Shark Attacks – Is it safe to bodysurf?

Bodysurfing is a sport whereby one is submersed in water throughout, so it is always more pleasurable to do it where the weather is fine and the seas warm. However, anywhere that the seas are warm (and there’s a good food source nearby) can entice sharks into the area too. Despite these facts, shark attacks on humans have tended to be a very rare event indeed – but are bodysurfers at an increased risk now?

The question is “why are there more attacks now”? Is it just that we hear about it more through an increase in media coverage or is there some truth out there? The answer is probably a mixture of both – warmer global sea temperatures are encouraging sharks into areas closer to shore, whilst any attacks that occur do get reported more widely.

Great White Shark

Great White Shark

One example of the increased media coverage was the shark attack on Mick Fanning earlier this summer, in the middle of a surfing competition at Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. This truly brought shark attacks to the fore as this story made headlines around the world, especially as it was accompanied by live TV coverage as the event unfolded, and showed the dramatic rescue.

Data from the Shark Research Institute points to an increase in attacks. For example, since 1900 here have been more than 270 shark fatalities throughout Australia, over 160 in the USA, with in excess of 100 across South Africa. Despite these facts being well publicised, surfing remains as popular as ever in all these countries – there are certainly no fewer people entering the waters, probably more.

Advice on how to avoid sharks ranges from:-

    • Avoid bodysurfing near river inlets – where there will be a more plentiful food source for sharks (the autumn months in northern California sees a greater number of sharks in this area as they seek out salmon making their way upstream)
    • Don’t bodysurf in isolation, or too deep, especially when bodysurfing in a known shark area
    • Swim inside netted areas – if they are available
    • Wear a red and yellow striped wet suit (which apparently makes one look like a sea snake)!

The answer remains the same as before – Yes, continue bodysurfing, but take as many precautions as you can!


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