As Unlikely as a shark encounter while surfing is......it is best to practice caution where possible and know how to handle it if an encounter occurs.
AVOIDING SHARK ENCOUNTERS
TIPS AND TRICKS
Avoid surfing at night, at dawn and in low light conditions.
This is generally feeding and hunting time for sharks. Often they exhibit more agressive territorial behaviour at this time.....they may see you as competition.
Also the lack of visibility from below the surface may make it easier for them to mistake you for their prey.
Avoid river mouths and channels of murky water
These are areas where food, waste and fish flow out into the ocean making it a prime resource of prey and scavenging. Avoid surfing after heavy rain or in areas of soil run off; this causes the water to be murky and will make it more difficult for sharks to determine what you are.
PIC by Lauren Smith
NEVER ignore warning signs, flags or official advice.
On beaches and breaks where large preditory sharks are known to swim, always respect the warnings and advice of life guards and official shark spotters.
Just because you cant see a shark at the time you enter the water doesn't mean its not there, warning signs exist for a reason.
Beware of drop-offs and sandbars
Often these are areas that are ideal conditions for surfing but they are favorite feeding areas for sharks who like to ambush prey from below thre sandbar.
Get out of the water if there is a shark sighting
Regardless of how epic the waves are, leave the ocean until it is safe to return and the shark has left the region.
Avoid erratic movements and splashing around
For a shark, too much splashing around in the water resembles a prey in distress.
Always stay calm in the water where possible and do not swim with dogs, as their swimming movements also sound like prey to a shark.
Dont wear overly bright colours or shiney objects.
Sharks are attracted to bright or contrasting colours, especially yellow and orange, so best avoid wearing these. Also wearing a watch or jewelrey can confuse a shark; as the sun hits these in the water, they can resemble fish.
Never surf alone if you are in known shark habitat.
Surfing with a buddy or in a group will dramitically reduce the chance of a shark bite, Sharks are less likely to approach you if you are with others and become more inquisitive if you are alone.
Dont surf if you are bleeding or hurt yourself.
Sharks have incredible sense; including hightened smell and taste, Even though sharks are not especially attracted to human blood, it is best to leave the water if you are bleeding from an open wound. Also as any unusual chemical presence can intrigue a shark; it is best to avoid urinating in your wet suit too much.
Stay away from areas where fishing, dead fish or sewage are present.
Sharks can often be scavengers and love to feed on dead animals. Also fishermen often throw bait or discarded fish into the water (this really attracts sharks) and attracts bait fish in large groups; which again in turn also attracts sharks.
PIC by Nick Corkill
What To Do If You Encounter A Shark:
Don't take your eyes off the shark.
Sharks like many animals; are less likely to approach and bite if they know you have seen them, it is vital to maintain eye contact if you can. Sharks also have several different methods of approach, sometimes they swim right up to you, sometimes they circle for awhile and sometimes they sneak up from behind. To be able to defend against the shark, you must know where it is, so make every effort to watch the animal, until the situation is safer for you.
Stay Calm and still
This sounds a lot easier said than done but it is very important.
Like many predators, shark get a sense of your fear and the chemicals you excrete when nervous; this will only arouse their senses and may provoke a bite. You also need to keep cool in order to analyze the next few critical seconds to make the right decisions that will save your life. Do Not Panic. If a shark is approaching, you will never be able to out swim it in open water. Instead, stay still, stay calm and take the next steps to defend yourself. Stay with your board at all costs.
If possible get into a position where you are able to defend your front and sides of your body. Do not turn your back to a shark.
Try to avoid using your hands to push the shark away as you may end up with a wound from teeth or shark skin. Use your surfboard to create a barrier between you and the shark and where nessisary use it to hit the shark on the nose or gills or eyes.
Dont play dead
If a shark bites into you and drags you underneath water, playing dead will not help. Get as aggressive as you can by clawing and punching at its eyes and gills, this will most likely not hurt the shark but could provide a moment of surprise where it lets you go.
Stop the bleeding
If you are unfortunate enough to get bitten, get out of the water as quickly and efficiently as you can.
Most sharks who bite surfers do so out of curiosity or mistaken identity - thinking that you are prey. Once the shark realizes that you are not its usual high fat meals, they usually let go.
In fact, fatal shark attacks are usually due to the injury sustained from the exploritory bite and not from getting devoured. It’s critical you get out as quickly as possible and stop the bleeding, especially if you are bleeding from an artery.
Get help quickly
Find a lifeguard , bystander or anyone with a phone and get immediate medical attention. Most surfers survive shark bites if medical care is administered quickly and bleeding is stopped.