There has been a lot of focus on Sharks when it comes to surfing recently. With the film Soul surfer (2011), the Western Australia government and Mick Fanning’s encounter at J-Bay has not been great news for our finned friends. Knowing that even Usain Bolt couldn’t run away despite his speed means we all feel vulnerable in water. Sharks can however swim happier knowing there are many products in development at the moment to ward off the beasties without harm. But Sharks are arguably not even in the top three things to worry about when it comes to the dangers of surfing.
When it comes to the animals in the sea Sharks get all the headlines, but there are some you might not have thought of that are dangerous. Sea Lions have been known to attack surfers and swimmers alike. In Perth a 13-year-old girl had her jaw broken and cuts after being attacked whilst towing on a surfboard. Male sea lions can be very territorial especially in mating season. At an average of a 1000 pounds too they will not be scared of a skinny surfer! Sea Snakes are a thing! The biggest issue too is that most of them are venomous. While they generally avoid humans, I can’t imagine the sight of a snake in the sea would be anymore welcome than a shark.
Jelly Fish annoyingly ‘hang out’ in some of the hottest surf spots in Australia and Indonesia where the sheer number of them make some beaches inaccessible at times. More terrifyingly Box Jellyfish can move through the water rather than just floating there as some species do. In conclusion even if you can’t see or have been told there are no sharks out there, it does not mean you shouldn’t be cautious.
Waves as we all know are powerful things capable of breaking not only your board, but your body. They can keep you underwater which raises dangers for drowning, and create dangerous rips. A wave can slam you into a sandbank and make you make it feel like concrete. Big waves can push you up to 50ft under the water, the pressure alone would be enough to burst eardrums. It is the time they hold you under for which is the real danger, and with a quick set, the multiple waves can make it a struggle to maintain filled lungs.
Sometimes the most dangerous aspect of surfing is the things we take into the sea with us, not that is in there. The surfboard can be viciously pointed at one end and the fins become razor blades in a washing machine like cycle when you wipe out. The board provides even more danger because of the leash. The board if caught can potentially hold the surfer down. The leash itself can become tangled around limbs and necks, causing even more trouble especially if you are being pushed under water. And lastly watch out for the other people in the water. Those pesky surfing etiquettes are there for a reason, primarily to stop your back getting shredded by fins, or your lights being punched out by a member of the ‘North Shore Wolfpak’.
The purpose of this article is to show that many surfers may be worried about getting in the water because of sharks, when in reality there are dangers more likely and have been contending with them every time we have surfed. The most important thing is to get out there and respect the ocean more than ever before. Mick Fanning surfed at J-Bay this year after being attacked by a shark in last year’s event! It is that sort of bravery that sets surfing out above other sports. If you are scared of the risk in surfing, then you shouldn’t be doing it. Take up golf maybe, but just know we will be having more fun!