Most Likely to be Attacked by a Shark: You

Statistics Prove Surfers Are The Most Common Shark Attack Victims

| posted on February 16, 2011

A predator that needs no introduction, the Great White shark has been responsible for the majority of attacks in California over the last decade. Photo: AP Images

We’ve all thought about sharks when surfing. Most of us have been asked by a member of the non-surfing community, “Aren’t you scared of sharks out there?” or “Have you ever seen a shark?” and for the majority of us, that answer is probably “no.” But thanks to Spielberg’s Jaws and Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, the thought of Great White sharks will occasionally creep into our heads, and maybe for good reason.

According to recent statistics released by the Shark Research Committee, the last decade saw a 73 percent increase in shark attacks compared to the 1990s. Whereas the ’90s saw 35 unprovoked shark attacks along the California and Oregon coastline (60 percent of which involved surfers), from 2000 to present day there were 56 unprovoked shark attacks, 70 percent of which involved surfers. The vast majority of all shark attacks on surfers took place in 1 to 3 feet of water, with the average age of all attacked persons being 29.

The Shark Research Committee also reported that of the West Coast attacks, the Great White was either positively identified or highly suspected in 90 percent of the cases. Great White sharks, the most feared among West Coast surfers, generally reside in the territory that extends from Imperial Beach, San Diego, up to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

The good news, if there can be good news when we’re talking about a deadly predator mauling humans, is that of the 56 attacks of the last decade, only four were fatal. And for what it’s worth, there has only been one fatal shark attack involving a surfer on the West Coast.

For surfers in Hawaii and Florida, things aren’t looking much better. In both states, surfers account for the majority of shark attack victims, with Tiger Sharks being the primary culprit in Hawaii, and the Bull Shark being the most dangerous in Florida, which incidentally is the coastline with more shark attacks than anywhere else in the world.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve all seen our local lineups get more and more crowded. Based upon sheer numbers, it makes sense the number of shark attacks would be on the rise. But keep in mind, you have a better chance of winning the California State Lottery, being struck by lightning, or being stung to death by bees than you do being attacked by a shark. –Mike Dimond

Update: A surfer was recently attacked while surfing on Reunion Island. Click here for more info.

And in honor of our collective fascination with sharks, here are a few shark videos:

Thousands of sharks recently spotted off the coast of Palm Beach, Florida:

Chuck Patterson’s close encounter with juvenile Great Whites off San Onofre:

  • jess

    the sad thing is is that those thousands of sharks spotted off palm beach are there every year!! but now everyone is worried, wtf, these stupid tourists really need to go back to new york!!

  • Alex

    “But keep in mind, you have a better chance of winning the California State Lottery, being struck by lightning, or being stung to death by bees than you do being attacked by a shark.”

    This statistic may be true for the average human, say someone living inland that rarely ventures to the beach, but I would like to know? Does it take into account the fact that most actual surfers spend somewhere between a few hours a week to few hours a day in the ocean? I would suggest that if you surf 4 hours daily your chances of getting attacked will be much higher than winning the State Lottery…

    • Teresa

      Now I like your attitude!

  • Panama Tere

    uyyyy that video freaks me out…I have been surfing blacks a lot lately and I have been getting this super strong feeling that there is something in the water…could it be?
    Does surfing during the time of the month seriously attract sharks?

    • rae

      stop it. i never thought about that o_O

    • Teresa

      ok, first of all forget about the video. The time sharks attack is in the month of October, time early morning and evening. 1-3 ft of water. Either Tiger, White, or bull.



    • Teresa

      I get how people don’t like them but I’m really trying to surf and OBVIOUSLY sharks are involved but who cares they are part of the world and besides I’d rather get bitten by a shark then suffer with dinosaurs.

  • Archy


  • rae

    I’m 17 and I’ve been surfing all my life. Ive watched shark week every single year, but it never scared me… until the day that i actually came into contact with a shark in our NJ water… worst moment ever. i saw my life flash before my eyes as it just swam past me. I still tell myself not to be scared, and it usually works, but these statistics freak me out.

  • Sean

    Comparing 2 things (90s vs 00s) does not show a trend. How about some data from before the 90s?
    The other stats are interesting tho.

    • Teresa

      I just did a project on Sharks and Surfers but really shark attacks happend so rarely that some people just act as if they don’t exist. 1900, don’t know about but i’m just saying it happens rarely

  • slayer

    good stuff.

    Archy can suck a fat one.

  • Randell

    The man in the grey suit is always watching.

  • e-man

    Of course surfers have a higher risk of being attacked, because they spend a hell of a lot more time in the water than your average beachgoer…

  • Poopsmith420

    Shark Hunter is a retard, I hope your ass gets eaten

    • Teresa

      Really? ok come on… people blow up between idiotic stuff that rarely ever happens.

  • Marcus Fender

    That footage off Sano is beautiful. What a beautiful fish. Hope when it’s my time, I feed one of those; rather than rot in a box or roast in a grill.

  • david Bracey

    and don’t pee in your wetsuit!

  • Kimo

    The vast majority of attacks were in 1-3 feet of water? Meters maybe? I can’t see a great white rising up from the depths of three feet. Yes, driving to surf is the most dangerous thing we do especially with boneheads who think they can safely text while driving. Boycott shark meat. Boycott any restaurant that even serves shark fin soup. My deal is I won’t eat sharks so long as they don’t eat me.

  • Robyn

    Take a serious look at the Shark Shield. See it on youtube or go to their website. Decide for yourself if it works. It got me back inthe water.

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  • Cyborg

    Great conclusion! I feel better about going back out there this year.

  • Stephanie

    I have been going down to Palm Beach, Florida since I was about 6 years old. I use to go for Summer break (the entire break) every holiday, fall break, Christmas break.. you name it, I’m there. Now I live there.
    I surf and snorkle A TON. I have surfed with the sharks there and snorkled with them, however they are too busy doing other things because they are mostly reef sharks. When you first see them there is always that scared reaction because they are SHARKS haha 🙂
    But they are beautiful creatures & we should not kill them or want to cause any harm to them.
    Normally when they attack it’s because they smell blood.. yes even that little tiny scratch that you just picked. It doesnt matter how much blood it is, if they are close by they can smell it.
    SO please do us all a favor if you cut yourself on a shell or a rock or beer bottle top or anything that you picked stay out of the water.. and girls please stay out of the water during your T.O.M. aslo.. you would be doing us all a favor.


  • Teresa

    I’m 10 actually my bday is in 2 days and i’m starting to surf, sharks dont scare me but if anything ever happend it would be hard. I’m a track star, advanced sailor, surfer, martial artist, and an explorer of new places, things would be well hard it would defenitly be hard and i wold just try to figure out how to do stuff in a different way.

  • Teresa

    I just saw SoulSurfer a while ago and it was fantastic because she never gave up hope. My friends and I loved it! We’ve been surfing ever since, and now we’re getting surfboards. We started out with boogie boards we skipped skimboards. That’s just really bad. My brother broke his wrist doing that

  • Jonathan Gomez

    I believe the Shark Research Comittee’s stats say that most shark attacks happen in 1-3 FATHOMS not feet. Being about 2-6 yards.

  • richard cuencas

    Looking for a friend her name is Jewel and she was attack while serfing aroud 70-80 need to get in touch please

  • richard cuencas

    Yes looking foa friend she attack while serfing in calefonia aroud 1970-80

  • elsy

    lol more people have died at disneyland then by shark attack!

  • daniela

    people really just need to stop be afraid of going in the water because of sharks WTF JUST LIVE YOUR LIFE!!! They deserve to live there lives to!!

  • Kyra

    He’s on a paddle board!
    If that were me I would have followed these instructions:
    1: crap my pants
    2: GTFO of the water

  • Kyra

    If that were me while I was surfing I would probably be hyperventilating because I have a 6’6 surf board and it sinks about 3 inches when I’m laying on it waiting for a set.


    correction as of 11/26 2012 there have now been 5 fatalities on the west coast since 2008—2 in mexico and 3 now in california with 2 of those being at the same DAMN beach. our nation does nothing to protect its citizens!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it is time to revolt with outrage against the insane inhuman religion of the conservationists which actually worship the shark. in fact they would rather see a human be killed by a shark than to see the shark be killed. this absurd reality has been upheld by the CA state legislature which makes me sick to my stomach–read my previous comment for more.

  • 1 of 1500

    When taking risk of shark encounters into consideration, the study group in question is not all human beings, but only those who frequent the ocean. So if I live in New Mexico and don’t surf, I have a better chance of getting hit by falling airplane parts than being attacked by a shark. However if I live in San Diego and surf 3-4 times per week, the risk goes up significantly.

  • Nikki

    Ok I’m 13 and I’ve just started surfing, I live in South Florida and I have never seen a shark here yet, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there believe me they are I just don’t see them. EVERYTIME I go surfing the thought of a shark crosses my mind. My dad has been surfing for over 40 years, thats a really long time, and he has never seen a shark while surfing. Every surfer knows the dangers when they’re out there but if every surfer starts getting paranoid surfing wouldn’t be fun. It is more likely that a coconut falls on someones head than getting attacked by a shark. If I surf 4 hours a day 3 days a week my chances are still VERY slim. Millions of sharks are killed every year, and only about 3 people a year are killed by sharks a year….that is disgusting that countries like Japan and China kill so many innocent sharks just for fins to sell in their markets. I love going on cruises I’ve been on 15 🙂 but on my last cruise which was 2 months ago they were serving shark as an appetizer, I started to cry. I don’t think its right they don’t deserve to be killed. We share the ocean with them it is THEIR territory not ours they have every right to be there. Without sharks our oceans would be out of wack, we need them here. We need to protect them.

  • John Michel

    Has anyone ever been attacked by a shark during a Pro Surfing contest?