sharks are not considered to be a threat to humans and are often found in shallow waters near shorelines. They feed on a variety of small fish and invertebrates.
Goblin sharks are a deep-sea species of shark that are rarely seen by humans due to their habitat. They are known for their unique appearance, with a long protruding snout and sharp teeth. Goblin sharks can grow up to 12 feet in length and feed on a variety of prey, including fish and squid. They are not considered to be a threat to humans due to their deep-sea habitat.
Frilled sharks are a primitive species of shark that are found in deep-sea waters around the world. They are named for their distinctive frilled gills, which are used for respiration. Frilled sharks can grow up to 6 feet in length and feed on a variety of prey, including fish and squid. They are not considered to be a threat to humans due to their deep-sea habitat.
Cookiecutter sharks are a small, deep-sea species of shark that are known for their unique feeding behavior. They use their sharp teeth to take circular bites out of larger animals, leaving behind a distinctive “cookie cutter” shaped wound. Cookiecutter sharks are not considered to be a threat to humans due to their deep-sea habitat.
The cookie-cutter shark is a parasitic shark which attaches itself to larger fish, like the dolphin pictured. This shark is able to inflict severe damage to skin and tissue resulting in a “melon-baller” type of wound. It is often called the “cookie monster of the sea.” pic.twitter.com/MVzHJw3XaD
— Amazing Astronomy (@MAstronomers) June 16, 2021
Angel sharks are a type of ground shark that are found in coastal waters around the world. They are named for their flattened bodies and broad pectoral fins, which give them a distinctive “angelic” appearance. Angel sharks can grow up to 6 feet in length and feed on a variety of prey, including fish and crustaceans. They are not considered to be a threat to humans and are often caught unintentionally by fishermen.
Sharks by Habitat
Sharks can be found in a variety of habitats, from the deep sea to coastal areas and reefs. The different habitats have shaped the evolution of sharks, resulting in unique adaptations that help them survive in their respective environments.
Deep-sea sharks are often found in the abyssal zone, which is the part of the ocean that is deeper than 2,000 meters. These sharks have adapted to living in complete darkness and extreme pressure. Some deep-sea sharks have developed bioluminescence, which allows them to attract prey or communicate with other sharks in the dark. Examples of deep-sea sharks include the bramble shark, cookiecutter shark, and gulper shark.
Reef sharks are found in coral reefs and other shallow, tropical waters. These sharks are typically smaller in size and have slender bodies that allow them to maneuver through the narrow spaces of the reef. Reef sharks are important predators in the ecosystem, helping to regulate the population of other marine species. Examples of reef sharks include the blacktip reef shark, whitetip reef shark, and grey reef shark.
Coastal sharks can be found in the waters near shorelines and estuaries. These sharks are often larger in size and have a more robust body shape than reef sharks. Coastal sharks are known for their impressive hunting abilities and have been known to attack humans. Examples of coastal sharks include the great white shark, tiger shark, and bull shark.
Sharks are easily recognizable due to their unique body shape. Their bodies are streamlined with a pointed snout, five to seven gill slits on the sides of their head, and a large dorsal fin on their back. Most sharks have five to seven fins, including two dorsal fins, a caudal fin, a pair of pectoral fins, and a pair of pelvic fins. Sharks have rough skin covered with dermal denticles, which are small, tooth-like scales that help reduce drag and protect the shark from injury. The denticles are arranged in a specific pattern, which is unique to each species, and can be used to identify sharks.
Sharks have a cartilaginous skeleton, which is lighter and more flexible than a bony skeleton. They have a powerful jaw that is used for biting and tearing prey, and multiple rows of sharp teeth that are constantly replaced throughout their lifetime. Sharks have two types of muscle: red and white. Red muscle is used for prolonged swimming and has a good blood supply, while white muscle is used for short bursts of speed and uses energy from the breakdown of glycogen. Sharks have a highly developed sense of smell, which is used to locate prey, and a lateral line system, which detects changes in water pressure and vibrations. They also have a special organ called the ampullae of Lorenzini, which can detect electrical fields in the water. Overall, the anatomy of sharks is well adapted to their predatory lifestyle, allowing them to efficiently hunt and survive in their marine environment.
Hunting and Feeding Habits
Sharks are carnivorous and have a diverse diet that includes fish, sea mammals, turtles, crustaceans, mollusks, plankton, and krill. Some species are opportunistic feeders, while others have specific prey preferences. For example, the great white shark is known for preying on seals and sea lions, while the whale shark feeds mainly on plankton.
Most sharks prefer to hunt at night and are solitary creatures that swim and hunt alone. However, they may gather in groups during the mating season or in areas with abundant food.
Mating and Reproduction
Sharks have various mating behaviors, ranging from courtship rituals to aggressive mating. Some species mate for life, while others mate with multiple partners. Female sharks typically have a longer gestation period than other fish, and some species can carry their young for up to two years.
Sharks give birth to live young, with some species having litters of up to 100 pups. However, some sharks lay eggs, either externally or internally. The sand tiger shark, for example, has two uteri and can carry up to 50 fertilized eggs at a time, with only one pup surviving in each uterus.
Sharks have complex migration patterns that vary depending on the species and the location. Some species, such as the great white shark, migrate long distances in search of food or breeding grounds. Other species, such as the lemon shark, have a more limited range and remain in a specific area for most of their lives.
Sharks are highly adapted to their environments and have developed unique behaviors and physical characteristics to survive. Understanding their behavior is crucial to their conservation and management, as well as for ensuring human safety in areas where sharks are present.
Sharks play a critical role in maintaining the health of the ocean’s ecosystems. Unfortunately, many species of sharks are threatened by overfishing, habitat loss, and other human activities. In this section, we will discuss the threats to shark populations and the conservation efforts being made to protect these important creatures.
Threats to Shark Populations
Sharks are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they grow slowly, mature late, and produce few offspring. Many species of sharks are also caught accidentally as bycatch in commercial fishing operations targeting other species. In addition, sharks are often targeted for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, a delicacy in some parts of the world. Shark finning, the practice of removing a shark’s fins and discarding the rest of the body at sea, is illegal in many countries but still occurs in some places.
Habitat loss is another major threat to shark populations. Coastal development, pollution, and climate change can all have negative impacts on the habitats that sharks rely on. For example, coral reefs, which are important habitats for many species of sharks, are being destroyed at an alarming rate due to rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification.
Efforts to protect sharks and their habitats are underway around the world. Many countries have implemented regulations to limit the catch of certain shark species or to ban shark finning altogether. For example, the United States has enacted the Shark Conservation Act, which requires that all sharks caught in U.S. waters be brought to shore with their fins naturally attached.
Conservation organizations are also working to raise awareness about the importance of sharks and the threats they face. The Shark Trust, for example, is a UK-based organization that works to promote the conservation of sharks and their habitats through research, education, and advocacy. The Shark Research Institute is another organization that works to promote the conservation of sharks through research, education, and advocacy.
Individuals can also play a role in shark conservation by making informed choices about the seafood they consume and by supporting organizations that work to protect sharks and their habitats. By working together, we can help to ensure that these magnificent creatures continue to thrive in our oceans for generations to come.
I’m in South Africa and heading to Jeffery’s Bay next week to buy my first board to learn how to surf. I’m terrified of sharks and not sure how to get over that, haha.. this article is great but still pretty frightened 🙁 Do you think this is going to ruin surfing for me?
I don’t think it will ruin surfing! Get some local help and advice on where the good beginner spots are around there.
I’m in Australia too. Never see sharks on the sunshine or gold coast, however I go to North Stradbroke Island every year and no joke see a shark EVERY surf when i’m there! Fortunately they just swim by and as I’m on a waveski (edibles out of the water) I just enjoy the view!
I live in Australia and I see and experience sharks all the time. A couple of weeks ago there was an attack at my favourite beach and the guy lost his hand on one arm and his arm to his elbow on th other. I’m wondering though: do you guys have an inbuilt shark warning sense for those who experience them often? It’s weird, I always know when there is a shark nearby. Anyway, yeah, don’t let anyone else’s fear of sharks get to you either, surf because you love it. Sharks have always been there, they will always be there, don’t let it rob you.
Remember you shouldn’t blame the sharks, you’d probably be aggressive too if someone jumped into your house with just speedo’s on!
im scared becaused ive never surfed and friday will be my first 🙂
Ah I too used to console myself with the odds of a lightning strike vs shark attack, that was until two years ago (30 yrs of surfing) when a 5-6 meter white pointer came up right next to me on a reef break about two hundred very long slow meters off shore. It had a dorsal fin the size of a 4wd tire and swam under and around me. Thank God it didn’t fancy fillet,o white guy none the less scared the crap out of me and now I see every bloody shadow four a quarter mile square.
Younsuddenly feel very small and helpless truth is you have one life look after it.
Surfing is awesome and sharks are sharks….God is my protector, He made it all….yes!
“…more likely to be killed in an automobile accident…”
I at least feel I have some control when in a car and can avoid an accident if necessary therefore driving doesn’t scare me, but what the heck can I do if a shark wants to attack me?
Helplessness is a rotten feeling.
“…more likely to be killed in an automobile accident…” I at least I feel I have some control over whether I get into an accident by taking evasive action but what the heck can I do if a shark wants to attack me?
Helplessness is a rotten feeling.
thanks for the info! I’m terrified of sharks and im going surfing this summer, never tried it and going with a buddy!
i think you think very positive! and you havea wonderful personality!!! thanks for the advice! 🙂 🙂 this was VERY helpful!!! please email me. beacause i want too be a surfer, and a marinebiologist.
If you have not been stalked by a shark i can tell you that you dont know the true meaning of fear yet…. I am from South Africa and have had a few brushes with quite a variety of sharks whilst out surfing, GW’s Tigers, Bulls, and reef sharks etc. All i can say is they come out of f@cking nowhere and its damn scary…it has actually ruined my surfing experience for me these days because i know that they are always around – just not always looking for a meal.
Man has reduced the sharks food source by over fishing it is no wonder then why attacks are up, the sharks are hungry and it is also why they must be fished as to keep things in balance.
So if sharks are attracted to the scent of blood, should women just completely give up surfing during that special “happy week”???
Hey guys, story! My Dad and his friend Adam were surfing at the powerplant, and they were about 8 feet apart. All of a sudden, a Spinnershark jumped out right between them, if my Dad reached out, he could have touched it. They didn’t get out though, haha. And when my older sister was little (3 years young) my dad was surfing, and when he came out of the water, a huge chunk was missing from his board. He just picked up a new one and headed right back out!
Great post! I try not to think about what lurks beneath when I’m out there surfing. It’s not always easy to do – especially if I’m in water that is gray and murky. The beach I learned to surf at, though it’s very popular, got it’s name and reputation from a string of attacks that happened in the 60s. But other than that it’s a great place to learn, because of the rolling waves that never exceed intermediate height. What’s probably more dangerous (and a higher probability rate) are rouge surfboards that can pop up and hit you in the head! Be careful when coming up from a wipeout. Always best to fold your arms over your head.
I am a newbie since September. I wanted to play with the dolphins at my beach. I “squealed” (inwardly) to the dolphins to see if I could get an invite to play. I got (inwardly) “We are fishing over here. There are predators that you don’t want to excite.” Then a stern hush.
Without making a conscious decision, I found myself on the beach wondering what just happened. Did I just get reprimanded by a dolphin? For not knowing how to act in the presence of a . . . shark?
Two days later 10/31/11 was an official siting at Beacons, SD, CA (my beach) of an 8-10 ft great white shark circling someone in chest high water at 2:30. It was the sardines.
The lesson was clear. Don’t draw attention to yourself.
BTW, learn how to use your “spidey sense”. It comes in handy in lots of ways. Trust the force.
I AM GOING TO FLORIDA WHEN I AM 11 AND I ALWAYS WANTED TO SURF BUT I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN TERRIFIED BY SHARKS LIKE SOMETIMES I WILL JUST BE LAYING OR SITING AND I WILL START FREAKING OUT ALMOST LIKE A SHARK WAS RIGHT THERE OR EVEN WHEN I AM IN THE POOL OR LAKE I WILL BE TERRIFIED OF A SHARK.ALL OF MY FRIENDS KNOW THAT I AM TERRIFIED OF SHARKS SO SOME OF THEM WILL BE LIKE DUNT DU DUNT DU DUNT DU DUNT DU EXETRA EXETRA AND I START FREAKING OUT AND SWIM TO THE EDGE OF THE POOL.SO SINCE I HAVE READ THIS I WILL PRODABLY NOT BE SO TERRIFIED OF THE BEACH, POOL, LAYING OR SITTING. THANK YOU SHARKS/THE SURFING HAND BOOK NOW I AM NOT AS SCARED ANYMORE SO THANK YOU AGAIN SHARKS/THE SURFING HAND BOOK THANK YOU!
I lived in Byron Bay for a year and surfed almost everyday and never saw a shark… I think. Such a beautiful part of the world!
Great post! I hadn’t heard that urinating could attract sharks. Good info, thanks for sharing!
too bad, that i already saw almost every single shark attack video in the world wide web… damn
I wear bright pink or neon green..I NEVER go below my head..
Shark Storyy(: Me and my friend and her brother were swimming in waist length water,adn my friend cut her self on somthin so she was brising off the blood and 10 seconds later her brother was screaming”SHARK!!”My friend said liar i said no he aind look down! a shark was right beside it..she was frozen..it tried to bite her but she jumped so far she reached the shore it wasnt a very big she..about 2feet long..Scary
Heaps of Sharks around Byron Bay, great whites too 🙂
I have always wanted to learn to surf but I’m so scared of sharks. I use to go in the ocean constantly without thinking about them but it seems like you hear a lot more about attacks these days. Going to Byron Bay OZ in December and really want to try surfing. Just hope I can keep sharks out of my head and my limbs out of sharks!
Thanks for all the info. I’m about to buy my first board and was really exited, ’til yesterday I started looking for shark attacks info, and was not bad. But when I went to pictures I panic! But reading this website sat in me real good, and the advices are great. Hey, mother nature gives us the best, but also gives us the test. Thanks for all the great info!!!
I love surfing I just went surfing yesterday I totally belive all of this! HANG LOOSE!!
sharks are all around north carolina beaches. you see them in the water all the time, esp around dawn and dusk sessions. going back to the basics kiddies, DONT PANIC and remain CALM, try and surf with a buddy at all times, and dont just watch the sets come rolling in, situational awarness is key. if they start to circle, paddle with smooth, even strokes with a purpose back to the beach. Other wise, enjoy the nature so few get to experience. And no, it is not funny to lash a raw steak to the new guy when he is paddling out as “Initiation”.
Honestly, Jaws scared the crap out of me but I would go see it any way. It’s a classic!
oops sorry that should be UN true!
the don’t pee bit which I had heard of is true, but mythbusters did an investigation into this, seems it doesn’t attract sharks, but not great for wetsuit odours in any case!
ok about the ” dont buy colour contrasting wetsuits thing ” wouldn’t it be better to wear those kinds of colours ? seals are grey/black not neon yellow and black , i think sharks would look at you more mistakenly if you were wearing just an all black wetsuit ?
nah! it’s a slang variant. Bologna in context just looks wrong!
you spelled “baloney” inncorectly.
I had a couple of “encounters” with sharks in my surfing days. The first time, I was standing on a sandbar at the shorebreak resting. The wave hit, and I looked down to see a dark shadow about 5 feet long swim between me and my buddy. This was sandy, Texas water, but I could make out the shark in waist deep water.
The second was at Freeport, TX. I was paddling to catch a wave and my hand brushed against what felt like sandpaper under the water. I knew what it was, and could barely stay on my board. Needless to say, I bodyboarded all the way to shore with no hands or feet in the water again.
I think that sting rays is much moore scary than sharks. Have you ever stept on a sting ray? Well, its fuxxing hurts!!
One day I was surfing with my buddy at Kaneohe Bay, Oahu. My buddy says “Check it out” and pointed down. A 10ft. Hammerhead shark was swimming right between us. He was so long it took him awhile to swim by!
I always thought I would freak out if I saw a shark in the water but believe it our not, I didn’t. It was actually very interesting. I think I was more frightened later on than when it was actually happening. Weird…
My buddy and I paddled in slowly and caught the first wave we could. I remember body boarding in because I didn’t want to take the chance of falling!
We set on the beach and watched the shark swim around through the breakers. After a while he moved on. True story….
Great info. I’ll keep it in mind if I ever go travelling but for now I’m o.k coz chances of seeing a shark let alone being attacked is very rare in Ireland
Correction on my earlier post. The shark electrical field sensory system is called the ampullae of Lorenzini. The other sensory systems, are the lateral line (pressure differential sense), hearing, sight and their incredible sense of smell. To say the shark’s eyesight causes them to mistake us for seals is giving short shrift to the complex system of environmental awareness and analysis that the sharks possess. They are not just a swimming appetite that has existed for multimillions of years. Have fun, be safe.
I recently took a Marine Biology course during which we discussed shark attack behavior. The latest thinking by some shark researchers is that the sharks know exactly what we are when we are in the water. They have 5 separate sensory systems by which they determine what is near them and what it is. Not the least of which is their ability to make electrical impulse “pictures” of any living thing that is near them with their pits of Lorenzoni. Hence their ability to hunt in murky water. Recent studies of agressive shark behavior just prior to attacks seems to indicate that humans are attacked because they are perceived by the shark as competition for the shark’s food supply not because they are mistaken for seals. The advice to stay away from seals is good. Especially, in light of the recent fatal attack on a woman at Avila Beach who was swimming with seals. Put zebra stripes on your board if it will make you feel good, but the shark probably already knows what you are long before it sees the stripes. Trust your gut, but keep sliding.
If you surf the west coast U.S., you can find out about shark activity via the Shark Research Committee (http://www.sharkresearchcommittee.com/ – see the “Pacific Coast Shark News” link). I’m always amazed at how often sharks and surfers mix it up.
i think a zebra striped wet suit would be good because that new “shark camo” product is like a sticker that you put on the bottom of your board to keep sharks away from you. They stay away from poisonous fish like lion fish and other fish that all have the stripes on them which what i have read they keep the sharks away
Hey! but i’ve heard that the colors that mean danger in the sea are black and yellow. It kinda means that the animal is very poisoning.. This makes a lot of sense to me….
I agree 110% 🙂 I posted this as a link on my “Save the Sharks!!!!” group on facebook check it out and add if you want, shaka shaka!!!! 🙂