Shark Encounters: What You Need to Know

Read some shocking shark encounter stories from swimmers, divers, and unsuspecting ocean lovers. Learn about what to do during a shark encounter, too!

Nov 9, 2023By Nikita Hillier
shark encounters what you need to know

First things first: you’re very unlikely to bump into a shark while out in the ocean. It’s more likely to get crushed by a vending machine than bitten by a shark. Still, encounters do happen, so learning the tricks below can be extremely helpful if you’re ever in this situation.

Below, we are going to see what you need to know if you encounter a shark. Then, we will take a look at some real stories from people who have encountered sharks––many of whom survived!

Be Aware of Your Surroundings While Swimming

gray shark swimming close up
Image Credit: Wai Siew on Unsplash

To stay safe in the ocean, there are a few important things you need to do. First, we will talk about what you should do before you get in. You really need to know your environment and be aware of it.

Obviously, most shark species live primarily in the oceans. Some do dwell in freshwater, like bull sharks, but the large majority are saltwater creatures. This means that you must understand that the ocean is their home, and we are the ones entering their environment.

If you’re getting in the ocean, understand that you may come into contact with a shark. Sure, humans aren’t on the menu, but you’re more likely to see sharks in some places more than others. Before you jump in, take a look at what you see.

For example, if you notice fishing boats or any people fishing off the shore, don’t swim. Usually, fishing activity will attract sharks to the area. After all, many fishermen are discarding dead fish, blood, guts, and other materials that will send sharks into a frenzy. Rule of thumb: if they’re fishing today, swimming is a “no way”!

If You See a Shark, Stay Calm

shark swimming with black baxkground
Image Credit: Laura College on Unsplash

Next, you should know what to do if you see a shark. First of all, don’t panic. If a shark begins to circle you, panicking will only make the situation worse.

If you begin to panic, splash, or thrash, the shark will become interested in you. Once you pique its interest, an attack is likely to occur. Think about it; as humans, when we see something that interests us, we use our senses to understand the unfamiliar object better.

Well, sharks don’t have hands, so they use their mouth and unique senses when they find something foreign. That is why sharks often bite something and do not come back to finish the “attack.” When a shark is swimming around you in attack mode, try to maintain eye contact with it.

By maintaining eye contact, you make yourself look bigger, which makes the shark respect you more. Though, if a shark is simply passing by, just curl up into a ball and make yourself uninteresting. You want to show the shark that you’re not a threat or worth checking out.

What to Do if You’re Attacked

photo underneath great white shark swimming
Image Credit: Marcelo Cidrack on Unsplash

While it is rare to be attacked by a shark, it can happen. If attacked, you must know what to do in order to survive.

If a shark is actively attacking you, do not play dead like many people suggest. Fight back as much as you can without being too drastic in the water. Kick it, punch it, and poke it. If you can, aim for its nose, but be careful where you aim.

If the shark moves, your hand might go straight into its mouth. If you can, try to put your back up against something solid. You never want to turn your back on a shark.

If possible, try to find a coral reef and keep your back to it. This means you only have one direction to be attacked from, and you can watch the shark. If the reef goes up quite high, try to follow it up with your back against it.

This way, you can get to the surface, find your boat, or call for help. The key is to not splash around. Panic will only make a shark more interested. You want every move you make to be intentional.

Shark Encounter Stories

gray shark swimming up close
Image Credit: GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels

Now, let’s take a look at some chilling shark encounter stories that will make the hairs on your neck stand up! These stories don’t always have happy endings, but they are chilling, exciting, and fascinating. Ready to dive in?

Dolphins Protect Man from Shark Attack

Back in 2004, Rob Howe was swimming off the coast of New Zealand with his children. Suddenly, he began to notice a huge school of dolphins slowly forming a wall around them. At first, they were intrigued by the encounter and began to play with the wild dolphins who were enjoying their attention.

However, they soon realized that a large, black shadow with a fin was coming straight at them. Luckily, the dolphins banded together and kept the family safe until the shark left. Dolphins have long been known to protect people and other animals from shark attacks.

Dolphins play a massive role in the ocean.

California Shark Attack Proves Fatal

Shark_warning_ _Salt_Rock_South_Africa
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Barry Wilson was the first Californian to ever die from a shark attack. Only 17 years old, Barry swam out to about 30 feet in the deep blue. From roughly 10 meters away, a friend noticed that he started to swim strangely.

What happened next was shocking. The shark threw Barry out of the water and caught him again. Unfortunately, Barry was then dragged underwater. His brave friends did their best to save him, but sadly, he passed away before he got back to the shore.

Spearfisherman Thinks Fast When Shark Attacks

Rodney Fox is an experienced spearfisherman. When out on the water one day, he was bitten on the torso by a shark who then dragged him 30 feet underwater. He fought for his life, kicked the shark, and gouged its eyes.

When he finally got away, he turned back to notice the shark following him. By some miracle, instead of biting Rodney again, he bit the float. A nearby boat whisked Rodney from the water and got him the help he needed.

Nikita Hillier
By Nikita Hillier

Nikita is a huge animal lover who has grown up on a farm with many different animals, from dogs and cats to horses and cows! She has a lot of experience in the equine industry and is even in the process of studying for an internationally accredited Equine Sports Massage Certificate! In her spare time, she enjoys writing and spending time with her beloved animals!