When I was a child, my mother would tell me to wait an hour after eating before I could go swimming in the ocean. This never seemed logical to me, because fish eat and then swim and they don’t die as a result. Still I obeyed her orders. Years later, I would discover that this was just a myth and there was no real correlation between the two.
As a writer, I’m not trying to be anyone’s mother, but I feel it’s my responsibility to promote real beach safety for those who seek the invigorating waters of the East End. And now is when this issue is best addressed, while there’s time to practice, before the summer beach season is upon us. I can only hope that Dan’s Papers readers do not discount this advice as some myth, as it may be vital to their survival. I am honored to assume this educational responsibility and am up to the task.
Parents can easily teach their kids the basics of beach safety, such as using sunscreen, keeping hydrated, obeying the lifeguards and how to evade a rip current. So I will leave these alone and tackle the elephant in the room—or in this case, the shark in the water. I have watched every episode of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, so I fancy myself some thing of an expert on shark behavior.
For those of you, and I know there are many, who keep older copies of Dan’s Papers around the house, you will be able to confirm that there were many articles written over the past year about East End shark sightings. So the issue is real and upon us.
By far, the best way to stop a shark attack is to avoid it altogether. The most common practices in this regard are to stay away from fishing boats, as they often trail fish remains or blood. Likewise, don’t go in the water if you are bleeding. Stay out of the water if baitfish are present, and also if there are large groups of fish or seals.
Avoid swimming next to steep drop-offs or harbor channels. Sharks frequent these. Don’t wear shiny bracelets or jewelry into the water. Also—stay away from high-contrast clothing such as orange and yellow, because sharks see contrast very well. Refrain from excessive splashing, as this can attract the beasts as well. Swim in teams. Sharks usually attack only individuals.
In case of a shark attack, remain calm. The shark will know if you’re in a panicked state and this will heighten their frenzy, eliminating the chance of them letting go for that split second, whereby the victim (you) can possibly escape. A way to practice remaining calm it is to have someone awaken you in the middle of the night by simultaneously screaming and pinching you with a set of bread tongs. Repeat each night until you can react without panic.
If you do find yourself in the jaws of a shark, try to poke their eyes or gills with your thumb, as these are sensitive areas. This can be practiced on any number of stuffed animals, but it is better if you actually practice it with a stuffed shark.
Don’t try to play dead, expecting that the shark will let you go. This is not an alligator attack. Once you get free of the shark, get to shore as quickly as possible and then seek medical attention.
Taking all this into consideration, in order to avoid a shark attack, it may be easier if I just tell you what you can do. As long as you are wearing dull clothing and no jewelry, are not bleeding, are with other people and in an area where no other fish or wildlife are present, which is shallow and not in close proximity to a channel, deep water or a fishing boat, you may enter the water, without splashing, for a short period of time. Have fun at the beach!