It's that time of year again, when warm temperatures bring both thousands of sun- and sea-worshipping humans, and scads of hungry, instinct-driven sharks, to the place where the land meets the ocean.
Given the proximity and sheer numbers of both species, incredibly few people are actually bitten. Still, people do get bitten almost every summer, particularly here in the Shark Attack Capital of America - as of this writing, three persons have been attacked this year, and one of them, a young girl from Louisiana, tragically died from her wounds.
The most direct result of these unfortunate encounters is countless hyperbolic newspaper headlines (my personal favorite, glimpsed during a montage sometime during The Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week extravaganza, just said "Shark Attack Season Opens Today"). Equally as inevitable is the list of ways to lessen one's chances of being bitten; it's always the same, from the completely unnecessary disclaimer stating that the surest way to avoid attack is to not get in the water in the first place, to the bit about not wearing shiny, metallic fabrics or jewelry that might catch and reflect the light in the fashion of baitfish scales.
It's not enough, damn it.
In the interest of saving lives, here are eight more tips for avoiding the attention, and the jaws, of the ocean's most fearsome inhabitant.
But seriously, the surest way to avoid attack is to not get in the water in the first place.
Do not swim while wearing garments made of raw meat or fish.
Most sharks are carnivorous, and as such are equipped with a predator's refined senses. A hungry shark can smell that mullet belt or smelt bracelet from an amazing distance. But don't be tricked into thinking a beef bikini or turkey swimming trunks will go unnoticed by a fish that only eats other fish; while the majority of the shark's diet indeed consists of marine life, many species are reported to consume seabirds and anything else unlucky enough to fall into the ocean. Which means poultry and red meat are also a bad idea, no matter how fashionable the design.
Do not attempt to evade police officers by hiding in the ocean after being shot.
It has been estimated that a shark can detect one part blood in a million parts seawater. Gunshot wounds - particularly scalp grazes, abdominal ruptures and any trajectory that nicks a major vein or artery - tend to bleed a lot. So you can see that, though the vast, murky shallows might initially seem like a good last-ditch place to lose the cops after the convenience-store clerk pumps one into you, a moment's thought may well spare you further injury.
Do not impersonate a wounded seal for the amusement of your companions.
We're not impugning the quality of your performance - your wounded-seal bit is legendary. Seriously, that shit is funny. And we know that doing it at the beach adds that extra bit of reality you just don't get when somebody asks you to do it in the pool. But in larger sharks, the urge to attack an injured sea mammal may be so ingrained as to be instinctual, and is generally accepted as the reason why most surfers are bitten. Play it safe; if you simply cannot help but indulge your friends, lie down on the sand and enlist a buddy to club you.
Do not stage your own free-range shark-vs-crocodile battle royale.
There's no arguing the primal rush of adrenaline one receives when watching two of Earth's oldest and most dangerous denizens go at it to the death, and treading water just yards from where it's happening adds to the experience immeasurably. (It's also a great way to earn some extra cash through entry fees and wagering.) That much payoff never comes without an extremely high peril quotient, however. In addition to the good chance that a spectator may be bitten, there's also the fact that saltwater crocodiles are a federally protected species.
Do not engage in a blood-mingling pray-for-waves ritual with your fellow Earth-brother surfer dudes.
It's peaceful out there, riding the swells with your brahs and waiting for the nature gods to reward your worship with a righteous break. It's only natural to offer something up in return, but again, the shark's ability to sense blood in the water is astoundingly acute. If one catches the scent and follows the trail to find several large silhouettes hovering on the surface above it and dangling limbs, you might lose more than your pooka-shell anklet.
Do not accept a role lower than third-billed in any movie about shark attacks.
Of course, being billed among the top three actors in a shark-attack movie is not a guarantee that your character will not be attacked, perhaps fatally. It does, however, increase your chances of survival dramatically, unless you play the antagonist who either tries to cover up the shark attacks for the sake of a tourist town's revenues, or doesn't believe there are sharks out there at all. On the other hand, if the word "victim" and any number appear anywhere in association with your character, your odds of making it to the final credits unscathed are exactly zero.
Do not purposely cut yourself and thrash about in the water in order to show your little brother there are no such things as sharks.
There is ample physical evidence available to confirm the existence of sharks beyond a shadow of a doubt. Maybe you were thinking of the sea-yeti.
Do not travel back in time to stow away on the U.S.S. Indianapolis.
"1100 men went in the water, 316 come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29, 1945." -Robert Shaw (as Quint), Jaws.