They’re fast. They’re ruthless. And they’re hungry. Their sharp teeth can destroy you in seconds. And no, playing dead will not fool them. It’s not that they want to eat you. They’re just a bit nosy. And they might bite a chunk off you out of curiosity. If you think it’s impossible to survive a shark attack, we have four stories that will show you otherwise. But there’s a catch. Only one of these survivors made it out in one piece. Stick around to see how the others survived their painful ordeals.
Number 1. Hide and Seek
In 2006, Bernie Williams was scuba diving 3 km (1.8 mi) off the beach in Perth, Australia. While searching for crayfish, Williams was suddenly struck on the side with what he said to be the force of a truck. It was a great white shark biting his left elbow from behind. As he recalls, the white pointer dragged Williams for about 2 m (6 ft). Luckily, he was carrying a spear gun, which he used to stab the shark in the nose. Williams said it felt like he was hitting a lump of steel. After fighting off the shark, he hid in a crevice on the ocean floor for about five minutes. The shark kept looking for Williams until his friends arrived. One of them was wearing a shark repellant. He said that while the situation was scary, he’s not giving up diving for crayfish. Next time, he’ll pack some shark repellant.
Number 2. Surf and TERF
Bethany Hamilton was a promising young surfer, gaining her first sponsorship at the age of nine. In 2003, 13-year-old Bethany was attacked by a 4.3 m (14 ft) tiger shark while surfing in Tunnels Beach, Hawaii. Thankfully, she was surfing with her friend Alana Blanchard and Alana’s father and brother. They helped paddle her back to shore where she was then taken to Wilcox Memorial Hospital. The attack left her with her left arm severed below the shoulder. She lost 60% of her blood and went into hypovolemic shock. Not only did she survive, but it took her less than one month to get back into the water and less than three months to compete again. Her story inspired a Hollywood film, as well as a documentary. She doesn’t often talk about the attack but has been open about her journey to recovery. And very open about her views on transgender athletes.
Number 3. A Leg for a Tooth
In 2015, 26-year-old Chris Blowes was attacked by a shark while surfing on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. The 5.5 m (18 ft) great white grabbed Chris and his board while he was paddling. Blowes says the shark shook him and played with him for a bit. The second time the shark attacked, it pulled his leg off. That’s when his friends arrived to help him. They saved his life by creating an improvised tourniquet using the surfboard leash. Chris’ heart stopped on the shore, and paramedics had to administer CPR to regain his vital signs. He was in a coma for 10 days following the attack. After waking up to discover the shark’s tooth was found embedded in the surfboard, he asked to keep it. There’s usually a $100,000 fine for possessing, selling, or purchasing any part of white sharks in Australia. However, under this special circumstance, an exemption was granted. Chris says he would never kill a shark for its tooth, but since he’s not getting his leg back and the shark is not getting its tooth, he sees no reason why he can’t have it.
Number 4. From the Sea to the Snow
In 2014, Sean Pollard was teaching his girlfriend Claire how to surf at Kelp Beds Beach in Western Australia. After the lesson, Claire returned to relax on the beach, and Sean decided to stay in the water and catch bigger waves. Pollard was so far out that Claire couldn’t see him anymore. That’s when a shark took a bite out of Sean’s surfboard. Next, it bit his leg. After that, it started going for his arms. Sean turned around to face the shark, and that’s when it came up out of the water and went for the kill. Pollard recalls seeing the shark’s black eye right there in front of him. It’s a vision that will be forever burnt in his mind. With both his arms in its mouth, the shark pulled Sean underwater. Pollard held his breath while the shark violently shook him seven or eight times. Suddenly, he was back at the surface, and there was blood everywhere. The shark had ripped his left forearm off and sucked the meat off his bone. Sean later compared it to a chicken bone.
When the worst seemed to be over, he felt another bump. A second shark came in and took his right hand. He was able to paddle back to the beach where four people had just arrived. They all performed first aid on him before paramedics arrived. Despite his injuries, Sean was still awake and very present. One of the paramedics remembered him saying: “can you just please stop the pain, mate.” Sean got 95 stitches and 45 staples. He also got a prosthetic arm and had to learn how to walk again due to the injuries to his legs. In 2015, he adopted snowboarding and made it to the team that competed in the Winter Paralympics in 2018. One big lesson we can learn from these stories is to avoid going into the ocean by yourself. Something all survivors had in common, is that there was someone near to help them.
- Shark attack survivor shaken. (2006). ABC News.
- I hid after shark attack. APP (2006).
- Soul Surfer True Story: How Much Really Happened To Bethany Hamilton. Potier, L. (2020). Screen Rant
- Life Lessons Through Sport: Bethany Hamilton on surfing after a shark attack. Thurston, E. (2020). Sky Sports
- Adelaide surfer recalls moment of terrifying shark attack. 9NEWS (2015). Nine News.
- Shark attack survivor wins right to keep tooth left in surfboard. (2021). BBC News