It’s no secret us Aussie beach bums have an undying love affair with the ocean, but has that desire for the perfect wave or a lazy dip in the deep blue come at a price? Some may say that shark attacks are on the rise and despite intense media coverage that can make such attacks seem more frequent the number of shark attack deaths remains relatively low. That’s not to say the danger from the deep isn’t real.  If you find yourself face to face with a shark, what do you do?  Can you fight it off and save your life?

Don’t play dead
There’s a common belief that sharks are attracted to fear and excitement, and if you stay calm, the ferocious beast will leave you alone.  This is not true.  Once a shark has decided to pounce, he’s committed to doing damage.  It’s up to you to fight and save yourself.

Fight with whatever you can
No tactic is off limits, and everything you have can be considered a weapon.  You need to be aggressive and defensive to either avoid being bitten or free yourself from the shark’s bite.  If that means using a surfboard, a chemical repellent, or a knife, do what it takes.  And, if all you have is your fist, that works, too.  A 17-year-old Kentucky girl punched a shark in its nose and mouth with both her hands, and the shark swam away.  She needed 80 stitches, but she survived.

Know where to strike
Focus your blows on the shark’s most sensitive areas.  The snout, the gills, and the eyes are key places to strike.  If you can hit these, you’re likely to end the attack and send the shark on its merry way.

Stop the bleeding
If you’ve been bitten, it’s crucial that you get out of the water quickly and calmly.  Once you’re out, you need to do everything you can to stop the bleeding.  Remaining in the water could serve as an invite for the shark to come back.  Or you could attract his friends and family.

Avoid the situation
If you aren’t keen on battling with sharks, take care to avoid situations in which attacks are likely.

  • Stick to daytime swims: Sharks tend to move inshore during dawn and dusk. To avoid being mistaken for prey, try surfing midday.
  • Look for clear water: If it’s murky, it’s not safe. Sharks are attracted to areas where baitfish and smaller prey are present, and they can easily track down dinner with little visibility.
  • Watch the animals: If you see turtles and other fish going crazy, it’s a sign that sharks might be nearby. Take that as a sign to exit the water.
  • Get out of the water: When you see a shark or you feel something brush against you, get out. Even if it turns out to be a smaller threat than anticipated, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Don’t go out alone: Sharks are more likely to attack those who are by themselves. Make sure you swim, surf, and dive with a group.  It’s for your protection.


Shark attacks are an unfortunate part of beach life.  But if you know how to handle yourself, you’ll increase your odds of survival.