Are Kayaks Safe From Sharks? Everything You Need To Know.

Author: Joe Reilly

Whether You’re an experienced kayaking who’s been on the water off and on for a decade, or you’re someone who’s just bought their kayak and you’re learning the ins and out of this exciting recreational activity the questions might have crossed your mind: Are kayaks safe from sharks? It’s an understandable question to have as even before the movie Jaws hit the silver screen people have feared sharks in most bodies of water. Today we’re going to fill you in on everything you need to know when it comes to sharks and kayaks. The natural predator of the sea, should you be worried when kayaking? Find out below.

The simple answer to this question is yes, sharks are safe from kayaks if you avoid bodies of water that contain them. If you choose to kayak in a body of water that is ripe with shark sightings, prone to shark attacks, and or are considered to be bodies of water that just lack that type of information then you’re of course running the risk of a shark taking a bite out of your kayak. The situation is what you make of it. The important thing and precautions you can take lays in the amount of research you do beforehand on the spot you want to go kayaking on. Wherever you decide to hit the water, there will always be that information available.

To expand more on what we just explained, we want to get more specific on how you can either avoid entirely or be more aware of sharks in your kayaking zone. We also want to provide you some rather comforting statistics before that. As you can see from our chart below, shark fatalities from 1959-2004 are significantly low in a survey of three states in America. Shark attacks are higher in numbers but spread over about four decades the likelihood is still significantly lower than say something like car crash injury numbers. To sum that up for you, the shark risk is still there when you kayak but the odds are somewhat in your favor.

How To Lower Your Chances of Shark Attack When Kayaking?

Studies tend to suggest that sharks act up most when they feel like their terrority is being threatened. Outside of that sharks enjoy staying the predatory of their natural prey in their bodies of water like fish, correl, etc. The problem with kayaks lay in the kayak simply being in a shark zone and or moving aggressively to upset a shark. Despite number sbeing really low, ways to significantly lower your chance of encountering a shark again remain in staying away from known shark zones but also, if you must kayak through one, then you should minimize your movements as much as possible to not cause sharks to see you as a threat. So how do you know where shark zones are exactly? Some tell-tale signs would be coral reefs, murky waters, and “rock gardens”. If you happen to see seagulls acting in a frenzied way over a specific location that’s another good indicator that there may be shark nearby. Spotting large schools of fish acting eradicating or jumping out the water is sometimes rare but also a good indicator that there may be a shark nearby. If you’re an experienced kayaker, over time you may have picked up your own radar on how to spot dangers in the water, but if you’re new to kayaking, that sixth sense may take some time to develop.

Table information courtesy of Topkaker.net

Cali 1959-2004 Lightning Deaths= 26 Shark Attacks=73 Shark Deaths=5
Florida 1959-2004 Lightning Deaths=428 Shark Attacks=479 Shark Deaths=7
Hawaii 1959-2004 Lightning Deaths=0 Shark Attacks=83 Shark Deaths=6

There are caveats to statistics, at the end of the day you may just be that statistic on the water and fall prey to a shark attack. There will always be certain variables to the rule and things you look out for. Water that may typically be clear and safe may have an off day and randomly go murkey. There may not be seagulls and commercial fisherman around to alert you of a nearby shark, and you may get blindsided altogether. That’s how most shark attacks happen. If you can get your hands on it, there are shark repellents on the market. But the caveat to them is that hey aren’t 100% foolproof, nor are they available and legal everywhere due to environmental concerns. Primarily, these repellents were developed by the military in both chemical and electronic form. But obviously not all military grade equipment is best suited for consumer use. So when it comes to sharks and shark repellents, you really have to do your research on the laws in the territory that you’re looking to kayak in. And remember, numbers, statistics, and repellents all have their flaws. Before you head out with confidence be sure to do your thorough research.

Up to now we’ve gone over some stats, some tips on how to avoid sharks altogether, and some information on what you need to know in general when it comes to sharks and kayaking. We still have a lot to go over and one of the things is what do you do if you happen to actually be one of those rare statistics? What do you do if you wind up attacked from a shark and separated from your kayak? It’s a valid concern given the territory, and it’s something you can really try to prevent, but unless you skip the water altogether the risk is there, so it’s best to be familiar with your backup emergency plan B just in case.

When it comes to dealing with a shark attack, first things first, you’re going to be scared. There’s of course adrenaline involved and a certain amount of realization that may cross your mind in the moment but when coming face to face with a shark in the water, you’re on their turf and fear will definitely come into play. In those very scary moments, the impossible key here is to stay as calm as possible. We know that’s a really difficult concept to fathom when you’re fending off a shark, but you won’t be able to pull off any form of escape with clouded judgement or a mind of panic. So the first step first and foremost is to stay calm above all else.

If a shark spots you, your next step after remaining calm is to locate the closest shore. When you locate the closest shore, that is your only goal in life. That should be your top priority in the moment-get to shore. You must still keep the shark in your line of sight while staying calm. Treat the shark like a baseball and try to never take your eyes off him while heading towards shore. Understanding and remaining aware of your surrounding while evading the shark is key to saving your life. These ingredients and remaining calm and aware will keep you clear headed enough to get you to your destination and out of the shark’s turf.

Another thing to really be conscious of is your paddling style once spotted by the shark. You want to make sure that you’re paddling in smooth, constant motions, to bore the shark as much as possible. We keep stressing the point about being calm and one reason for this is that if you remain calm your motions will remain calm as well. Flailing hectic motions when paddling will only rile the shark up even more and that’s the last thing you want when a shark has you in their sights.

The same calm and swift demeanor needs to remain if you get knocked out of your kayak. You want to jump right back in as smooth as possible to again not startle or rile up the shark. Everything you do once spotted by the shakr needs to be as smooth and swift as possible. No harsh sudden movements or anything along those lines. If you lose your paddle and find yourself having to get physical with the shark, one thing you can do is bump its snout.

All of these techniques sound impossible in the heat of the moment, but they’re not. One thing you can do to better prepare for this awful situation is actually practice getting attacked by a shark with a friend.

Since you’re a lot more informed now on not only how to help yourself avoid sharks altogether when kayaking, but you know some statistics and maneuvers on how to escape the situation of a shark attack, it’s about time that we cover some of your ching related questions when it comes to kayaking and sharks. With something like this, there will always be a million other questions to pop up and unforeseen situations to arise that simply can’t be predicted. But, we all have some basic and common questions when it comes to sharks and kayaks, so now we’ll take some time to answer them for you.

What About Alligators?

Alligators and crocodiles are just as dangerous if not more than sharks. This is because they can easily camouflage and appear greater in numbers than sharks.

What Color Kayak Attracts Sharks?

There really is no statistic or study relating kayak color to an increase in shark attraction or attacks.

What’s The Best Time To Go Kayaking To Avoid Sharks?

Time is also seemingly irrelevant when it comes to avoiding sharks. It’s better based on location.

What If a Shark Flips My Kayak?

As we mentioned before, if a shark flips your kayak, you want to work in smooth, calculated motions. You don’t want to aggravate the shark. The key is to flip the kayak back over as quickly and smooth as possible. Then you want to keep the same motions in getting back into the kayak.

Some Good Information and Terms Regarding Kayaking

Now that we’ve gotten the big information and your hot questions out of the way, it’s time to go over some details about kayaks that you should know. Because you can’t protect yourself from a shark if you don’t know all there is about kayaks to begin with.


The first important thing to go over before getting into the best whitewater kayaks is understand the design, features, and technology of the kayak. When you know the fundamentals, the kayak language, lingo, but more importantly how and why a kayak works, you’ll be better established at understanding why one whitewater kayak is better than the next. Below we’ll go over all these details so you’re good to go to pick out your kayak today!


Boof is a funny sounding word yes, but this is actually a powerful technique used while kayaking that involves the paddle and a thrusting of your hips. This is to of course gain control of your kayak when it may be drifting in an unwanted direction.


Primary stability isn’t as funny sounding as boof but rightfully so because this is actually an important term. Primary stability is the term used to describe your kayaks ability to stay upright and not capsize. This is an important term to know when going to shop for a kayak because you’ll want to know a model’s background before taking it into the water.


As the name suggests, secondary stability goes hand in hand with primary stability except here it’s a measure of the boats ability to stay upright when on a tilt. When the kayak goes far past its primary stability, that’s when you should pay attention to how good and strong its primary stability is.


Planing hull is a term describing the very bottom of the kayak. This bottom is specially made so that the kayak can easily go through the water and not have trouble pushing through it. This is essentially the magic behind how a kayak works so fluidly.


Displacement hulls do the exact opposite of what planing hulls do. Instead of helping the kayak glide, the displacement hull actually specializes in pushing through the water. This component is pretty much the metaphorical muscle of the kayak.


Volume is the measurement used to calculate the size of a kayak. Just as humans weigh themselves in North America by the pound. Kayaks are measured by volume and they usually range between 45-95 gallons.


Chines are the simple yet sophisticated mechanics behind sharp and quick turning along with the ability for the kayak to lean. They are indebted around the water lines and run alongside the lower edges of the kayak. Chines go hand and hand with everything above, especially the boof technique.


Rockers are the misunderstood elements of the kayak as their amount of influence on the kayak’s maneuverability is debated over. The rocker is the curve of the layar between the water and stem and is believed to help balance out all other components in more ways than one.


When it comes to choosing a whitewater kayak, take notice that there are actually multiple types to choose from that give kayakers some options before hitting the ocean blue.


Play Boats are the sports car of whitewater kayaks. These kayaks are meant to hit some string waves and skim some fast water. These models usually have a stickier look to them but still clock in at six feet in length. They’re ideal if you’re a seasoned kayaker looking to do some tricks in the water. The design of these boats reduce the secondary stability of the kayak but have pretty solid primary stability. This is due to the flat bottom and pronounced edges.


If you’re looking for speed, River Runners are your go to as they’re designed to go down stream fast. This happens primarily due to having softer chines built in along with a balanced primary and secondary stability.


Remember what we said about River Runners? Well these Long Boat models are pretty much the same except you guess it, longer. Instead of six feet you get twelve. Bow rockers make this model stand out as this element provides extra control to your kayak along with a lot of extra space.

Kayaking is a fun, sometimes solitary but mostly social activity on the water that can be enjoyed year round depending on your location. This activity can bring so many memories and build some physical confidence on the water. But at the same time, sharks live there, and they’re always around. That’s a scary thing to think about especially when it’s just you and your kayak out there. But now you know how to prepare yourself. Now you know that the risk is relatively low comparably. You know how to escape a shark attack and you know the basic fundamentals of shark behavior. Whether it’s scary or not, today you’ve taken the first step to lowering your chance of encountering a shark and getting back to the fun of kayaking!