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How to Survive a Shark Attack

Updated on September 2, 2016

3 Reasons for Increased Shark Attacks

  1. More people getting in the water
  2. Increase in shark populations
  3. Changes in the global climate

In 2013, there were 72 confirmed shark attacks worldwide, according to the International Shark Attack File. Although there were only 27 shark attack cases within the United States in 2013, on average, there are around 40 reports each year of shark attacks within United States' waters, most of which are not fatal.

Experts predict there to be an increase in shark attacks within United States' waters and around the world in 2014. There are several factors involved in this prediction based on certain observations. George Burgess, the director for the Florida Program of Shark Research, says that more and more people are going into the water each year. On average, around 200 million people visit US beaches.

According to Burgess, they have also seen an increase in the number of sharks coming closer to shore. This is partially due to the rise in shark populations.The other reason is due to changes in the global climate.

USA Shark Attacks 2001 - 2013

Number of Attacks
North Carolina
New Jersey
South Carolina

There are over 400 species of sharks on the planet. Even though you should consider all sharks to be dangerous, especially those which are over a meter (over 3 feet) long. Most of the world's shark attacks have typically been from great white sharks, bull sharks, or tiger sharks, which are known to be the most aggressive species of sharks.

Most shark attacks are a case of mistaken identity. Sharks have poor eyesight and often mistaken humans who are swimming or surfing as seals, which is their favorite food source. However, in some cases, shark attacks could be prompted by feeling threatened in some way.

It is a terrifying thought for most people to be a victim of a shark attack. It is even more terrifying if you are attacked by a shark and do not know what to do. Knowing what to do in the moment of a shark attack and after may just save your life.

Stay Calm

This is something that is easier said than done. Sharks are quite intimidating and panicking won't help your survival rate. Scrambling for the shore will just entice the shark more. The splashing and sudden moments gives the shark the idea that you are prey. Staying calm will also help you stay alert to its location as you begin to cautiously make it back to shore.

Don't Lose Sight of the Shark

Sharks tend to strike to wound their prey only to come back to finish the kill. Be aware of the location of the shark at all times. If you have been bitten, the blood in the water won't make the shark give up that easily. You won't be able to defend yourself if you don't know where the shark is. If you are diving, try putting your back against the reef. This allows you to monitor the area in front of you without worrying about an attack from behind.

Fight Back

Sharks are not bears. Don't think that playing dead will convince the shark to release you. You will need to fight back if you have any chance of survival. Hitting the shark on the snout has helped many people survive. Another suggestion is to attack its eyes or gills because these are the most painful spots for a shark. If you have a fishing spear, oar, or another hard object, don't hesitate to use it.


Don't forget to breathe. The shark may take you underwater at some point so having a good breath of air will help you from drowning.

Never Give Up

Continue to fight. Never give in to the shark. The more you fight, the more likely the shark will release you and move on to easier prey.

Micheal Cohen being pulled out of the water after being attacked by a great white shark.
Micheal Cohen being pulled out of the water after being attacked by a great white shark.


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Hug the Shark

Sounds odd, doesn't it? At the time of the attack you probably won't have a whole lot of love for this monstrous fish. Sharks will thrash their victim around violently in the water, tearing as much flesh as possible. To help keep as much flesh intact as possible, wrap your arms around the shark as tight as you can. The shark probably isn't going to like that and may just release you.

Get Out of the Water

Your ultimate goal is to get out of the water but doing so frantically won't help at all. It is suggested that you swim vertically to shore. The reason behind this is because sharks can't bite things that are vertical all that well. Their snouts tend to hinder an attack on a vertical prey.


This is going to be an important part of your survival. Many surfers carry a surgical tube in the event of a shark attack. They could clamp off the blood flow in the water if need be. Regardless whether you are in the water or on the shore, you will need a tourniquet because bleeding to death is your primary concern at this point. If you don't have an official tourniquet, use a shirt to tie off the blood flow. There are several arteries in the leg and many times a shark attack results in the severing of the femoral artery which can cause you to bleed out in a matter of minutes.

All of these tips will help increase your chances of survival. However, the best way to survive a shark attack is to take preventive measures so that it minimizes your risk of an attack all together.

© 2014 Linda Sarhan. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the author.

© 2014 L Sarhan


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    • profile image


      4 months ago

      While a lot of the information in this article is true it is written in a way to be scary. If I were the author I would not try to scare my people/readers. If you want some good information about how to avoid shark attacks altogether a really good book that I’ve been reading that was put out in 2020 is what you should know about sharks written by Ocean Ramsey It can be purchased off of Amazon and it’s about shark behavior and the things that we as humans can do to avoid a bad interaction with sharks.

      I have no affiliation with the author other than being a fan of the information she is putting out there. Give it a read!

    • profile image


      11 months ago

      Sharks may be scary when you read about them, or actually witness an attack, but sharks aren't just in the water to kill and eat people. They probably don't even mean to hurt us, but we are in their territory so they could think we are invading them. Put it this way, a shark comes into your bedroom. Most of us would either jump out of the window or scream. I'm sure 10% of us would attack the shark, just like it would attack us. :)

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      My advice: DON'T GO IN THE WATER. Sharks are there and want to eat you. The water is their home. Humans homes are on the beach. Stay on the beach. Splash some water on you when the waves go in. But you stay put. Class Dismissed:)

    • LindaSarhan profile imageAUTHOR

      L Sarhan 

      5 years ago from Huntsville, Alabama, USA

      Very good question.

      Their skin is made up of dermal denticles. The point of the dermal denticles is to prevent drag and make the shark faster by producing less drag in the water. If touched from head to tail they feel smooth but if from tail to head it feels like sandpaper. Sand paper probably won't kill you. Experts say that it may cause abrasions on the skin, but in the event of a shark attack, chance are you are already bleeding and the point is to lessen the thrashing and hopefully shock the shark enough to swim away.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      To the 'hug the shark' bit, wouldn't that be dangerous considering that sharkskin is made up from hundreds of tiny teeth, and that brushing against it the wrong way could result in fatalities?


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