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  • Writer's pictureBennett Thomas

Are Sharks a Serious Threat to the Beginner Surfer?

If I go for a surf and the first thing on my mind is “Am I going to get eaten by a shark”, usually my focus is drawn away from my surfing and immediately it’s going to be a less enjoyable experience. This is why I started to ask myself, what is the real chance of me getting attacked? Is there any risk at all? Am I just being paranoid? Or am I simply being silly for even having any thoughts at all about these big fish I never really see, and yet hear so much about?

I’ve been surfing for the last 15 years and have had the sea as a part of my life for the past 29. In that time I have encountered/seen six big sharks. Each time was peaceful and I never once felt threatened. Which brings me back to the reason for writing this in the first place. Is there a real tangible risk that sharks are going to attack you if you surf? The answer is most certainly yes. There is a risk and I suppose the most important part is it's a very, very small risk indeed.

When I was at school I remember these posters that used to float up on the walls in my science classroom. They had all these facts like how you’re more likely to die from a toaster or a lightning strike than a shark attack, and the image would be an ominously floating toaster in an eerie-looking deep dark ocean, trying to let you know you’re being silly for thinking a shark is dangerous. Ultimately I agree with what they were trying to do, but my teenage mind told me that it was bullshit. That these statistics were never going to make sense against each other As everyone has a toaster and almost no one is surfing. So the few thousand of us that venture out into the surf, where sharks are around, are the few that‘ll make up those couple of attacks a year. Whereas the toaster attacks are being split among every person on the planet.

So as a beginner surfer, how can one relax in the surf and be a carefree and jolly surfer? How can you actually focus on trying to learn something new and exciting (and terribly difficult) if you think you are bait on the end of a hook? Accept that it's possible, but the risk versus the reward is not great and it's worth the joy and freedom surfing provides. I suppose what I always tell myself is, one way or another we all are going to meet our end and experience death however it might find us and for me at least if it's in the sea, well that is something far more romantic than trying to fish my toast out with a knife.

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