I always wanted to learn surfing but I hear there are a ton of sharks in these waters. Especially around SF. Is this a shark hot-spot? If so, how can I avoid them? Are there sharks in the San Francisco Bay?

asked 23 Mar '10, 20:25

4grim's gravatar image

accept rate: 18%

edited 14 Nov '12, 12:12

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ashbury ♦♦

There are most certainly sharks in San Francisco Bay. In fact, the Farallon Islands, 27 miles (43 km) outside the Golden Gate, are a known breeding ground for Great White sharks. The cool waters of Northern California are prime Great White habitat. In fact, the threat of shark attack was regularly used to dissuade criminals from trying to swim from Alcatraz when it was being used as a maximum security prison.

That being said, sharks are not a big threat to surfers in San Francisco. Sharks are eating machines, and as such are interested in food. Their food is primarily seals, so as long as you're not surfing by seals you should be OK.



answered 23 Mar '10, 22:42

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Mr. W ♦♦
accept rate: 26%


The seals are gone! gulp! Thank you! Very helpful!

(07 Apr '10, 06:42) 4grim

The basic answer to your question is yes, and you should be afraid, because the threat is very real. The person who said here is no big threat to surfers is wrong. There is a constant threat and you have to be aware of your surroundings or else you'll put yourself in an increased position of risk.

The bay area is teeming with sharks, and has a very significant population of great whites roughly from August foward, every year. Virtually none other than the whites are known to attack people on a regular basis. Which is unfortunate, because they are the largest and most dangerous.

As a beginning surfer there are a couple things to keep in mind.

  1. Be aware of where you are relative to any deep water channels. Some surf breaks have these in between peaks. Others simply have very steep drop-off points just outside of the areas where the waves break. Deeper water presents the white shark with enough space to attack in the way that it prefers to -- from below. Do not drift into deep channels, or out beyond the "break". Do not let a current carry you further out than you want to be; this can happen while you are sitting still on your board, without you knowing it, unless you are paying attention to your position. So, pay attention to your relative position.

  2. If you see good waves someplace, but there are no other surfers out, there's likely a reason for this, and it could be due to recent shark activity. Consult locals before paddling out.

  3. Stay away from rivermouths. Don't surf anywhere near them on an outgoing tide.

  4. Do not surf alone.

There are those who will try to tell you that your chances of being hit by lightning are higher than that of being bitten by a white shark.

Those people are ignorant and/o delusional.

When you paddle out into the pacific ocean in September dressed like a pinniped (black wetsuit) straddling a surfboard (shape of a pinniped) you are doing the equivalent of standing on top of a hill in a thunderstorm in a golf course. The only thing you have control over is whether or not you choose to then hold a 9-iron up over your head and wave it around.


answered 24 Sep '10, 01:08

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welcome! and thanks for the input. a lot more thought in your answer.

(24 Sep '10, 04:07) ashbury ♦♦

nice answer dude!

(24 Sep '10, 04:08) sftrek

Please see my post at the end further down for clarification on why this is incorrect. Possibly ignorant, definitely delusional.

(25 Sep '10, 06:59) I hate surfing

There are tons of sharks. I get nibbled a little almost every time I go out. You should definitely not go surfing here. If your friends surf you should warn them too. Tell them to stop because they are in great danger.


answered 24 Sep '10, 05:38

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My answer is in direct response to saltequalssharks. He makes a good point about doing all you can to avoid danger, but the fact of the matter is that Shark attacks are waaaaaaaaaaay less common than lightning strikes. Period. Try googling annual shark attack deaths vs lightning.

Here are some Links where you can compare the two:

People Killed By lightening: http://www.unitedjustice.com/death-statistics.html

People Killed by Sharks http://www.scubaaddict.com/articles/How-Many-People-Do-Sharks-Kill-Each-Year-/129/

Note that the statistics compare shark attacks in the WORLD vs lightening stikes in the US ONLY. Lightning strikes only in the US far outweights yearly shark deaths. Saltequalssharks had some good points about how to stay away from sharks territory, but is it delusional to think that sharks kill more people than lightening.

Surfing sucks, thats why you shouldn't do it.


answered 25 Sep '10, 06:57

I%20hate%20surfing's gravatar image

I hate surfing
accept rate: 0%

i love your answer!

(29 Sep '10, 03:39) sftrek

Without being a surf expert I would guess that more than 99% of all injuries related to surfing are not caused by sharks.

Edit: This page in a "The Encyclopedia of Surfing" has some statistics about surfing related injuries:


answered 23 Mar '10, 20:53

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edited 23 Mar '10, 21:03

um to the guy with the stats. your comparison makes no sense unless you take into account hte fact that there are 6 billion people on LAND (or 300 million in the US) whereas I bet there are less than 100,000 people in the water at any given time. Obviously sharks aren't attacking people on land. So while your chances of a shark attack aren't too high as a general rule, the second you get into the water - particularly in waters where they are known to be present - you are SERIOUSLY increasing your probabilities.

now that being said, your chances are still incredibly low and probably shouldnt' be worried about. but simply comparing the lightning vs. shark attack stats is misleading.


answered 12 Jul '11, 06:22

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welcome dedtomato to sfanswers!

(12 Jul '11, 12:11) ashbury ♦♦

To see a list of shark species in the area see - http://sfbaywildlife.info/species/sharks.htm


answered 14 May '12, 03:58

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Back to saltsequalssharks, in response to your argument- While yes there are many less people in the Ocean then on land, I think there are many less people exposed outside in thunderstorms than in open water at any time. So the fact that you have a better chance of getting struck relaxes me as far as the shark attacks. I'm actually doing the Alcatraz triathlon this weekend which involves a 1.5 mile swim from Alcatraz through the bay- thousands of racers. Doubt they would put this on every year if we were in that much danger. There has only been one shark attack in the Bay recorded in history.


answered 27 Feb '13, 15:25

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Asked: 23 Mar '10, 20:25

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Last updated: 08 Apr '13, 22:26