Is there a way to avoid a shark attack when spearfishing or freediving? Alchemy spearo & freediving instructor Garrett Moss, a very experienced diver in the shark infested waters of Hawaii, explains in glorious detail what to do in case you are confronted by a shark when spearfishing or freediving. Should one fear the shark? Should one swim away? When should one get out of the water? What can one do when met by a group of sharks? Read on.

If You Come Across A Shark


If you come across a shark, any species of shark, you're either going to be viewed as a predator to that shark, or you're gonna be viewed as prey. So, you make your choice on what you want that shark to view you as.

If the shark starts swimming towards you and you know that you or anyone else around you can't get out of the water, you stand your ground, you let that shark know that you're confident, you don't show it any fear. Sometimes you might want to even swim towards a shark, so it might be a little bit apprehensive to swim towards you. Sharks are opportunity feeders, they don't like to be threatened. Every shark has its own personality and every species of shark behaves maybe a little bit more aggressive or less aggressive than others.

When you come across the shark, just try to figure out what species it is, figure out if it's aggressive, how threatening the shark may be to you, how big the shark is, how  small the shark is... Whether you're snorkeling, freediving or you're you're hunting, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have to exit the  water right away if the shark's in the vicinity; it's not going to come  up and bite you right away. Most of the time sharks are gonna study you and make sure that you're not a threat.

If you want to pose a little bit of a threat to the shark, you show it confidence and you stand your ground. You're a predator in the water with the shark, you're not prey to the shark. It's  going to be curious not viewing you as prey but it's going to be curious viewing you as a fellow predator and maybe thinking that it can snag a meal, especially if you're a spearfisherman and you have some fish in the water or chum. They have a very heightened sense of smell, so they're going to be smelling the scene out, just like a dog would, to see if there's anything that they can scavenge off of you.

Is Swimming Away A Good Idea?

On the contrary, if you swim away from the shark, you're  going to get it curious and the shark could possibly take a bite out of you at that point, if it gets close enough. So I recommend not swimming away from the  shark, facing it head-on and standing your ground, showing the shark that you are a fellow predator in the water. 

If you're standing your ground and you're showing the shark confidence and it's still approaching you and is kind of aggressive, what I would recommend doing, especially if you have a speargun, is using that  speargun as a barrier in between you and the shark. The shark's most sensitive areas are going to be its nose where it has tons and tons of receptors and it can feel a lot of things even if it's not touching the shark. Also, the gills of the shark are very sensitive as well, so what you can do is you can extend the gun out, creating a barrier in between you and the shark and if the sharks going to swim close enough to the tip of the spear, it'll probably poke itself in the nose. Once the spear hits it, it'll deter the shark away from you, making it think twice about coming back because it didn't like the pain of  what it felt.

Should I Get Out Of The Water?

If you poke the shark once and it comes back again and you poke it a couple more  times, then you might want to consider getting out of the water, especially if there's more than  one shark around. If one gets aggressive then the others will feed off of that initial shark's aggressive energy and it'll be a domino effect. So once it gets to a certain point, you might want to think about getting out of the water, use your best judgment at that point. When  you're in this kind of a situation your senses are gonna be heightened, your consciousness and your awareness is going to be heightened to a point to where you've never felt before and you're going to be able to think more clearly than you ever have, because you're gonna be in fear for your life at that point.

As spearfishermen and freedivers we have to be  extremely focused on holding our breath and being in touch with our self and with the task at hand. And sometimes that   takes away our senses from our surrounding areas  and sometimes when this happens you have a shark that'll sneak up on you. Remember, you're in their environment, they can maneuver within and out of the scene like you don't even  see them, you might not even notice that they're there. But they can see you and they can swim up to you a lot faster than you think.

Sometimes if you're kicking a head up against the current to find a certain spot where you want to drop on, it's always a good idea to dip your head down and look behind you, as you're swimming scouring the area, getting a 360 view of what's going around at that  point. In the situation where you shoot a fish and there's sharks in the vicinity, there's  no right or wrong way to describe on what to do in that kind of a situation. Every situation is different and like I said you're going to be thinking as clearly as you can.

A lot of the times what I like to do is I like to bring the fish up to me as fast as possible and bear hug the fish to let the shark know "hey this is my fish, I'm a predator as well and you're not going to be able to get my fish, because it's mine and  I'm not going to let you get it".

Another situation might be to where it might  be a good idea to let the fish swim away and have the shark's attention focus on that fish instead of you, especially if they're getting quite aggressive. Then you can focus on getting yourself out of the water and out of harm's way and paying your taxes by giving that fish to those sharks.

Tiger Sharks

In my area of Hawaii, on the island of Maui where I hunt, we have a lot of tiger sharks. The tiger sharks that are here are quite large, they range anywhere from usually around eight to about 15 feet, so all the way up to about three meters long. These are big sharks and and they're the apex predators. When they show up in the ocean  everything around knows, everything stops, time stops. It's a majestic creature and they, for the most part, will approach slow, especially if you have chum falling or maybe some flashers in  the water. They have a very heightened sense of smell, they want to smell things, they want to see how you're gonna react when you're around them and so when this happens you want to make sure that you've done what I describe. You want to hold your ground.

Sometimes the shark will be a little bit apprehensive to come in and it'll swim away. Other times it might stick around the area and sometimes it's an enjoyable experience,  especially when you know you have a shark that might not be too aggressive, you can stay in the water with the shark, maybe pull out your camera, shoot some photos of it, dive down, swim with the shark.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing this though, unless you're well versed in the water and you have a lot of experience around the sharks.

Any Experience You Wanna Share?

My face is in the water, I'm breathing up, my intentions are pointed down to a reef about 30 meters down below the ocean. I was focusing on a nice coral head to make a drop on, when I had my sixth sense heightened and then I had a big tiger shark swim right underneath me. She was a big female and didn't bite me, obviously. She was studying the scene and swam right underneath me. She was wider than I was, it could easily fit me in its mouth with one bite. I swam over to my boat as I wanted to get my chum and flashers out of the water. So as I got everything out of the water, i took my camera out and she started to make her way  back up to the surface with her intention set specifically on me.

So, with my experience, I dove down, almost playing chicken with the shark. We were going head on head with each other and 9 times out of 10, they're gonna swim right up to you and then they're gonna veer off at the last second, because they're gonna see how confident that you are in the water, which is what I did. With this head-on-head situation I got some great footage, some great photos and I got to get some photos of really detailed  parts of this shark. It was just an incredible experience. She accepted me and I accepted her and she knew that I was a fellow predator in the water.

The next day I got a photo from one of my best buddies, Phil Cothran, who had some photos of a tiger shark that he sent me and he let me know that I swam with her five  years ago almost to that day. I don't know if she remembered me, I doubt it, I didn't remember her. Comparing the two photos within that five year time, she has some new scars on her and I have some new scars on me, she's still  hunting in the same area, I'm still hunting in the same area and she's just a beautiful creature in the water.

Watch Garrett Kick His Alchemy S Carbon Fins In Hawaii