We've just had an enquiry from a father whose daughter wants to become an ocean swimmer but has been worried about sharks, with all the bad press they're getting lately. Below is our response.
What do you think?
No-one can give an absolute guarantee of safety because no-one knows what really is going to happen out there. But that is one reason we swimmers do it. Let me just say that the numbers of swimmers continues to climb steeply, particularly over the last few weeks, and that there has never been an issue with sharks in any swim I have done (numbering in the hundreds), that there are so many people in swims there is safety in numbers and in the escort craft buzzing around, that the media routinely overplay these issues, especially in the silly-season of high summer, when there isn't much else going on.
There is some risk but, as ocean swimmers, we don't perceive it to be any greater than in previous years.
Let me also say that there are many, many sharks out there. There are lots in Cabbage Tree Bay at Manly, for example, particularly juvenile whalers, wobbies and Port Jacksons, and the odd other kind from time to time. But there has never been a problem. There was an issue during the Cole Classic 10km swim three or four years back when they called off the swim, but that swim, at that time, was 400m off North Head. Hardly surprising there might be things out there. We also had one circle one of our swimmers on the way from Bondi to Watsons Bay a few years back, but that was 1km off Macquarie Lighthouse. No surprise out there, either. But there has never been a problem with swims run off beaches. (They sight them sometimes during the Rottnest Channel swim off Perth).
We have seen no evidence that there are any more sharks around now than at any other time. The vast majority of sharks, in any case, are not problems. It's just a few varieties that are. It's actually quite exciting and fascinating to watch them, when you do see them, in their natural environment, as distinct from an aquarium?