How to Survive a Shark Attack

Three Parts:Play DefenseFight the SharkEscape and Get Help

Sharks attack only rarely, but when they do, severe and sometimes fatal injuries commonly result. Scientists don't believe sharks attack humans to eat us; rather, they bite into our flesh because they're curious to find out what kind of animal we are - kind of like how dogs like to sniff new friends, only a lot more deadly. Staying out of shark habitats is the surest way to avoid getting hurt, but if you've accidentally wandered into shark-infested waters, you've got to have a plan in place.

Part 1
Play Defense

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    Don't take your eyes off the shark. Sharks have several different attack methods. Sometimes they swim right up and have at it, sometimes they circle for awhile before lunging, and sometimes they sneak up from behind for a surprise attack. To be able to defend against the shark, you must know where it is, so make every effort to watch the animal, even as you're working out your escape.[1]
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    Stay calm and don't make sudden movements. When you first spot the shark, chances are it will swim away without bothering you. You cannot out-swim a shark, so trying to sprint to safety may not be your best option, unless you're already very close to shore. It's important to keep your wits about you so you can continuously appraise the situation and figure out how to get to safety.
    • Move slowly toward the shore or a boat; choose whichever is closest. Don't thrash your arms or kick or splash while you swim.
    • Do not block the shark's path. If you're standing between the shark and the open ocean, move away.[2]
    • Don't turn your back on the shark as you move. Remember, it's important to keep the shark in view.
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    Get into a defensive position. If you can't get out of the water right away, try to reduce the shark's possible angles of attack. If you're in shallow enough water, keep your feet on the ground. Slowly back up against a reef, piling, or rock outcropping - any solid obstruction – so that the shark can't circle around behind you. This way you only have to defend attacks in front of you.
    • If you're diving near the shore, you may need to descend to find cover. Look for a reef or rock on the bottom of the ocean.
    • In open water, get back-to-back with another swimmer or diver so that you can see, and defend against, an attack from any direction.

Part 2
Fight the Shark

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    Hit the shark in the face and gills. Playing dead won't deter an aggressive shark. Your best bet if attacked is to make the shark see you as a strong, credible threat. Usually, a hard blow to the shark's gills, eyes or snout will cause it to retreat.[3] These are really the only vulnerable areas on a shark.
    • If you have a spear gun or pole, use it! A sharp object is a good way to inflict enough pain to scare away the shark. Aim for the head, specifically the eyes or the gills.
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    • If you don't have a weapon, improvise. Use any inanimate object, such as a camera or a rock to ward off the shark.
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    • If you have nothing around you, use your own body. Aim for the shark's eyes, gills, or snout (end of its nose). Fight with your fists, elbows, knees, and feet.
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    Keep fighting if the shark persists. Hit the eyes and gills repeatedly with hard, sharp jabs. Don't wind up before hitting, since this doesn't provide extra force underwater. You can also claw at the eyes and the gills. Keep doing this until the shark lets you go and swims away.[4]

Part 3
Escape and Get Help

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    Get out of the water. Even if the shark swims away, you're not truly safe until you're out of the water. Sharks may leave temporarily and then come back to continue the attack. Get back to shore or back on the boat as quickly as possible.
    • If a boat is nearby, call out calmly, but loudly, for them to come to you. Stay as still as possible while waiting - as long as the shark is not actively attacking you - and get into the boat as quickly as possible once the boat reaches you.
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    • If you are near shore, swim quickly, but smoothly. Thrashing will attract the shark's attention again and disperse your blood, which could draw more sharks. Do the smooth reverse breast stroke, which requires less splashing than other strokes.
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    Get medical attention. If you've been bitten, get treatment as soon as possible. Massive blood loss could occur, depending on where you've been bitten, so immediately take appropriate steps to stop the bleeding. Even if your wounds appear minor, it's essential to get yourself checked out. Remain calm until you get medical care so your blood does not pump faster through your body.


  • Do not give up. As long as you keep fighting, there's a good chance the shark will eventually give up and search for easier prey.
  • Remember to breathe as you fight. You need adequate oxygen to effectively defend against an attack and to make a quick getaway and retreat to safety.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Sharks usually hunt at drop-offs or near banks. if you see fish continuously jumping out of the water it probably means there is a predator around, which may be a shark.
  • Never play dead around a shark. This will only make them mistake you for free prey. They will attack and your chances of survival will be limited.
  • Remember not to make any sudden movements. This will attract the shark as it will be able to sense your movement.
  • Do not cut off a shark's path to the ocean. It will feel threatened and may go on the offence.
  • Don't wear bright jewelry or watches. It attracts sharks. Instead, choose dark, plain colors.
  • Always be aware of the shark. Don't play dead as an aggressive shark will go for you.
  • To divers, if you are getting followed by a shark, you should have a knife on you or spike. But if the shark is waiting for a time to strike, try to wait it out your safer near cover and underwater with good site then you are going up to the surface and losing site of the creature.
  • If you're attacked while in a group, form a circle and defend yourselves from the circle. Kick and punch outwards from the circle.
  • Stay calm and just keeping calmly swimming to shore or to anything near you that you could rest on without being in the water and then call for help.
  • Never get on top of a shark. Sharks are flexible and they can turn their head and easily attack.
  • Sharks tend to thrash prey around to tear chunks out of their prey, so if the person bitten essentially "hugs" the shark (latching onto it), they sharply reduce the risk of having large quantities of skin or limbs altogether ripped off of their body. Also, doing this prevents the bitten area from being stuck even more in the shark's mouth, as shark teeth are pointed inward to lock in their prey.
  • Don't panic.
  • Don't swim alone no matter what the time is. Sharks still hunt in the day.
  • Try to wear dark clothes if you are going under water
  • Avoid splashing, kicking, or thrashing about in panic, as this may encourage the shark to attack.
  • If you are bleeding don't take a boat and go swimming . You are more likely to be attacked. Never go near a shark.
  • Don't be too scared of sharks. Normally, they're not trying to hurt you. If there is a shark swimming calmly nearby, do not attempt to attack; more often than not, they mean you no harm.
  • Stay above the water.
  • Don't go swimming at dusk, night, and dawn, because these are when sharks feed.
  • Make sure you try to make the blood clot. That way they will lose less energy and blood.
  • Just because it isn't very likely that you will be attacked by a shark that doesn't mean that it wont happen.
  • Sharks dont mistake us for food they actually have a completely different tactic for hunting humans.
  • Even if it is unlikely it will occur, you should always be alert in case it happens.


  • Never provoke a shark or intentionally put yourself in a position in which you are likely to be attacked.

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