It’s difficult to get a passionate surfer out of the waters. And although it’s hard to believe that anyone would risk a shark attack for the love of surfing a wave, for many it’s become second nature. Most of us think they’re crazy but in truth they know their trade better than we do. The fact of the matter is that sharks don’t care to eat humans and will happily pass them by. Shark attacks on surfers are rare and occur mostly when a shark mistakes a surfer and his board for being a seal.
For most of us, venturing into the sea even months after a shark sighting can be a scary prospect. Sharks put many of us off splashing in the sea, let along putting on a wetsuit to go surfing in it. No chance. However, most of our fears are unnecessary as sharks have very little intention of eating us. In fact, they don’t even like the taste of humans. Shark sightings are often reported by surfers, proof that sharks don’t hunt humans as if they did the surfers wouldn’t have survived to retell their sighting stories or how the sharks passed them by.
In the summer months, sharks move closer to the beach, some even coming as close to land as the shore break where the surfers lurk waiting to catch waves. When a shark attack takes place – a shark most likely has mistaken a surfer for a seal – people are quick to point blaming fingers at companies who run Shark Cage Diving. Cape Town has several companies which run this extreme sport and educational activity and although many debates have surrounded the practice, no proof has been pinned to Shark Cage Diving in Cape Town being directly related to shark attacks. The chumming procedure that Shark Cage Diving companies practice to bring sharks closer to their boats would have no affect on sharks coming closer to the shore, and if sharks associate the activity with getting a free meal, they would recognise the large outline of the boat, not the humans who are doing the Shark Cage Diving or who can be seen on the beach. People must always remember that the shark diving boats go to where the sharks are and it is not the other way around and the activity does not bring sharks to the area that are not already there.
Cape Town has had few instances of shark attacks. Seal Island in False Bay has an abundance of seals for the sharks to eat; ruling out the argument that sharks may eat a human if they were desperate because they have an abundance of food available. An interesting fact about sharks that most people don’t know is that sharks use their teeth as feelers. If a surfer comes across a hungry shark, a shark may come up to them curiously. In False Bay, the sharks are usually well fed and when they venture towards the shore they have no intention of feeding on unknown food sources. As the surfers know this, they feel quite safe going out into the waters and sticking around until they surf their best wave.
Being in the same water as a shark is a scary prospect for even the bravest of us, and having seen films such as Jaws and Deep Blue Sea we believe that our feelings are justified. However, sharks are not naturally malicious creatures and will not seek you out and bite a human for the sake of it. Surfers are confident that despite shark sightings and the past events of the odd shark attack, they will be able to surf relatively safely and return to the beach.