Making Waves: Is The Shark Shield Changing Water Sports Forever?

“You’re going to need a bigger Shark Shield technology.”

It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but surely the Brody clan of Jaws fame would have been served better by technology developed over the last couple of decades. 

While the statistics of shark attacks and deaths don’t really seem proportionate to the fear of actually being attacked by a shark, it’s still a possibility, and something needs to be done. Preferably something that doesn’t destroy an oceanic habitat or maim sharks who are, you know, just doing shark things.

Some twenty years in the making, Shark Shield technology hopes to provide nearperfect protection from great whites and their ilk when you are on, in, or under the water.

The Situation

Since that terrific film, adapted from an equally terrific book by Peter Benchley, humans have had a very serious and seemingly unhealthy fear of sharks. And that’s a fear held by people who don’t even go in the water! The fear held by those who ride the waves or dive into expansive abysses, however, is a major concern, and a founded one at that.

The Florida Museum of Natural History has a pretty handy International Shark Attack File: in 2016, there were 154 instances of shark attacks, of which 84 were unprovoked by humans. The remaining numbers deal with sharks attacking boats (which seems like a very Jaws thing to do), while 39 were classified as provoked attacks  which doesn’t exactly mean that the humans involved were being jerks. What’s more, National Geographic reports that 50% of shark attacks in 2010 were on surfers, while the rest were on swimmers, divers, and snorkelers.

So those interacting with the water are at risk. The danger isn’t so much death; the U.S. averages one shark attack death per year, and far stranger things are more likely to kill you (like falling into a hole at the beach). The real danger lies in being maimed, disabled, or paralyzed. Sharks might not kill you, but they will ruin your immediate future and make it really difficult to surf again. And then there’s the fact that if a shark gets a taste for flesh, he is going to hang around the area to get more. Sharks are like giant, beautiful, underwater bed bugs.


Shark nets have been employed over the decades, particularly in Australia, in an attempt to limit (if not completely eliminate) shark attacks. The fewer sharks that can enter an area, the fewer attacks, naturally. Of course, a tragic downside to this is that other creatures can get caught in these nets and die, because nets are not a natural part of the ocean.

Drum lines are also used, which target the larger and more dangerous sharks with bait. They have been employed for decades as well, and a recent trial using so-called Smart Shark drum lines found them to be more effective than nets. That is, more effective at catching sharks, period; it seems yet to be effectively smart, since of the 22 sharks caught in the drum lines, only 5 were threatening to humans. Oh, and 19 died because no one could release the sharks in time after being alerted. So maybe change the name. 

The Shark Shield

Enter Shark Shield technology, which offers a handful of devices that idealize and enable a world in which neither shark nor human needs to be injured or killed when people go surfing. Essentially, the technology emits an electrical wave that scrambles the shark’s sensory receptors, causing spasms and repelling them. Not at all interested in pursuing such an uncomfortable experience, sharks turn away from the signal and leave the humans alone. There has not yet been any significant documented harm to sharks using this technology.

The Freedom + Surf is a seamless and fully integrated tiny piece of technology designed to be felt by the shark but not the surfer. The addition to the surfboard is barely one at all: the power module is built inside the custom-made tail fin, and a sticker-sized adhesive is planted on the underside of the board, which acts as the emitter. The size, or lack thereof, alleges no drag on the surfboard. The module can be removed for chargingsix hour battery, mind youand a foam insert can be utilized for any certain shark-free surfs, if they exist.

The Freedom7on the other hand, is for fishers and more active underwater engagements, and the more compact SCUBA7 is for diving, with both working at depths of up to 50 metres. A word of warning, though: this is only for sharks and stingrays. Gators, crocs, piranhas, and that creature from The Shape of Water will not be deterred!

Why You Should Trust It

Well, Shark Shield uses science-based technology, which is always a good start. There are also a handful of testimonials from people who have used it and haven’t been attacked. In all trials, Shark Shield decreased the frequency of approaches, the probability of attacks, and the time sharks spend interested  in the bait.

Why You Shouldn’t

There is a 30-day money back guarantee. Which, sure, is great and all, and every large purchase should come with that. However, it does beg the question: if you need to utilize this offer and get your money back, exactly what happened while you were out on the water? Be safe!

More importantly, though, life will not be contained. Sharks have existed on this Earth for over 400 million years, which, give or take 100,000 years, is some 400 million years more than humans. So this may work  but only for a while. Even the study cites the determination of sharks: “After multiple approaches, individual great white sharks came an average of 12 cm closer on each successive approach.” The good news? “Only one great white shark came into contact with the bait in the presence of an active Shark Shield, and only after multiple approaches.”

Any scientist or movie fan will tell you that sharks will eventually evolve to override whatever humans think will make them safe. Life finds a way.

Anthony Marcusa
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. But he’s always curious.