Last Friday there was a shark attack incident at a beach in Santa Barbara County, California in which a young man, 19 years-old, was fatally bitten while bodyboarding. It is obviously a very tragic event, the victim’s family is surely grieving for having lost a loved one, as anyone would be in their situation. However, surfers, bodyboarders, swimmers, et. al. who go into the ocean are, or should be, aware of the risks they run.
Respecting The Ocean & Its Inhabitants
At Bodhi Surf School one of the things we want our students to understand is that surfers need to have a deep respect for the ocean; not only for the waves and their energy, but for everything within the aquatic environment. Although shark attacks are not that common, whenever one does occur it never fails to make the news and stir-up human emotions. What we need to keep in mind is that the ocean is not man’s intended habitat, it is not our domain, we do not rule it, we are not the top predator in the water.
The Ocean Is Not Ours
As humans, the general sentiment is that we have the ability and right to control, and we are used to imposing our will upon the Earth so it is only natural that we feel helpless and threatened by dominant ocean predators such as sharks. Despite the fact that we know shark attacks are typically the result of mistaken identity, i.e. the shark mistaking a surfer or swimmer in a black neoprene suit for a seal, there is frequently a feeling of rage against these animals.
Unfortunately this is a realistic danger that comes with any ocean activity, including surfing, and there is not much that can be done. Surfers are not only aware of but accept this risk as part of the thrill of riding waves, and as rational beings we need to understand that sharks play a critical role in the marine ecosystem despite the threat they pose for humans.