Survival Guru

Friday, February 06, 2009

Q: How can I avoid sharks when learning to surf?

Are there beaches in Northern California that are virtually shark-free? I would love to learn to surf but do not want to run into a shark! Wannabe Surfer San Francisco, California

By: Question from: ,

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Outside GOOur hottest adventure-travel tips and trips. Sent occasionally.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

Subscribe
to Outside
Save Over
70%

Magazine Cover

iPad Outside+ App Access Now Included!

Advertisement

Four-Star Camp Food

$ad.smallDesc

$ad.smallDesc

$ad.smallDesc

A:

Being that I'm a canyoneer, and not having had too many shark encounters in the desert lately, I spoke with Lifeguard Lt. Andy Lerum. He works for the city of San Diego and gave me some good pointers on surfing safety in shark country.

Regarding how to avoid sharks, the key is keeping your eyes open for telltale signs in the water where you are heading. The day I spoke with Lt. Lerum, he said they had a surfer report a shark sighting after he had spotted its telltale dorsal fin. Also, talk to the locals, fishermen, and lifeguards before heading out as they are tuned into what is happening on a daily basis.

Like most predators, dawn or dusk is when most sharks are on the prowl so you may reduce your chances of an encounter by hitting the surf in the afternoon.

You can increase your safety by going out in a group versus surfing solo as sharks often hunt creatures that are alone. And if you have any recent cuts or open sores, then stick to skateboarding that day as sharks can sense blood in the water from a great distance.

If you are attacked while surfing, then fight back. Lt. Lerum said that the eyes, gills, and snout are more vulnerable than other parts of the shark's body. Like most two-legged or four-legged predators, sharks are looking for an easy victim not an aggressive fighter.

As far as finding shark-free zones to surf in California—good luck. Talk to Pacific fishermen and they will tell you that sharks are more common in coastal waters than you'd think. Again, the key is awareness and talking to the locals to find out where the sightings have been occurring.

More at Outside

Next in Adventure (91 of 101)

What survival gear should I have with me when trail running?

Read More »
Current Issue Outside Magazine

Subscribe and get a great deal! Two free Buyer's Guides plus a free GoLite Sport Bottle. Monthly delivery of Outside—your ultimate resource for today's active lifestyle. All that and big savings!

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Gear of the Day The latest products, reviews, and editors' picks. Coming soon.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

Ask a Question

Our gear experts await your outdoor-gear-related questions. Go ahead, ask them anything.

* We might edit your question for length or clarity. If it's not about gear, we'll just ignore it.