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An Affordable Shark Deterrent That Might Just Work

Last week we published a tongue-in-cheek piece writing off a few of the more sub-par surf-related products we've seen over the years. Of course, we threw in a number of shark repellent ideas and products. Stupidly however, we lumped the entirety of that growing market into one and posted the main image as a product which is research focused and genuinely affordable. 

The brand and product I'm referring to is called Shark Eyes, and what they're selling is a sticker with two large eyes to whack on the bottom of your board. It might sound too simple and too good to be true, but since my first encounter with the brand over a year ago in West Oz, they've gained traction and have continued to pursue their goal of creating an affordable, hopefully life-saving shark deterrent. 

I first became aware of Shark Eyes in April of last year while in Margaret River writing a profile on Noa Deane. It happened to be just a few weeks after the WSL skipped town after two shark attacks occurred in 24-hours while the comp ran around the bend at Main Break. Shark fever was running hot through the town—with good reason—but avoiding the surf isn't really an option when theres an abundance of swell and offshore winds. Or when your job, like Noa's, is to surf those wave and or shoot them like the myriad photographers who live in or visit Margaret River each year. 

A simple concept that might just save your ass. And let's be honest, we've seen much less visually appealing sights on the bottom of surfer's boards over the years. Photo: Shark Eyes

The first morning that we surfed, Kim Feast, a professional bodyboarder turned surf photographer whipped out a handful of stickers before paddling out the Box. At first it seemed a little odd to suggest a pair of eyes could deter a 10-foot man in a grey suit—they're not fucking magpies swooping you on a bike—but after talking to Shanan Worral, the company's founder, and a little bit of reading, I realised the idea isn't all that absurd. 

Shanan started Shark Eyes back in 2017 after being involved in three shark attacks, one in which led to the death of one of his friends. While there was already a number of shark deterrents on the market (electrical wires, striped wetsuits, and the absurd magnetic wrist band), Shanan wanted to try and make a product that didn't cost a few hundred dollars but still held a chance of deterring attack. A big wave surfer and abalone diver of 20+ years Shanan has had his fair share of encounters, and while he and his fellow divers used the latest in shark deterrent devices, they felt something a little less invasive yet still effective was possible. 

Shanan wearing an early incarnation of the Shark Eyes idea. A pair of painted on eyes and a matching mouth. Photo: Shark Eyes

Sharks, particularly great whites, are ambush predators; they prefer to attack when you're unaware they're even there. So, if they have been seen—or  at least believe they have been—it's arguable that their chance of attacking is reduced. "Great Whites are primarily ambush predators, and so it could be that if they were convinced their prey was observing them, they make look for an easier opportunity elsewhere," Richard Pierce, conservationist and founder of the Shark Conservation Society, told INSIDER when asked about Shark Eyes. The Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago also listed Shark Eyes as one of the products being adopted by Cape Cod residents to mitigate the influx of whites on their beaches over the last few years.

Shanan and other divers also recall several instances of 'staring down' sharks while diving; Gyula Plaganyi, a cage free abalone diver, had this to say on a recent talk regarding trauma after shark encounters, "“Eye contact is important… If you see a shark, try and face it and show as much of your body as you can. Make a bigger presence.” 

Shanan ensuring that the stickers aren't performance diminishing at home in West Oz. Photo: Chris White/Instagram

There's no concrete 'scientific evidence' out there yet—it's not all that easy to run behavioural experiments on sharks—but the anecdotes from marine scientists and shark researchers suggest, at the very least, that Shark Eyes are a plausible deterrent, particularly from ambush predators such as whites.

Mimicry, one of nature's inspirations for Shark Eyes.

For us surfers, a pair of eyes to plaster on the bottom will cost between $12AUD and $25 depending on what size you want—a small price to pay for the potential to deter a hungry white. And for those who dive or spear, Shark Eyes also provide eye adorned tank covers, caps, and rash vests. Hell, even if the product didn't work, I've seen a hell of a lot worse things out there on surfboards than a pair of dashing blue eyes. They're not claiming their product is a 100% effective (hell, they even state that on their site) they're just trying to make an affordable, non-invasive product that might just deter a shark based on the evidence and anecdotal accounts we do have.

Shanan and the Shark Eyes team also recently ran a two day water safety course with a few dozen big wave surfers, doctors and emergency response teams for those who frequently surf waves most of us would never consider trying. As a whole, the people behind Shark Eyes are just trying to make our oceanic activities a little safer. 

An option for the divers out there. Photo: Shark Eyes

If you feel like a pair of eyes might be worthy, head here to the Shark Eyes site. 

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