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