Shark Encounter - what should you do?

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 started the topic in Friday, 24 Jul 2015 at 9:23am

Recent events have me thinking. What SHOULD we do if we encounter a shark while out surfing?

Let's discuss it.

I think there are two separate types of 'encounter':

1. The "attack" - where a shark attacks without warning, and

2. An 'encounter' - where you see a shark and can take some type of action.

It's the 'encounter' type I am keen to develop a plan for ...

wingnut2443's picture
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wingnut2443 Friday, 24 Jul 2015 at 9:25am

Actually, I have a plan, just really curious to know if it is the right one!

I found this article: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/shark-survival-skills-what-to-do-if-you-enco...

In it, the point is made:

A commonly-repeated piece of advice is to punch the shark in the nose, but some experts were skeptical. "Have you ever tried punching underwater?" Shiffman asked. "You don't move very quickly."

Good point?

50young's picture
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50young Friday, 24 Jul 2015 at 11:04am

Paddle faster than your mates

surfstarved's picture
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surfstarved Friday, 24 Jul 2015 at 1:09pm

The few times I've shared the water with the man in the grey suit I've used my own patented GTFOOT technique.

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thermalben Friday, 24 Jul 2015 at 4:20pm

Every time I've seen something suss, I just quietly turn and paddle to shore, trying not to draw too much attention to myself. At the end of the day, if you're on the radar there's not much you can do.

I'd be prepared to give it a punch too but unless you're surfing a crystal clear sand bottom break you're not going to know whether it's in thumping range or not until it pokes its head out of the water.

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reecen Friday, 24 Jul 2015 at 5:19pm

If you run you must be food right?
Hold your ground and don't act like food!
If it is buzzing you and not attacking chances are it is trying to work out if it should "taste" you, if you turn tail and thrash for the shore there is the distinct possibility you are going to get it excited.

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wingnut2443 Saturday, 25 Jul 2015 at 8:49am

surfstarved wrote: The few times I've shared the water with the man in the grey suit I've used my own patented GTFOOT technique.

On first reading, I'm thinking to myself, wtf? GTFOOT ... Oh, yeah, he must give 'em a kick in the head, then it just dawned on me... you're getting out of there!

Don't mind me, I've been dosed on cold and flu medicines for the past week.

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wingnut2443 Saturday, 25 Jul 2015 at 8:51am

reecen wrote: ... If it is buzzing you and not attacking chances are it is trying to work out if it should "taste" you ...

That's the scenario I'm looking to refine my approach after seeing how the shark did just that with Mick.

wingnut2443's picture
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wingnut2443 Saturday, 25 Jul 2015 at 9:06am

OK, so call BS on any of this, it's all old school fisho's, boaties and surfers knowledge I've picked up over the years, but have had the opportunity to discuss with surfers who have used in situations with an encounter with a shark. By encounter, I mean, they saw it taking an interest in them.

So, first one, is stick ya head under the water and yell at it ... yell as loud as you can. Yes, it won't "hear" but the fact this "thing" it is sussing out sticks part of itself under the water and gives off some weird vibration is enough to spook it ... after all, they are generally timid creatures, which is what I've always been told, although that REMUS footage sure as shit shows some aggressive behavior.

The next, is the open hand smack onto the deck of ya surfboard ... as hard as fuck, bring up a red welt if ya can type hit, or even several ... again, it's the unknown vibration it gives off, and the fact this 'thing' the shark is sussing is making some weird movements, etc causes the shark to think twice.

The, balls in ya mouth one, is to get off ya board and swim under water ... obviously only of use in clear water, but again, it is about changing the 'thing' the shark is sussing out. By getting off ya board, you no longer look like a turtle or seal (we've all seen those pictures from underwater looking up) and with your arms and legs out wide, your movements are again weird for the shark, so it is less likely to mistake you for food.

As soon as practical, slowly catch a wave in. No thrashing, No panic. If you feel yourself panic and heart rate jump, breathe calmly, and try the first two, especially the first one above ... it does help to drop the panic.

Now, I don't surf super sharky waters ... my encounters have all been in Mid to Northern NSW, and 90% at a rivermouth with waves breaking a far way out, so there was a gutter paddle back to shore. The gutter paddle was always the panic but, but taken slowly, and I've never been that far out on my own, so have always had a pack of at least 3 of us paddle in together.

Beach break encounters have all been just out past the break, and in almost every case there were frequent waves to catch back to shore.

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wesley Saturday, 25 Jul 2015 at 2:41pm

Some poor bugger was just taken scallop diving off Maria Island. Very sad.

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udo Saturday, 25 Jul 2015 at 4:50pm

And a death by GWS at JBay today.

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dandandan Saturday, 25 Jul 2015 at 5:35pm

A year or so ago Surfing World had a great few pages from Greenough discussing his 6 most memorable shark encounters and how to handle them. Seemed like pretty solid advice; remain calm, take note of where you are in the water and what stands between you and safety (kelp bed, deep gutter etc), try and keep the shark from coming underneath you, if it comes towards you then go towards it. Coming from a bloke who gets about on an inflatable mat.. I don't know how he kept it together. The one time I saw a decent size shark I bolted for the sand, breaking all the rules

My new approach is to give up shortboards and start riding 7' and bigger boards.

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sypkan Saturday, 25 Jul 2015 at 5:42pm

My new approach is to give up shortboards and start riding 7' and bigger boards.

pretty sure that big board was a big contributor to the confidence for that guy paddling out after the fanning incident.

I certainly feel better surfing alone when im on a big board

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prothero Saturday, 25 Jul 2015 at 7:39pm

Good Thread, Wingnut,,,,,stay calm, and alert to whats goin on around you( where is the shark) stand your ground and dont act like pray, ,,,,often they are timid and curious they may have a bite.if it feels right. slowly leave the water...the ones that smash you may have been circling you for a while......I read the sharks with scratches and chunks taken out of them tend to be less timid, I guess theyve come through a few battles with sea lions and the like

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velocityjohnno Saturday, 25 Jul 2015 at 8:31pm

Yeah +1 on the big boards, I wonder if it makes 'em think twice. My encounter was alone on a 9', certainly had a lot more paddle speed than I otherwise would have had. Which was good as I was a fair way off shore. OT: what do you do? I dunno, I have noble ideas that I would behave in a certain manner; when in the actual situation the lower brain flight response was dominant. Not particularly heroic but I got to shore. Now in WA and planning sessions with an eye to both Swellnet's forecast and Sharksmart's lagging data and my fisheries officer-experienced bro's recommendations of likely behaviour... we're not in the 90's any more!

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garnget Sunday, 26 Jul 2015 at 1:00am

It would be interesting to find out if mick had a slash in his wettie prior to the attack. Just the way the noah beelined towards him.

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groundswell Sunday, 26 Jul 2015 at 3:34am

The worst encounter i had was at Aussie pipe, early pre sunrise surf before the hordes got onto it.
(actually was surfing for a few hours before sunrise)

Something knocked me off my board as i was just paddling into a wave, at first i though the tube pinched or there was backwash but there's never backwash at aussie pipe.
Then i look at my feet ass i hit the reef. paddle out to the channel and a large fin is swimming around looked just like the fanning shark rear fin.
I looked at it thinking and sort of counting, up for ten seconds thats not a dolphin the fin is BIG and its been up for too long.just slowly turned around trying to feel strong and paddled into that sketchy end piece of reef at the end thats always hard to get up onto, while waiting for my legs to be chomped off.
It didnt happen and started getting my wetty off. a couple of people turned up and i told them but they paddled out anyway.
Withing half an hour it was packed with 30 -40 people.
Have not night surfed since.
I think the slow paddle in helped.

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halleys-comet Sunday, 26 Jul 2015 at 12:12pm

After an 8 - 10ft blue whaler chomped on my 7'4" minimal, (and yes some of my mates said it was karma for riding one of these boats.. lol), whilst I was sitting on it, up north in WA, I yelled out; FAARRRRKKKK and SHHAAARRRRKKKK to alert some of the other crew in the water, I did 2 panic paddles towards shore, looked behind me, then thought rationally/self coached; don't panic, don't look behind (if it strikes again I'm fucked) and slow paddled to shore, missing 2 sets, eventually paddling over shallow reef onto the beach, heart pumping, alive, unscathed and whole! teeth marks on the board confirming the size of the beast.

frog's picture
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frog Sunday, 26 Jul 2015 at 12:58pm

An early account of the natives in the Gilbert Islands in abut 1920 dealing with Tiger Sharks was that they would swim directly at them to scare them off as standard practice.

They routinely did this when in the water and often killed Tiger Sharks by a quick swim sideways when they charged and then slit the sharks belly wide open with a knife. This again was a no big deal thing to get the claspers to take back as an aphrodisiac and as proof of manhood. Proof that the unexpected and aggression make them think twice. Easy to say, hard to do.

Simple stuff would be legs up, try to keep your board between you and the shark. Punching, poking eyes, ripping gills if really close. Easy!?

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surfer281049 Sunday, 26 Jul 2015 at 1:57pm

After getting sized up at Lennox Heads by a large Tiger the week before a fatality at Coffs .. I invested in a Sharkshied Surf7 device .Doesn't affect the surfboards performance 7 hrs battery life so a full weekend is covered without recharge needed. It gave me confidence to continue surfing amidst all the attacks and encounters around Ballina the last few months. On the day the beaches reopened after our Japanese surfbuddy died at Shelly Beach.a large Great White circled me and 3 others at nearby Flat Rock. When it got closer it turned quickly and tore off out to sea..Proof enough for me that it got zapped..After Mick Fannings incident I noticed that Sharkshields are sold out at most outlets. Get one .its a a bit of insurance not a guarantee.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Sunday, 26 Jul 2015 at 3:35pm

Massive bait balls off flat Rock today. 4 m GWS spotted Friday. All Ballina beaches closed today after more sightings.

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Blowin Sunday, 26 Jul 2015 at 3:53pm

Catching any fish Freeride ?

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freeride76 Sunday, 26 Jul 2015 at 6:13pm

Yep heaps
You?

Blowin's picture
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Blowin Sunday, 26 Jul 2015 at 8:15pm

No fish for me mate.

All work , no play at the moment.

Just like to keep my finger on the pulse.

What have you been into ?

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freeride76 Sunday, 26 Jul 2015 at 10:01pm

Blowin's picture
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Blowin Sunday, 26 Jul 2015 at 10:10pm

The jewel in the crown.

Nice work.

That'll keep the larder stocked for a while.

Must have felt good to see that beauty shimmer to the surface.

wingnut2443's picture
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wingnut2443 Monday, 27 Jul 2015 at 12:06am

Nice one Steve. There about up here too ;)

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benski Monday, 27 Jul 2015 at 6:40pm

A few years ago in PNG, I was in the water with a mate and a young local kid, when a large brown shape moved slowly towards the young bloke from below the surface. Basically coming up on a diagonal to check him out. It was brown enough that I thought it looked like a wobbegong or something so wasn't too worried. The kid did a massive open handed slap on the water to really generate a deep wumping sound and swept his hand fairly deep beside him. It disappeared instantly and he just smiled and said, "shark". He carried on surfing so we did too.

Dunno if it really works, but it seemed pretty effective in that moment, so if I'm feeling mildly sketched out I'll do that a couple of times.

The one time I got checked out by a shark (circled on dusk at Byron), I had the most zen-like concentration I've ever had. I just started paddling in slowly and deliberately, with no fear or panic, just a completely absorbed focus on getting to the beach. I could think of nothing else, but it was completely calm concentration. Really weird, but cool, feeling. And it was followed by a hefty adrenaline rush once on the beach.

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indo-dreaming Monday, 27 Jul 2015 at 8:25pm

What about a small diving knife strapped to your leg?…could this be done safely and still allow movement?

Or maybe they need to have a very hard plastic spike that sits in the kick tail bit of your tail pad with a little string loop you can pull to stab, although i know how hard sharks are to stab their skin is super tough.

Or something you can give an electric shock with?

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crustt Tuesday, 28 Jul 2015 at 7:05am

I like your thinking indo but I would be to tempted to use the knife to put a nick in the leggie of anyone who snaked me or give him a zap on the foot as he paddled inside of me:-))
Bringing weapons out into the surf may result in more injuries than from shark attacks.

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wesley Tuesday, 28 Jul 2015 at 7:43am

Fuck you could have some fun with a shark zapper...

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indo-dreaming Tuesday, 28 Jul 2015 at 9:09am

crustt wrote: I like your thinking indo but I would be to tempted to use the knife to put a nick in the leggie of anyone who snaked me or give him a zap on the foot as he paddled inside of me:-))
Bringing weapons out into the surf may result in more injuries than from shark attacks.

Yeah I'm sure your right.

indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming Tuesday, 28 Jul 2015 at 9:12am

I wonder if for comps like at J-bay they could actually use bouys that send out strong electronic currents or whatever they are to keep sharks away?

I know those ones you wear don't have a very wide protection range though, i wonder if its possible to use something similar as a shark deterrent?

udo's picture
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udo Tuesday, 28 Jul 2015 at 9:22am

Indo , Google - Gold coast Bulletin : Bill Morrison.

Balance's picture
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Balance Wednesday, 29 Jul 2015 at 2:55pm

how about anti shark artwork on boards...or wetsuits...am sure I have seen a story or two on this over the years...has anyone put any thought into these options...or given them a go...would it work???

I think I heard as a grom that Mitchell Rae's eyeballs artwork that he puts on his boards was to discourage sharks. Obviously based on the theory that maintaining eye contact with a predator is a good defensive strategy, not sure if it is true, or if that works with sharks anyway?

Balance's picture
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Balance Wednesday, 29 Jul 2015 at 2:46pm

what do you think?

udo's picture
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udo Wednesday, 29 Jul 2015 at 2:52pm

Lure

Balance's picture
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Balance Wednesday, 29 Jul 2015 at 2:56pm

udo wrote: Lure

hahaha, thats a good point actually

quadzilla's picture
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quadzilla Wednesday, 29 Jul 2015 at 4:06pm

@Balance....outer EYEland eyes are on the top of Mitchells boards....the sharks need to jump up out of the water to see them...

MRs philosophy about the spirit eyes goes along these lines....When he first started going to Indo he observed all the indos boats had some sort of eye shape painted on them.he found out that they believe that the eyes warded off evil spirits, so he adopted that theme on his boards..

A few divers I've met have no fear of sharks " just treat em like dogs"...but being in the water and seeing them is different to a surfers situation....

in the ocean dead things float, sharks will scavenge anything for a feed so surfers , swimmers are fair game

ive seen Docos with great whites that wont come near the dummy diver IF the diver is facing them...but will have a chomp if the dummy isn't "watching " the white...

I believe the Black/White theory is a repellent of some degree....theres practicle info online somewhere before Radiator started doing those steamers...$50 more that plain black....a cheap insurance policy IF you wear steamers.

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wax24 Tuesday, 6 Jul 2021 at 11:16pm

I saw an interview with Ocean Ramsey (who i am not sure i trust.. too shark huggerish) where she said when she surfs in sharky waters she rotates her position sittin on her board to face a slightly new direction every few minutes so she is harder to sneak up on. That makes sense to me. It also seems like it'd be hard to do. Not that it's hard, but would i really wanna do that.....

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willibutler Wednesday, 7 Jul 2021 at 9:50pm

wax24 wrote: I saw an interview with Ocean Ramsey (who i am not sure i trust.. too shark huggerish) where she said when she surfs in sharky waters she rotates her position sittin on her board to face a slightly new direction every few minutes so she is harder to sneak up on. That makes sense to me. It also seems like it'd be hard to do. Not that it's hard, but would i really wanna do that.....

I saw this too and it is a common tactic I use when out alone ill always been slowly turning circles so whatever is below doesn't think it can sneak up from behind

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frog Thursday, 8 Jul 2021 at 8:29am

After watching a few videos from above of sharks hunting seals and comparing them to the drone footage of GWs swimming past surfers a couple of things were apparent:

Prey recognition
- the whole attitude of the shark was different with the seals to a cruise by of surfers - they were on the hunt with stealth in one case and energy and fast movement in another.
- in the successful hunt the shark by chance spotted a young seal coming out from the rocks and just went at it instantly - in a 5 metre acceleration it was all over. It was clear that the shark just clicked on to the seal and it matched exactly what it was expecting and in it went with no hesitancy.

Knowing they are seen
- I have often seen footage of sharks and seals swimming together both recognising that this was not the time for hunting s there was no element of surprise

Giving up when it is hard
- in the unsuccessful hunt the seals moved quickly into the shallows and the shark gave up pretty quickly. But it had been lurking out the back in deeper water and appeared to move back there waiting for another chance.
- in one case a big bull seal actually chased away a shark.

Taking a positive angle, I got the sense that the instant attack occurs most often when a hungry shark gets a very precise match with what it sees and what it was looking for. Far more often than not that is what protects us. The behaviour shown also suggested that in less than ideal hunting territory - shallower water - they know the prey mostly escapes and so they often give up pretty easily.

Using the hesitancy factor and time to make a calm retreat to shallower water and then the shore is pretty much the main option if we see one (where that is possible). Anything in our appearance and actions that increases hesitancy, lessens any prey recognition match and increases difficulty must help a lot.

Logical - not new information by any means.

With sharks, lots of small actions add up to quite large percentage reductions in attack likelihood. With crocodiles not so much.

Shark eyes, shark shields, maybe other devices we tend to disparage, where and when we surf, our behaviour in the water generally (don't kick your legs catching waves!) and when we see a shark etc etc. - it all matters. Do the basics and relax....

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Thursday, 8 Jul 2021 at 8:49am

thats why I don't surf back bank beachies anymore.

The risk of an encounter is now pretty high and the escape route is much harder and more perilous.

Craig's picture
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Craig Thursday, 8 Jul 2021 at 9:08am

Good post Frog and thanks for writing that all down.

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Solitude Thursday, 8 Jul 2021 at 10:45am

Does anyone get the feeling that in more solid surf you're safer - probably a fallacy but I feel like that.

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stunet Thursday, 8 Jul 2021 at 10:51am

^^^ Possibly just more happenening, more visual stimulation, more strategy required, so less downtime for carcharodon thoughts to take hold?

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Craig Thursday, 8 Jul 2021 at 10:52am

I do Solitude. I'm like, why would a shark want to come into all this turbulence and wave energy. But I have also seen drone footage of them still being in all the white wash.

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Solitude Thursday, 8 Jul 2021 at 10:58am

I heard Jeff Schmucker commenting once that the small glassy days in that neck of the woods are they days they are more alert.

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frog Thursday, 8 Jul 2021 at 12:01pm

Solitude,

I have always assumed surf noise, waves slapping into cliffs, surging over rocks etc creates a lot of "loud" and random underwater vibrations that obscure many paddling motions we give out. Bigger surf = more noise.

We can sort of hide a bit in the surf zone from the main long distance sense they use (vibrations). The more random explosions, bounces off cliffs and general surf action the better.

I used to surf at a offshore reef with a guy from a swimming background who routinely kicked like a 100 metre finalist on every wave he caught! No visits thankfully.

But my recent scare involved a guy who saw the shark being a kicker on takeoffs at a sharky spot. I had been sitting calmy by myself out there for hours holding in my wee and paddling quietly having a fun surf before he arrived. He kicked like a swimmer a few times before he spotted the shark. The shark was apparently coming straight at us in a big open bay. It knew we were there - thanks mate!

Then, when he saw the shark, he paddled past me super fast like a goanna over the water kicking his legs! I was left as the obvious first target.

Thanks again!

Don't kick ever. Note that surf coaches. Big belly flop pull offs - not good. Airs out onto flats that slap the water hard - not good. Carving cutbacks are lower risk and too much fun to stop doing though.

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Ray Shirlaw Thursday, 8 Jul 2021 at 2:24pm

Agree with all the above. Even Bombies off Capetown never mentioned re. shark bites despite being surfed for 30years. 2non-fatals at Mavericks,guessing swell was 3m or over. It does seem big breaking waves would interfere with Lateral Line sensitivity but also obviously a lot more people are enticed into the ocean in non-life threatening size surf. So, basically,safer on Capetown bombies than 3ft beachies N-NSW. Heavy

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Blowin Thursday, 8 Jul 2021 at 2:54pm

I reckon it’s coincidental. Plenty of small wave spots have never experienced an attack. I’d say the sharks follow their prey sources as much as anything and you’d assume there’d be less seals and dolphins hanging in the impact zone of a 20 foot bombie than other places. Find the bait, find the fish.

But mostly, as evidenced by the attacks at Mavericks despite its small windows of surfable conditions and the head of the white popping up in the vid of Cow Bombie the other day , it’s probably just coincidental that crew don’t get eaten more often at the offshore reefs.