15 Tips for Surviving a Shark Attack

By: the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.  | 
Shark Image Gallery Don't wear shiny jewelry if you're going to be swimming near sharks, as they may mistake it for fish scales. See more pictures of sharks.
Photo courtesy Shark Diver

The movie "Jaws" makes it seem like sharks prowl the seas looking to eat the relatives and friends of specific town police chiefs. But in reality, sharks don't particularly like the taste of human, and most shark attacks are a case of mistaken identity. For example, you’re a surfer floating on your board, but from the waters below you look a lot like a sea lion. So, the shark goes in for a nibble.

It's all fine and well that the shark didn't mean to mistake you for a sea lion except when it severs your arm from your body. In 2005, there were 58 unprovoked shark attacks reported. Less than 10 of those attacks, which occurred off the coasts of California, Hawaii and Brazil, were fatal. On dry land, 58 may seem like a pretty low number. But when you're mulling around in murky waters wondering what just bumped your leg, it doesn't. In that moment of horror, you'll wish you had some shark defense tactics seared into your brain. Keep reading to get trained in shark attack readiness.


15. What Not to Do

play dead
Friends Playing Dead With Life Vests At The Beach AleksandarGeorgiev / Getty Images

­Don't play dead. This does nothing but make the shark think it has won. The shark wi­ll then commence chomping. Clearly, this is not what you­ want it to do. Also, if you've been attacked, get away as fast as you possibly can. Sharks smell blood. You didn't fare too well with the first one and there are probably more on the way.


14. Go for the Nose (Or Not...)

Although opinions differ, the general consensus seems to be that if you can get a clear shot, hitting the shark on the nose can be highly effective at ending the attack. Trouble is, when you're being attacked, hitting a specific target becomes challenging at best.


13. Shark Attacking? The Eyes Have It

shark attacking
Great white shark biting the cage Gerard Soury / Getty Images

It might sound ridiculous, but try to stay calm. If you're being attacked by a shark, go for the eyes and gills, the most vulnerable parts of the shark. If you can wound the eyes, you've got a chance.


12. Shark Circling? Uh-Oh

shark circling
Shark circling the scuba divers Stephen Frink / Getty Images

This is not good. If a shark is circling you, that means it's about to strike. Time to fight back!


11. Shark Zigzagging? Find Something Solid

shark zigzagging
Shark swim in zigzag pattern in the ocean Philip Waller / Getty Images/Image Source

The zigzagging shark is looking for angles, so if you can back up against a reef, a piling, or some other kind of outcropping, do so. This reduces the number of angles the shark has to come at you. If you're in open water, get back-to-back with your swimming buddy. You do have a swimming buddy, right?


10. Shark Approaching? Stay Silent and Immobile

shark approaching
Shark approaching underwater Ken Kiefer 2 / Getty Images/Image Source

If you aren't able to get to shore and a shark approaches you, try to stay still and be quiet to avoid an attack.


9. See a Shark? Shout!

If there's a dorsal fin on the horizon, letting people know is a good idea. The more people know what's going on, the better off you are if the situation worsens. Then quickly swim toward shore as if your life depends on it . . . because it just might.


8. Keep Fido on the Beach

keep fido on the beach
Yellow labrador sitting on beach Nick Dolding / Getty Images

Allowing dogs to swim in the ocean can be dangerous if you're in shark territory. Animals swim erratically, attracting the attention of sharks. Don't let pets stay in the water for long periods of time.


7. For the Ladies...

If you're menstruating, stick to the sand. Blood attracts sharks. Think of it as a great excuse to stay out of the water and work on your tan! Female or male, if you cut yourself on a reef or a rock while swimming, it's best to get out right away -- the smell of blood to­ a shark is like the smell of fresh doughnuts to humans.


6. Check with the Turtles

check with the turtles
sea turtle swims with the fish Jay Dickman / Getty Images

Creatures of the sea know much more about the waters than you ever will. So, if turtles and fish start freaking out, there's probably a reason. If you witness erratic behavior from other animals, there might be a very large, toothy beast approaching. Take a cue from those who have seen it before and take off.

5. Swim Smart

Always swim with a buddy, and don't swim at dusk or at night. Sharks don't have the best vision, so when it's dark, you look like dinner to them.

4. Be Adventurous, but Don't Be Ridiculous

Who knows why you might want to swim in murky waters, around harbor entrances or steep drop-offs, or among rocky underwater cliffs, but if you do choose to swim in these dangerous places, don't be surprised if you come face-to-face with a shark.

3. Know Your Sharks

know your sharks
Group of bull sharks underwater Alastair Pollock Photography / Getty Images

Three species of shark are responsible for most human attacks: great white, tiger, and bull sharks. A hammerhead might freak you out, but it probably won't bite you.

2. Skip the Bling

Sharks see contrast well, so wearing bright colors like yellow and orange is not a great idea. Also avoid shiny jewelry as sharks may mistake it for fish scales.

1. Check with the Locals

If you don't want to tangle with a shark, don't go where sharks hang out. If you plan to vacation near the ocean, contact local tourism offices and ask for shark stats in the area.


Helen Davies, Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens, and Steve Theunissen

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