Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

We hear the same advice every time the issue of sharks encountering or biting ocean swimmers comes up,” observes Steven Munatones. “Don’t panic. Fight back. Punch them in the nose.

But how in the world do you not panic in a shark encounter?”

While advice from Chris Lowe, a marine biologist and director of Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach, and George Burgess, curator of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History is completely understandable – “fight like hell…demonstrate you’re not going to go down easy”.

At least in my own case, and I say this without being embarrassed, is I can easily imagine that my first and natural inclination, especially when caught off guard, is to simply panic.”

How can a swimmer not panic? Is it possible to be ready and prepared for a shark attack? If swimmers are indeed ready and prepared for a shark encounter, how can they enjoy the ocean swimming experience?

Vito Bialla who pilots numerous soloists and relays to and from the Farallon Islands for the Farallon Islands Swimming Association, gives practical advice based on his hours and hours of piloting and swimming through the Red Triangle.

When faced with a shark encounter remind yourself that your panic will only excite the shark . Tell yourself you have a right to be here too. Try to stay calm. If it’s a bull shark all bets are off, they will eat license plates. If a great white shark attacks from underneath, it’s too late.

If the sharks circle around a swimmer like Simon Dominguez during his Farallon Islands attempt, I pull him. He didn’t shave and his shoulder was bleeding. If you get attacked, you have to fight like hell I assume to get free.”

Nuala Moore, an ice swimmer from Ireland, participated in a science study group that monitored shark behavior to human presence. “For 6 weeks, I worked with Professor Vic Pedemores in South Africa where we were the experiment in the water working with the Big 5 including tiger sharks and Great White Sharks.”

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