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5 Tips for How to Survive a Shark Attack

Most of us subconsciously think about sharks each time we are in the ocean, but around later summer when the Discovery Channel rolls out its annual Shark Week programming, the world is once again reminded about the dangers and non-dangers of the apex predators who can ultimately destroy us with one or two bites. At the end of the day, you are swimming in their home — a shark attack should never truly be blamed on a shark because they are just going to do what a shark does in the ocean. The actual chances of a shark attack are rare, although they do happen, so it’s best to have some basic knowledge of what to do in case you are faced with a one-on-one encounter.

Maintain Your Calm

Easier said than done, right? For most, just being in open water alone can be a bit nerve-wracking. Now imagine encountering a shark and trying not to panic. It’s not easy, but it can help save your life. If you encounter a shark, your first instinct will be to swim away immediately. Resist your urge because the further you are from the shark, the more likely you are to get bitten. Panicking will put the shark in predatory mode. Just because you are sharing the same space with a shark doesn’t mean that you are automatically on the dinner menu. Most sharks are just curious, so try and remember that in the moment and do your best to maintain calm.

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Look the Shark Directly in The Eye

Like man’s best friend, sharks respect assertiveness. Without being aggressive — and while maintaining your calm — keep your eyes on it and show the shark that you’re a predator as well. If the shark gets close to you, push it away. The last thing you want to do is start a fight with a shark but showing them that you are not docile can be your best last-ditch effort.

great white shark
Allan Davey/Getty Images

If the Shark Attacks, Fight Back

The unfortunate reality is that if a shark decides to attack, you won’t have much say in the matter. A shark might even just take a test bite first, which can cause serious injury. And if it becomes a full-bore attack, your chances are slim, so doing something is better than nothing. If this is the case, now is the time that you want to go wild and start punching however you can. Go for the eyes, nose, and gills, or just swing and hit whatever you can.

If Your Arm is Attacked, Keep It Over Your Head

A shark might take a bite and then decide that they have lost interest. If you are fortunate and this is the case, swim as fast as you can to safety while raising your wounded arm above your heart. By doing so, you will stem the bleeding.

If Bitten, Avoid Looking At The Wound

The wounds that these animals can inflict can be devastating. By not looking at your wound, you can attempt to avoid going into shock. Think about a little kid scraping their knee. They typically don’t start crying until they see the blood. You will know that something is wrong but do your best to get yourself to safety before assessing the damage.

If you’re on land, brush up on our tips for navigating bear and mountain lion encounters.

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