Ask The Expert
Dear TransWorld SURF,
I live and surf in Santa Barbara and have never seen a shark. But my friends and I were arguing the other day about what we’d do if a great white got all aggro on us. Someone said you should try to punch it in the nose or jab it in the eye if it’s got you in its mouth. Will some WWF sh-t work on Whitey?
So, what should you do if you spot a big shark in the lineup or even if you find yourself facing the toothy grill of a white shark? We asked white shark expert Ralph Collier for his opinion. Collier has been studying white sharks for more than 40 years, is the author of Shark Attacks Of The Twentieth Century, and runs the Web site sharkresearchcommittee.com, which tracks shark sightings and encounters on the West Coast.
“When you look at the high number of surfers and how much time people are in the water, the number of interactions with white sharks and surfers is very small.
The safest thing to do if you see a shark heading toward you and it’s coming in a smooth, slow manner, is to keep the shark in sight at all times, but move as quickly as possible to a safe location, which is usually the beach. If a shark comes in and raises its head out of the water and grasps your board, it would be a good idea to strike it. Don’t hit it as hard as you can, because you’ll find you’ll probably do some serious damage to your fist. But you would want to hit it if it grabbed your board.
The gills are a sensitive area, and of course around the eye area-any animal is very protective of its eyes. But you have to remember the mere thought that a human could do any damage to a white shark is preposterous. We’re talking about an animal that can take down full-grown elephant seals that weigh in excess of 1,000 pounds. So the best option is always to exit the water.
People have told me this time and time again that they had a really weird feeling, ignored it, and a few minutes later been attacked. If you get a strange, ominous feeling, the best thing to do is to get out of the water. Take a look around, see if there are any animals in the area acting strangely, that too, could be a warning of impending danger. Listen to your feelings.”