Hawaii has been making the news lately, but for all the wrong reasons: SHARK ATTACKS. Yes, Jaws!
One of the most common questions I get asked at weddings now, especially this past week, is “if it’s safe to swim in the ocean?” It’s a semi-serious question, but it’s laced in fear. Statistically, we all know that getting bit by a shark is relatively low, and getting killed by a shark is even lower. I think you have a better chance of getting bit by a homeless person than a shark.
I’ve seen sharks, up close and personal. They bite and they attack. I once was fishing on a jetty that was about 8 feet above the ocean. Pat, my “genius fisherman friend” yanked his fish out of the water when suddenly, a tiger shark jumped his front quarter of his body onto the lower part of the jetty, ate his fish, then squirmed back into the water. My mom remembered that night clearly, and repeatedly remembers how big the eye of the shark was, huge. According to Pat, the tiger shark was about 15 feet long. Through my observation that night, I can also tell you that sharks swim like lightning. I honestly have never seen anything swim that fast before. They are not like the sharks in Jaws, where the creep up slowly to their victims. When they attack, they swim with a purpose.
A shark that I caught on a catch and release tour on Oahu.
“My dad and I were fishing at ke’ehi lagoon and we caught a 2.5 foot black tip shark. We released it back in the water and baited a new pole. As i was washing the squid off my hands, my dad yelled at me to get away from the water. Behind me, a 6-8 foot shark had swam up to the rocks so that its dorsal fin and back were sticking out of the water. We figure it was drawn in by the other shark struggling. It was a few feet away from me, against the rocks”
– Doss White
Statistically, swimming in the ocean is still safe. But being safe is much more than just relying on statistics. Here is some information I remember Pat told me when it came to sharks:
- If there are turtles or sea lions on the beach, that means there’s a shark in the ocean somewhere. Turtles and Sea Lions come onto shore to rest, but they also come onto the beach to not get eaten.
- Fishes run in schools closer to the shore an hour before and after the sunrise and sunset to each day. It’s also the same time that sharks run closer to shore because they are following the little fish.
- Wearing jewelry when you swim shouldn’t be done. A diamond ring looks like a fishes eye, and your fingers can look like a tail of a fish, or a mouth. Splash that hand around in water, and it will look like a fish in distress. Barracudas, a very vicious fish, have been known to attack women’s hands at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Bethany Hamilton’s arm that was bitten off was decked out in jewelry.
- They say muddy water and sharks go hand and hand, but very little shark attacks have happened in muddy water, including the recent four. You shouldn’t swim in muddy water because it’s just gross.
- If you see fisherman around, ask them if they’ve seen any sharks in the water. They usually have a good idea.
For me, I take sharks very seriously. My opinion, they freaking hate us and wanna eat us, didn’t you see Jaws and all those other shark movies? I swear if they could walk on land, they ring my doorbell just to bite my leg off.
But…I still swim in the ocean.
I just follow the advice Pat told me. (Pat, by the way, passed away from cancer a few years ago. Not only was he a great fisherman, but a great photographer who taught me a lot of what I know.)