Article

East Coast Shark Tracking

How an app is changing surfing on the right coast

| posted on January 31, 2013

Shark tracking: A new website to check as part of the pre-surf ritual?

If you’re on the U.S. East Coast, and you have an Internet connection, then you’ve become aware of the “great white shark tracker” phenomenon that has been sweeping the coast over the past five or six months. If you haven’t seen the site yet, visit it here.

Now, we’re all pretty aware that yes, sharks are out there. And we’d be fools for thinking that we’re doing anything other than venturing out into the shark’s territory every time we paddle out. But for the first time in my life, I have seen surfers pull the plug on a session because there were online rumors that a shark was approaching.

Word spread like wildfire that “Mary Lee” and her tracking device had pinged in the area and was swimming up the coast from Florida. For the past few months, she’s gone up and down the coast from Providence to St. Augustine. And now there’s a website that lets you check in on her location every day. Up-to-the-minute details on the predator’s location have sent many East Coast surfers running for the safety of their MacBooks. Meanwhile, the brave, foolish, or technology-deprived continue to go about their way.

During a recent session, I watched as surfers scrambled for their last wave as if surfing a heat against Joel Parkinson. This struck me as odd, especially since sharks along the East Coast aren’t anything new. Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve spent time on both coasts and have surfed some pretty sharky areas, and I haven’t seen a reaction from the local surfing community quite like this before.

Surfers are checking their phones not for a tide chart or swell report, but for the latest shark update. Maybe this is a good thing–local tourist towns up and down the coast would love to know they can protect their visitors and sound the alarms, and surfers with shark paranoia can sleep a little easier knowing that there are no sharks (with tracking devices on) in their areas. Then again, surfers seem to be running scared at the slightest hint of a rumored shark alert, meaning lineups are often half as full when a report shows a marked shark is in the area.

At the very least, this new technology has given us something to think about. Will you spend your time obsessing about the sharks the same way you do about the tides, swell, and weather? Or will you take your chances and just say “Screw it, I’m out there”?

  • Adam

    The number of untagged sharks is so much larger then tagged that only a fool would believe that because the app says there is no tagged sharks in the area he is safe for sure.

  • West

    Watch out for bigfoots in the surf too
    http://www.kandui.com/2013/01/surf-bigfoot-2.html

  • Matt

    “I have seen surfers pull the plug on a session because there were online rumors that a shark was approaching.”

    … and every one of them is an idiot. Your chances of getting attacked are statistically far less than a single percent point. You’re more likely to drown, win the lottery, or crap a golden egg. Feel free to keep out of the water. More waves for me.

    “Meanwhile, the brave, foolish, or technology-deprived continue to go about their way.”

    Foolish? You must be f-ing kidding me. The foolish ones aren’t the people getting in the water they’re the idiots listening to this stupid post and app as though somehow doing so will prevent them from possibly ever being attacked.

    Usually the content on Surfer is relatively solid but this is, by far, the most uneducated, pointless, and misinformative article I’ve ever read on the site or in the magazine. Get your s*** together Ray and stop posting stupid articles like this.

    • Kooks McGee

      the odds of getting bit by a shark if you are a surfer are astronomically higher than for the average person, even with the odds being so much higher, the chances are still really low, especially on the east coast. I know more surfers who have been struck by lightning than I know surfers who have been bit by a shark.

  • Mike

    Many years ago I was at Malibu and the lifeguard called everyone out of the water. He personally saw a 10 ft great white near the pier. Half the people left. The other half went back out and surfed.

  • http://www.grovecanada.ca Sari Grove

    A more useful app would be one for the sharks to alert them when humans are around…

  • jim

    Yep…. East Coast. No waves here. Only big, man-eating, cold-water sharks. Stay on your laptop… onshore… safe and warm. Yeah!

  • Marko

    If it dwindles down the crowds, I’m all for this.. In fact, we need more trackers here at the west coast

  • Jake

    Who cares.

  • Dan

    Well said Matt.

  • Dan

    Well said Matt

  • Scott

    Right on Adam! They have tagged what, like 60 out of thousands of white sharks. Who cares, put your stupid phone down and get in the water you pussies.

  • Aaron

    I wish I could falsely report a shark at my break if it means more people wont surf because they are scared. If they’re scared then they probably dont know how small the chances of getting attacked are but who cares thats more waves for muah

  • Tony

    It’s also important to note that according to mapping on this website, “Genie,” one of the great white sharks being tracked on the east coast, got out of the water at some point and walked across North Carolina. Watch North Carolinians!

  • Leor Itzhak

    Just came back from a week in Montauk . I do paddle boarding , my board is a beautiful 10’6″ board .About 250 feet of the shoreI spotted couple of fins in the water. At first I thought I was delusionle , after taking a second look I reaslise there where 2 sharks circling in the water. STUIPDLY I thought hitting the water with my paddle would scare them a way , thank G-D it did “somebody was looking down at me”. the sharks came toward me and went under and disappeared . I rushed to the shore the to warn the life guard. At this point the adrenaline in my body was rushing. I will go bac defiantly I will watch the

  • Leor Itzhak

    Just came back from a week in Montauk . I do paddle boarding , my board is a beautiful a 10’6″ board .This Thursday bout 250 feet of the shore spotted couple of fins in the water. At first I thought I was delusionle , after taking a second look I realized there where 2 sharks circling in the water “GOD help me” was the only thought in my mind. STUPIDLY I thought hitting the water with my paddle would scare them a way , thank G-D it did “somebody was looking down at me”. the sharks came toward me and went under and disappeared . I rushed to the shore the to warn the life guard , he wasn’t fazed and confirmed earlier reports . At this point the adrenaline in my body was rushing but I didn’t loose my cool the reason again STUPIDLY I thought they can’t get me because I am on the board above the the water. After this experience I will defiantly go back in to the water, But I’m absolutely will check the Shark Tracking! No doubt !
    This time-of-year the warm water attacks the sharks closer to the shore. Once your see sharks in the water AND you are on the board facing them–you will change your mind. I enjoy life to much to lose them , I love the water and want to enjoy the as long as I can.