Great white shark sightings have become more common where I surf, and not that long ago a friend who’s rabid about standup paddling saw two within a week. So it was with somewhat keen interest that I read a new study from the University of Florida on the “why, when, and where” of shark attacks, based on Volusia County, where 21 percent of attacks across the globe occur.
There have been more than 230 documented attacks in the “shark attack capital of the world” since 1956, according to UFL’s George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File, so Burgess sent one of his students out to the beach with a notepad and camera. Here’s what they found, along with the new Adventure Life rules to keep be from being munched:
FINDING: Most attacks occur in less than six feet of water.
RULE: Don’t swim in less than six feet of water.
FINDING: Most attacks occur on weekends.
RULE: Don’t go into the water on weekends.
FINDING: Most attacks happen to surfers and swimmers where black and white swimsuits.
RULE: Don’t wear black and white.
FINDING: Most of the attacks are on surfers.
RULE: Don’t surf.
FINDING: Most of the attacks are on dude.
RULE: Don’t be a dude.
FINDING: Most of the attacks are during the full or new moon.
RULE: Werewolves, you are warned.
FINDING: Most attacks occur in the ocean.
RULE: Don’t go in the ocean.
In studying the statistics, the University of Florida seems to have come to conclusions along the lines of: Most car accidents involve white cars. Um, could that be because most cars are white? Thanks a lot for that.
Almost all of the high instances of attacks are correlated to higher instances of people in the water, not because of some particular component of shark behavior. The two findings that are interesting, however, are the greater number of attacks during extremes of the lunar cycle, which might be connected to the reproductive cycles of fish and thus sharks’ feeding patterns, and the color of bathing suits. Burgess speculates that the higher contrast of black and white boardshorts lets sharks see you better in the turbid water.
Which leads to our last rule: Swim and surf naked!