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I've always been scared of sharks. It seems like the most natural thing in the world to be afraid of. I instinctively haven't forgotten what it was like for my ancestors to swim around in that big, scary ocean, before they ever went up on land.

Either way, tons of people dive, not just in local lakes, but frequently out in the sea or even near land at a beach attached to the "open sea".

How do they dare to do this? Do they simply go by statistics, saying that there are few or no known shark attacks in this area for the last X years? Of course, this says nothing about those who dive without telling anyone beforehand, or don't even dive, but simply just were in the water, swimming, when a shark got them and pulled them far away, never to be seen or heard from again.

Maybe sharks "normally" don't hang around the beaches, although I would if I were a shark, since a bunch of juicy humans hang around there. Nevertheless, the fact remains that nothing physically stops the sharks from simply going to that area, or ending up there by random chance. And then it's game over if they see me.

Few deaths probably are as frightening as trying to scream for help under water as you see these unsympathetic, remorseless predators of the sea coming for you, opening their jaws to let you see the razor-sharp teeth a split second before you are bitten, bleeding as it shakes your helpless body around and pulls it away. Shudder.

To tell you the truth, I would never even dive or swim in a lake surrounded by land, far away from the shore. Who knows what's down there in the dark, unknown water? I'm not even sure I want to know...

Do people simply have no concern for their own safety? Do they consider it "worth it" to risk getting eaten by a fierce watery beast just to get to experience being under water like their ancestors millions of years ago? I will admit that it probably would be fun, if sharklessness could be guaranteed, but I'd just be worrying and fearing for my life every second of the experience and it would ruin any enjoyment down there. No "promises" by "experts" or statistics would convince me otherwise.

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  • "...or other lethal water animals" perhaps jellyfish, stingrays and sea urchins are dangerous. Dec 18 '20 at 15:38
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    Actually, the most deadly creatures on the world are the cars. How do people have no concern for their own safety and come nearby asphalt rivers where they are likely to met one of those beasts? Dec 18 '20 at 23:00
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    I think you're being a bit dramatic and need to get a grip on risk and probability. "No "promises" by "experts" or statistics would convince me otherwise." - so why are you asking this question, you've already made up your mind and told us it won't change. Dec 25 '20 at 19:34
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People have varying levels of shark awareness, anxiety and tolerance. To start with, you're really quite unlikely to get eaten by a shark. Much more likely to drown for some reason.

A big part of things is location. I live in Vancouver and grew up in the Caribbean. In both places, I don't worry about sharks when swimming. The types of shark that are around are mostly not human-attackers and attacks are extremely rare. St. Maarten for example... the only documented, non-lethal, attack in the whole Dutch West Indies for a while was a bull shark in Curacao in the 60s, 1000km away.

Species is a huge part of this: great whites, tigers, but bull sharks most of all. If dangerous species aren't found in your neighborhood, little to worry about.

Yes, you can get in trouble even there. People will do dumb things like spearfish and tie a bleeding fish to their belt. But that is really going out of your way.

On the other hand, I didn't swim around much when in Hawaii. Maui especially has infrequent but not totally unknown shark attacks. California also has infrequent attacks.

On top of that you need to layer the context of what you are doing. Great whites eat seals and surfers seem to look like seals. Shark attacks often happen in low visibility conditions: murky waters, low light. That's especially when our friends the bull sharks can be problematic, as they like the shoreline.

Many shark attacks are in less than 5'/1.5m of water. That's not a diver, that's a wader. There is, to be sure, an aspect of numbers of waders vs volume of divers, but the point is that diving and snorkeling is not an especially dangerous activity for sharks. Scuba diving is a dangerous activity in its own right, especially when practiced by careless divers who are indifferent swimmers to start with, but that has nothing to do with sharks.

All in all, unless you are in a high-frequency shark attack area (Australia, California, Hawaii, Florida, South Africa...), without the wrong type of sharks, you pretty much have nothing to worry about in practice. Especially if you avoid low visibility conditions, or shark triggering behavior.

And even in those supposedly dangerous spots your risk is vanishingly small, much smaller than drowning. My point is not to tell you are being irrational, I myself am guilty of that around Hawaii and I know it. It is to say that, in most areas, sharks are really a non-problem. You don't have to convince yourself that sharks are safe everywhere, only be aware if your location has reasons for any worries. Many places don't and in that case there's really no objective risk, minimal as it might be, holding you back.

Last, but not least. A big part of this is not about being safe, it's about feeling safe and in control. I couldn't care less about a diving knife, but if I really wanted to feel better, I'd get a bang stick. Just make sure it doesn't put you at more risk than the sharks.

Edit:

Re-reading of your post and your entry about not swimming in lakes makes me add this. Respectfully, if you are asking because you would like to swim yourself (rather than curiosity about other people's risk tolerance), then you will need to approach this as a phobia, not a risk management or outdoors dangers issue. It seems to me nothing is going to change your mind in terms of risk information, but the same methods that can help with arachnophobia or fear of heights might.

I confess to a fear of heights myself, but I fully get that is mental conditioning on my part, not calculated risk aversion. I could no more walk on a 2 foot ledge 300 feet up than you could swim under certain conditions. More information about mountaineering practices would not help me overcome this.

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I hope you are aware that this is not anything to be worried about when in the sea, but almost entirely an irrational fear. It's not just you - it's a very common fear; either of sharks themselves (Galeophobia), or fear of the deep (Thalassophobia).

Almost every other risk is far more likely to kill you. Sharks don't like the taste of humans, generally, and almost all shark bites are "tasting" bites. It's not game over if they see you - you are not a food item for sharks, although blacktip and spinner sharks sometimes mistake humans for prey they rapidly learn their mistake on first bite and leave. You can further minimize the tiny risk of this by avoiding swimming when bleeding, and avoiding lying on a surfboard with limbs out (as you may look like a seal)

There are no high frequency shark attack areas. In all parts of the world sharks are really a "non-problem." So don't worry about it. Those of us who open water swim, surf and dive never worry about it - we are more likely to die from accidentally slipping and hitting our head when getting back in the car after a swim.

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