Under the Sea — August 22, 2014 at 5:00 am

What To Do If You Spot a Shark While Swimming

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USO / iStock / thinkstock.com

USO / iStock / thinkstock.com

It’s a glorious summer day. You’re out cooling off in the ocean, when something suddenly feels a little off. You can’t quite put your finger on it…like something is watching you. Off in the distance, there’s a flash from the water. Was that a buoy? Or was it a—gulp—shark fin?

We all know the odds of being attacked by a shark are slim-to-none, but it’s not easy to convince an overactive imagination. If, on the off chance, you do spot a shark while you’re swimming, arm yourself with this information.

Stay Calm
Stay calm: two simple words that are so very difficult to obey. If you’re in the water and spot a shark in the vicinity, do your best not to freak out. Remind yourself that the vast majority of sharks are harmless.

Catch and Release
If you happen to be fishing or have some other shark bait on you, release it quickly. The shark is more interested in that tasty stuff than it is in you.

Get Out of the Way
If the shark appears to be coming closer to you, get out of the water! But remember those magic words: Stay calm. You’ll want to move quickly, but calmly and smoothly. Do your best to keep the shark in sight.

Team Up
If you’re in the water with other people, stick near them as you head to shore. A group of people is more intimidating to a shark than a lone swimmer.

Brace Yourself
If the worst-case scenario should happen, you’ll need to bust out those survival skills. If the shark is coming up to you quickly and aggressively, back up against anything you can—another swimmer, a rock, etc. This will minimize the angles from which a shark can strike you. If you any objects nearby—a surfboard, a boogie board, a spear for fishing—use them!

Aim for the Sensitive Spots
Aim to strike the shark’s eyes and gills. Scream underwater and blow bubbles. Defend yourself and do everything you can to get away—playing dead will not trick the shark!

Sleep Easy
Sharks don’t scout out people for dinner. They much prefer other types of food. In reality, if a shark is close to a person, it will usually leave the swimmer alone.

You already know this, but shark attacks are rare—really rare. The odds of being struck by lightening are much higher than being attacked by a shark (1/12,000 compared to 1/3,748,067, respectively).

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