Smack in the middle of Shark Week is the perfect time to think about how to survive a shark attack. So we asked George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack Database and a regular Shark Week expert, for his top tips. “Staying away from the dangers of the animal is your best bet of survival,” he says. Already booked that weekend trip to the beach? Here’s what you need to do in the extremely rare event that you come face to giant gaping maw with a great white.
1. Circle the wagons
If you spot a shark in the vicinity while scuba diving or surfing, get back on the boat or back to the beach. “Getting out is always the best bet, but if you’re in a position in which you can’t escape, put your back against a surface such as a coral reef, or go back-to-back with your scuba partner,” advises Burgess. “This way you can have a 180-degree view of the shark” without exposing your backside.
2. Punch for your life
If the shark continues to be confrontational, strike the nose of the shark aggressively, keeping in mind that hundreds of teeth are mere inches away. “If you have an object with you such as a camera, use that to hit the shark. Many people don’t realize the scales of a shark are very rough—and blood in the water will only further attract it.”
3. Fight dirty
If the shark has a hold of you—and you haven’t passed out from blood loss or terror just yet—attack its sensitive spots. “Going for the eyes and the gill slits will definitely get the shark’s attention.” Should your attacks succeed, save the victory dance for when you’re back on shore, which is where you should head as soon as possible. Even if you manage to ward one off, Burgess warns that a pissed-off shark will almost always return. And probably bring friends.
Oh, one other important note: even little sharks don’t mess around.