The kids and I went to the beach on Saturday. Apart from the fact that there is a chance that you could be eaten there, most people would say our beach is beautiful. As summer arrives, the Indian Ocean wraps around your pale ankles like an old friend welcoming you back to its embrace. Gentle waves roll in from the direction of Africa somewhere far away across the faint horizon.
Now, it is also true that the chances of being eaten by a shark are roughly 1:11 million, a statistic that stimulates many a trip to the beach but is strangely irrelevant as one enters the water. And, of course, Australia is not the place you are most likely to be attacked – that honour rests with mainland United States (around 800 attacks since records have been kept). But we are in second place (at 305) and, I hasten to add, you are more likely to actually die from the bite of an Australian shark (39 deaths in the US; 136 in Australia). Whether this is a tribute to Antipodean man-eaters or a dubious comment on the frailty of Australians themselves is uncertain.
Anyway, what is clear is that my beach is potentially a place of salty carnage. So here are four tips to avoid being eaten:
- Always leave as many people as possible between you and the open sea – personally I look for the fat and the young figuring that they represent more value for effort on the part of the shark (those with children will find this quite easy to manipulate by simply encouraging the kids to float a bit further out).
- Since 90% of shark attacks are on men, it’s worth considering placing yourself in the middle of a lot of women swimmers. On the other hand, in the eyes of a shark, this may make you stand out as the one desirable lobster in a sea of shrimps.
- There is some evidence that swimming with other animals increases your likelihood of being attacked by a shark. Take you dog to the beach and keep throwing its ball in the direction of the swimmers farthest from you.
- Sharks tend to feed on the edge of deep water. Organise all the kids on the beach to race around the buoy that’s furthest from the shoreline.
As Lenny Bruce used to say, intellectual awareness has its limitations. I know that I have more chance of being killed in a car crash than being eaten by a Great White.
And yet, when I’m treading water, somehow separated from all the other swimmers on the beach and there’s a shadow nearby that might please, please only be seaweed?
I’d give a million bucks to be rolling 200 miles an hour, drunk at the wheel down a Bangkok bypass instead.