If you were to provoke a murderer, say, jump on his back for a few seconds while screaming hysterically, you would assume that he would throw you off and try to kill you, wouldn’t you? As he squirmed to get loose from your grip you would see your life flash before your eyes thinking that it would all be over as soon as he was free. If you physically jumped on a murderer, you would be a goner.
So if sharks are “murderers”, “human-hunters”, and “cold-blooded killers” (as they are often called by ignorant people and hollywood movies), then why did a massive Great White Shark simply swim away after a surfer mistakenly stood on his back and had a three or four second ride of his life?
On Monday, October 10th, surfer Doug Niblack paddled out for what he thought would be a great day of surfing in Seaside, Oregon. As the waves grew bigger and the line-up grew smaller, Niblack paddled into a wave only to have his board hit something large and solid. In an attempt to stand up on the hard surface in order to gain his footing before being pummeled by another wave, Niblack realized that he was not standing on a rock, a reef, or any other piece of land. Rather, the young surfer was standing on a 10 – 12 ft Great White Shark!
Niblack recalls the initial realization of his new surf board to the Associated Press stating,
“It was pretty terrifying just seeing the shape emerge out of nothing and just being under me … And the fin coming out of the water. It was just like the movies.”
He continues to recall the experience saying,
“When I put my hands down on it, it felt rubbery like Neoprene, like a wetsuit,” he continued. “There was a moment there when everything was going on, I just kind of made my peace. I honestly thought I was going to die. Then paddling back in, I was praying the whole time. Like, ‘Don’t let it be following me.'”
Like many others would in this situation, Niblack assumed that his life would be over as soon as he hit the water because such a natural killer would not pass up the opportunity to take a bite out of the idiot now riding him instead of his surfboard. But when Niblack landed back into the ocean, the shark immediately swam back out to sea, while he paddled for his life into the shore. Why would a human hunting murderer let this kind of human behavior slide? There are two possible reasons that come to mind:
1. Sharks are afraid of humans
I already know what you’re thinking – “Why would a 12 foot Great white with over 230 teeth be afraid of a measly land dweller?” The answer is simple: humans, especially in the case of Doug Niblack, can imitate the only creature in the ocean that Great Whites DO fear. The Orca. Also known as the Killer Whale, the Orca uses tactics similar to those of Niblack’s accidental run-in (or should I say swim-in) to attack the Great White. The Orca uses its tail to create a current that brings the shark to the surface. Once at the surface, the Killer Whale performs what is called “The Karate Chop” on the shark as it hits the shark with its powerful tail right across the Great White’s back. When Niblack landed on the sharks back as it rose to surface, the Great White Shark could have easily confused the surfers body with the tail of its greatest predator. In that case, it is not surprising that the shark swam away rather than attacking.
2. Sharks are not murderers
When Great White Sharks attack humans, they are doing so because they are hungry and in search for a large meal to fill them up. Instead of considering sharks as killers, you may think of them as carnivores, similar to most humans. If you came across a cow, you would not decide to kill it just for fun. However, if you were starving and in desperate need for a meal, you might decide to sit down for a nice dinner in a green pasture. (I do not condone eating any animal or fish, being a vegetarian. Yet, I understand the basic need for food. And if I can, you should be able to, as well.)
As Niblack waded on the surface, his silloutte could have led the shark to use its ariel attack and hit Doug from below with such force that he would have been thrown from his board and his escape without a scratch would have been very unlikely. However, Niblack was completely unaware of the sharks presence until his board hit the gentle giant swimming below the surface. Had the shark wanted to attack Niblack, it most likely would have. But it did not! And I find this to be a great debunker of the theory that Great Whites attack humans and creatures even when they are not in need for a tasty meal.
So if I were swimming along side Doug Niblack as he surfed a shark would I be scared? Are you kidding me? I would need to purchase myself a new wetsuit after an experience like that! However, as terrified as I would be, I recognize the threat that humans play to sharks, not only in imitating whales, but also in the hunting and slaughtering of millions of sharks throughout the years and I would use this knowledge to hide away my fear and respect the Great sharks in their natural habitat. Luckily for all of the shark supporters out there, Niblack agrees and plans to not be overcome by fear and head back into the sea with a new respect for the shark that “spared” his life.
Thanks Doug! Hope lots of others follow your example and don’t hate my finned friends! (If I find out about anyone else as accepting as Doug, or if any of my readers know of someone who has survived an attack and does not blame the shark, shoot me a link in my comments section, I’ll be sure to mention them in one of my upcoming posts!)