Rush of products increase likelihood of scoring empty surf in shark-troubled waters
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 23 May, 2016 - This summer could go down as the first “shark-proof” season as consumers now have access to several anti-shark devices.
Recent commercial developments now make it possible to kit-out your surfboard with a variety of anti-shark devices that target both a shark’s visual and electromagnetic senses.
Shark deterrent companies Sharkbanz and Shark Shield have partnered with surfing hardgoods brands Modom and Ocean & Earth to make both a surf-specific shark deterrent surf leash and a tail pad respectively. The company Sharkbanz also offers wearable wrist and ankle bands to deter the toothy predators.
Australian company Shark Attack Mitigation Systems have launched a series of visual deterrents: stickers for surfboards and custom wetsuits with elaborate stripe patterns.
Tailpad: Shark Shield partnered with Ocean and Earth to develop a tail pad with space for a removable electronics module near the kick of the tail pad. Electrodes run through a sticker-thin decal adhesive antenna connected to the tail pad via an adhesive flex cable. The tail pad retails for $99 AUS but doesn’t include the actual shark-deterrent device. The removable anti-shark power model sells separately at $499.
How does it work? Shark Shield has successfully completed the development of a new shark deterrent for surfers that was part funded by the Western Australian Government’s Applied Research Program (ARP). The company was provided with a $300K grant over 2.5 years to develop new technology to protect surfers following a spate of shark attacks in 2012.
Those electrodes create an underwater electric field. When a shark comes close to someone wearing the Shark Shield, the devices causes spasms and keeps the sharks away.
"It doesn't cause any long term damage. It just causes the muscular contraction of their snout. As soon as they're outside of the field, that spasm stops,” said Amanda Wilson with Shark Shield.
The product will be available in surf retail outlets in July 2016 and available to order online from Shark Shield now.
Leash: Modomsurf said a new leash tested well earlier this year and will hit shelves this summer. The leg rope will feature Sharkbanz technology built into the ankle cuff. It looks like your standard leash, but is outfitted with the Sharkbanz magnet where the urethane cord meets the cuff. The magnet does weigh a bit, but it’s your ankle carrying the added weight instead of it dragging in the water behind you.
Wearable: Beyond the leash there’s also a large watch-band product from Sharkbanz that one can wear on their ankle or wrist. It looks like a huge plastic surf watch without the digital face. The band is extra long so you can wear it on your leg.
The Sharkbanz technology employs simple magnets (albeit, special super-juiced magnets) to interfere with sharks sensitive electroreceptors. Research suggest that as a shark closes in on it’s prey, it relies on sensors in its snout to lock on to the food.
The technology has been tested on nearly a dozen species of sharks and was recently tested in a Bull Shark encounter. The company posted a video to their website with footage showing a bull shark who does not bite a tempting, chum-filled sock attached to a diver dummy's foot.
The sock is fitted with a Sharkbanz and once the device is removed the bull shark does not hesitate to strike.
In a strong statement, shark attack survivor Paddy Trumbull, 65, who had her upper thighs and buttocks torn off by a bull shark in Queensland in February 2010 said in a press release that such a device would have 'absolutely' prevented her attack.
Visual: Not all shark deterrents are powered by electric pulses or magnets. A few years ago Professor Shaun Collin and Professor Nathan Harthas made a number of significant discoveries relating to shark sensory systems - including the fact that sharks see in black and white.
Their research found that vision is crucial in the final stage of an attack. According to the company “by disrupting a shark's visual perception, an attack can either be diverted altogether or at least delayed to allow time to exit the water.”
While their tests have been encouraging they caution that field-testing of the technology is an ongoing process.
The company, Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (SAMS) has released a design that is applied to wetsuits and claims to reduce the chance of attack. The patented designs can also be applied as stickers to surfboards, dive tanks, kayaks and other watersport products.
These same minds at SAMS are also responsible for the “Clever Buoy” system which uses sonar to detect sharks and then transmits a signal to a waiting response team. The system is being adopted by several Aussie beaches as it’s a shark-friendly alternative to drumlins and nets.
While the above products offer hope for surfing in those areas plagued by shark attacks, all makers of the above mentioned devices warned that nothing is 100% effective against sharks. But as the current recreation boom sends more and more people into the water, these products offer, at the very least, some peace of mind in sharky waters.