Surfing with Debra Rose

Surfing with the Sharks

Debra Rose

If you thought the surfing community in Montauk was tight-knit, watch what happens when there is a shark-sighting around one of the breaks.

As the rumors began to swirl, people began talking about the ‘sharkiness’ of Montauk compared to other parts of the word. We came up with a few statistics and strategies in case you reluctantly encounter one of the men in grey suits.

A shark bite may not be on your bucket list, so there are a few common tips to try when you are in the water. Do not to swim at dawn, dusk or late at night when sharks are more likely to be on the hunt. Stay out of the water if you are bleeding and try not to wear bright colored swim wear, shiny diving gear or jewelry. Sharks can smell blood from over a mile away and easily find the source. Swim in groups, closer to the beach, since the percentage is higher that a shark will pick off a surfer and a swimmer farther out in the water.

What does this mean for surfers? Almost sixty percent of last years’ attacks were on surfers and those on some type of board, and while our wet suits are not shiny, we do tend to look more like seals than the average beach-goer. Early morning and sunset sessions are usually ideal when the wind drops and waves are often cleaner. It is rare to surf alone in Montauk, but sometimes surfers stray a bit farther out of the line-up for some solo wave opportunities. So what can potential shark bait do?

Rule number one, similar in other terrifying situations, is not to freak out. Sharks sense panic and fear and you need to think clearly. Fighting back is the best response, let your adrenaline kick in and punch the shark in the nose, eyes, or jab it as best as you can. The gills, eyes and nose are necessary for a shark’s survival and very sensitive, so catch the shark off-guard. This surprise may give you some time to get away. Since you are likely smaller and weaker, you have to be aggressive and demonstrate that you are not going down without a fight. Playing dead does NOT work since sharks scavenge for deceased prey, you do not want to give up and be an easy meal.

Stay away from river mouths after the rain, when animals and freshwater fish are usually swept out to sea there. The same goes for the fishing boats trailing blood and fish remains, usually around the lighthouse where there are prime spots for fishing.

The good news is, the likelihood of getting attacked by a shark is one in 11.5 million, and the shark usually has no intention of going after humans, Jaws style. They may mistake you for a seal, or are marking their territory, not looking to take out the swimmer and surfer population. While we have not had a shark attack in Montauk, continue to surf with your friends and practice your punches in the meantime. There are better things for your bucket list in 2019 and beyond.