How to Survive a Shark Attack (Hint: Don't punch it in the nose)

How to fight off a shark

Shark attacks.

A common "worst fear" amongst many folks.

And who can blame them?

Nothing looks eerier than the emotionless face of a shark approaching you in murky waters.

Moreover, if you end up fighting one, it will feel like you're a two-dimensional creature fighting in a four-dimensional plane.

Not good.

But if it is inevitable, what should you do if one happens to attack you?

1. Hit Back.

If a shark is coming towards you or attacks you, use anything you have in your possession--a camera, probe, harpoon gun, your fists--to hit the shark's eyes or gills, which are the areas most sensitive to pain.

Contrary to popular opinion, the shark's nose is not the area to attack, unless of course, you cannot reach the eyes or gills.

2. Make quick, sharp, repeated jabs in these areas.

Sharks are predators and will usually only follow through on an attack if they have the advantage, so making the shark unsure of its advantage in any way possible will increase your chance of survival.

Hitting the shark simply tells it that you are not defenseless, and that alone may deter it.

Sharks know that there are plenty of other options in the sea that won't put up a fight.

And the best way to fight off a shark?

Never get attacked by one in the first place.

In the world of shark attacks, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How to Avoid an Attack

  • Always stay in groups--sharks are more likely to attack an individual, similar to how lions, tigers, etc. hunt.
  • Do not wander too far from shore. This isolates you and creates the additional danger of being too far from assistance.
  • Avoid getting in the water during darkness or twilight hours, when sharks are most active and have a competitive sensory advantage.
  • Do not enter the water if you are bleeding from an open wound or if you are menstruating--a shark is drawn to blood and its olfactory ability is very sharp--they can detect a single drop of blood from three miles away.
  • Try not to wear shiny jewelry, because the reflected light resembles the sheen of fish scales.
  • Avoid waters with known effluents (the outflow of trash into an open body of water) or sewage and those used by sport or commercial fishermen, especially if there are signs of baitfish or feeding activity. Diving seabirds are good indicators of such activity.
  • Use extra caution when waters are murky and avoid showing any uneven tan lines or wearing brightly colored clothing--sharks see contrast particularly well.
  • If a shark shows itself to you, it may be curious rather than predatory and will probably swim on and leave you alone. If you are under the surface and lucky enough to see an attacking shark, then you do have a good chance of defending yourself if the shark is not too large.
  • Scuba divers should avoid lying on the surface, where they may look like a piece of prey to a shark, and from where they cannot see a shark approaching.

A shark attack is a potential danger for anyone who frequents marine waters, but it should be kept in perspective.

Bees, wasps, and snakes are responsible for far more fatalities each year.

In the United States, the annual risk of death from lightning is thirty times greater than from a shark attack.

Terrifying and deadly, but very unlikely nonetheless.

Adhere to our suggested precautions and the chance of this already unlikely event will get even closer to zero.

    The Three Kinds of Shark Attacks

    The three kinds of shark attacks

    Shark attacks are like a box of chocolates.

    You never know what you're going to get.

    Okay, not really.

    There are only a couple of strategies you need to keep an eye out for:

    "Hit and Run" Attacks

    By far the most common.

    These typically occur in the surf zone, where swimmers and surfers are the targets.

    The victim seldom sees its attacker, and the shark does not return after inflicting a single bite or slash wound.

    "Bump and Bite" Attacks

    Characterized by the shark initially circling and often bumping the victim prior to the actual attack.

    These types of attacks usually involve divers or swimmers in deeper waters, but also occur in nearshore shallows in some areas of the world.

    "Sneak" Attacks

    These are strikes that occur without warning, and may not follow typical shark behavior.

    In other words, it may occur somewhere where sharks are not usually found and the shark may do more than just a "hit and run."

    With both, "bump and bite," and, "sneak" attacks, repeat attacks are common and multiple sustained bites are the norm.

    Injuries incurred during this type of attack are usually quite severe, frequently resulting in death. 

    Be Aware

    Where in water do shark attacks usually happen?

    Most shark attacks occur in nearshore waters, typically inshore of a sandbar or between sandbars where sharks feed and can become trapped at low tide.

    Areas with steep drop-offs are also likely common attack sites: sharks congregate in these areas because their natural prey congregates there.

    Remember that big drop off in Finding Nemo right outside their house?

    Places like that.

    Furthermore, almost any large shark, roughly six feet or longer in total length, is a potential threat to humans.

    But three species, in particular, have repeatedly attacked man: the Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias), the Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), and the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas).

    All are cosmopolitan in distribution, reach large sizes, and consume large prey such as marine mammals, sea turtles, and fish as normal components of their diet.


    Pour Conclure

    The best defense against a shark attack is to never yourself facing one.

    If you must defend yourself against one, remember, hit the gills and/or the eyes.

    No shark wants to risk its neck over dinner when it doesn't have to.

    Attacking those will be your ticket home and back to shore.

    The information presented to you here today is from Joshua Piven's book, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook - an excellent on-the-go addition to any hiking pack or bug-out-bag.

    However, something like the SAS Survival Handbook will be more practical for everyday use while outdoors.


    -Alexander @ Survival Cat


    If you're gearing up for your next adventure, take a peek at our catalog and see if there is anything you'll need to accompany your travels.


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