It has been estimated that sharks have been around for at least some 500 million years. Unfortunately, due to effects caused by mankind and modern civilization sharks may not be around that much longer.

Though many in the world react with fear at the mention of sharks and consider them dangerous it is a well known fact that the amount of sharks eaten by humans is infinitesimally larger in amount to humans eaten by sharks. In fact though shark attacks around the world are rare and infrequent attacks on sharks have dramatically increased to the point of possible species extinction. It appears the sharks have to worry way more about humans than humans do sharks.

Of the approximately 300 or so shark attacks that occur around the world each year it”s been estimated 45% of them are on surfers.

Of recreational beach users most attacked by sharks surfers are number 1 with swimmers and divers an equal but distant second. From the surface a surfers silhouette can easily be mistaken for a seal or large turtle by a shark looking upward. Surfers are easy targets, but in truth most shark attacks are an accidental case of mistaken identity. If sharks were really after surfers there would be a lot less surfers around. Surprisingly as infamous as sharks are very little is really known about them.

Most sharks offer little or no harm to humans despite their aggressive reputation.

Three sharks that can be extremely harmful and aggressive to humans are the Great White (Carcharodon carcharias), Tiger (Galeocerdo cavier) and Bull ( Carcharhinus leucas) sharks.

Perhaps the most feared of all sharks is the Great White thanks partially to the Hollywood movie Jaws. Long considered the most dangerous of all sharks only the Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) is equaled as a marine macro predator. Great Whites principally dwell of temperate continental shelf waters such as off the mainland U.S, and Australian coasts, although they have been spotted in tropical waters off of Hawaii. They can grow up to 25 feet or more weighing thousands of pounds. A Great White attack is primarily feared because it can kill a large man with a single bite. Alas human activities such as over fishing and industrial pollution have caused the Great Whitefs population to substantially decline. Some studies claim the Great Whites population has decreased 79% in the last 15 years. Great White sightings are becoming more rare.

Tiger sharks can grow very big and are considered very dangerous. Full grown Tiger sharks can reach up to 20 feet and weigh over three thousands pounds large enough to attack a small boat which they have been known to do. Tiger sharks prefer warmer tropical waters usually swimming far offshore during the days and coming close in to the reefs and shoreline to feed at night or early morning. Take note, Tiger sharks sometimes swim close in during prime daytime hours. Tiger sharks like other sharks are unpredictable sometimes coming all the way to shore in water so shallow most of their body becomes exposed. Like the jungle animal with the same name Tiger sharks are fierce well-tuned predators.

Not nearly as large as great Whites or Tiger sharks many experts consider the Bull shark the most dangerous of all. Some believe Bull sharks have made more attacks on humans than both the Great White and Tiger sharks. This little buggah is fierce. Adult male bull Sharks reach heights of up to about 7 feet; females are typically 11 to 12 feet weighing up to 500- plus pounds. Bull sharks are known to be most aggressive and can be very dangerous. Bull sharks considered apex predators eat anything and everything. Contents taken from the stomachs of bull sharks have included everything from hippopotami to bicycle tires and yes human remains. Where Great Whites and Tiger sharks generally prefer deeper water Bull sharks tend to prefer shallow water increasing the chances for contact with surfers and swimmers. Amazingly the bull shark has the ability to adapt to fresh water and has been spotted far up the Mississippi, Ganges, Amazon and other fresh water rivers. Tragically the Bull shark population is drastically declining due to environmental fall out and over fishing for commercial use. This gallant warrior is eaten in all coastal areas and its sharkskin used as leather.

Despite the fact that surfers have more of a chance of being attacked by sharks than anyone on earth surfers may well be among the first to defend the honor and recognize the right for sharks to exist.

Sharks are an important part of lifefs natural balance and harmony; surfing would not be surfing with out them. In truth shark sightings are rare and seeing one should be considered good luck in more than one way. Sharks occupy a position at the top of the food chain in a sense they are the Gods of the sea. They play a major role in controlling both the diversity and abundance of other species within the ocean community.

A lot can be learned from sharks such as the Great White, Tiger and Bull sharks. How much longer will sharks exist? Up until now sharks have survived the test of time. One thing for sure, it will be interesting to see if mankind can last 500 million years. Only time will tell. Aloha sea you in the surf.


The Willis Bros. are surfing experts recognized for surfing the worlds largest waves and teaching thousands in Hawaii and California to surf.