Sharks live in the ocean. Who knew?
They are scary. They are dangerous. They are predatory. Cue up the theme from “Jaws!”
Unfortunately, sharks have a bad marketing plan. They have no buddies giving them great reviews on Google as well as making connections through LinkedIn and Facebook, or fishy friends passing out their outstanding resumes.
Instead, they spend their lives fending off ambush media from all that “Shark Week” stuff and the Hollywood types. Thanks for nothing, Steven Spielberg! The media was at it again this weekend, churning up the waters of bad publicity after a shark made a bee-line for surfer Mick Fanning during a competition in South Africa. Manning escaped unscathed, although you could feel that adrenaline rush in his interview minutes after the incident.
“I was just sitting there and I felt something just get stuck in my leg rope, and I was kicking trying to get it away,” Fanning told Fox Sports.
“I just saw fins. I was waiting for the teeth.”
Lucky man. Next time meet me down under, mate.
Beneath the surface. Scuba diving.
Top-side is the most dangerous place to be in the ocean. We, as humans, are the home invaders, crashing their shark pad. Surfers and swimmers should have gotten the memo by now: Sharks often mistake us human critters — or the surfboards — for seals or other tasty big creatures. We are not, however. Humans don’t have enough fat to make us tasty entrees (cue “tastes like chicken” joke). The sharks bite once, then swim away. Only three people died worldwide from a shark attack last year, involving a minuscule 72 incidents.
That’s why as a diver, I am very comfortable swimming with the fishes — as well as the sharks. Although they are high up the predatory food chain, sharks, by and large, ignore divers.
“We’re not their food,” said Keith Mattson, a local scuba instructor who has logged more than 13,000 dives. His only shark encounters? When he was spear-fishing or lobster-hunting, amping up the shark’s interest for a natural food source.
I’ve had face-to-snout proximity with plenty of sharks, but whenever I am swimming or wading in the ocean, my fear factor shoots up. We are no longer scuba buddies. Sharks often swim in shallow waters looking for bait fish.
“Sharks have more opportunity, if you want to call it, to munch on somebody,” Mattson said.
Just a few weeks ago, in Daytona Beach Shores for a staycation, I was thrashing in the water with a little one, a soon-to-be-7 princess absolutely exhilarated at her first boogie-board experience. “Surf’s up!” she screamed.
I was happy that she was happy. But after a while, I began worrying about the murkiness of those waters and what creatures they may hold. Mr. Fancy Pants, Open-Water Advanced PADI Diver, scared of swimming in four feet of water.
Then again, I’d have a greater chance of dying from a dog or bee bite than a shark-morsel encounter. Here’s a fun fact from National Geographic: You have a one-in-63 chance of dying from the flu and a 1-in-3,700,000 chance of being killed by a shark during your lifetime.
And here’s a more sobering fact: For every human killed by a shark, humans kill approximately two million sharks.
But the bad shark publicity keeps churning. Brian Kilmeade, one of the, ahem, brilliant minds on Fox & Friends, suggested that the surfing-competition people didn’t do enough to make the waters safe.
“You would think that they would have a way of clearing the waters before a competition of this level, but I guess they don’t,” Kilmeade said.
Yes! Let’s put all the sharks up at the Marriott By The Sea. Will they get points? Will there be a concierge level and free happy-hour hors d’oeuvres?
“If a three-time world champion surfer isn’t safe, who is?” Elisabeth Hasselbeck said. “The shark should be afraid of him.”
The media! The hype! The nonsense!
Be afraid, sharks. Be very afraid.
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