I can’t tell you how many people tell me that they refuse to try surfing because they’re scared of sharks. Most of them realize how silly that sounds, but the recent news headlines haven’t done much to calm people who are already disposed to fear our toothy friends and, perhaps, it’s even made some of you think twice about paddling out. Since it’s such a hot topic, let’s break down what’s really happening with sharks on the California coast.
First off, it is 100% normal for sharks to be in our area in the springtime – they come to mate off of the California shores between May and October…usually. This year, likely due to the El Nino conditions, the sharks stuck around later into the winter season and came back up from Baja earlier in the spring. So, that’s reason number one why we are seeing more of them.
Even when the sharks are in town, the coastline is statistically safe. Very few shark incidents actually manifest. I mean, let’s be real, accidents do happen and that’s what the isolated incidents of shark attacks are believed to be. There’s still no indication these sharks have a taste for eating people.
Moreover, when young sharks have attacked, it has typically been when swimmers have been alone, farther out in the water, or along remote stretches of beach not crowded with hundreds or thousands of other people.
One thing to consider is that with the prevalence of smartphones, it sure does appear that there are more shark sightings, but really, it’s largely because we are just more exposed to them on social media (reason number two shark attacks appear to be on the rise).
Your Chances of a Run-In With a Shark
So what are the actual odds that you’ll get bitten by a shark while surfing? To get to that number you have to figure out roughly how many surfers there are nationwide. According to American Sports Data, that number is roughly 2 million people. Then, how many shark fatalities are there in the US per year (1). So, the equation goes as follows: 2,000,000 people/ 1 shark attack / 78 years (average human life expectancy) = 1 in 25,641.
Yes, of course, your odds are higher as a surfer because you’re actually going into the water, but the odds are still very, very slim. And, if you’re still concerned…there are neat products such as SharkBanz, which claims to deter sharks. I personally don’t know how effective these various products are, but hey, if they give you peace of mind, then more power to them.
All in all, your chances of getting bitten by a shark are incredibly unlikely. Even with what seems to be an increase in shark sightings, the sharks simply would prefer to feast on fish than to take a bite out of you. So what are you waiting for?! Jump in!