Do hydrofoils attract sharks?
The question is popping up in many places on the Internet.
We have heard and seen sharks getting very close to foilers (kitefoils, surf foils, or windfoils), and sometimes there are even some attacks on the wings.
Is it safe to hydrofoil or should you be worried?
While there is no proven evidence that foiling may influence the behaviour of sharks, there has been quite a lot of observations over the past few years, and we’ve heard some theories…
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- Sharks may be attracted by the vibrations of the foil.
- Sharks may be curious when they see/hear a foil approach, and come close for inspection.
- Hydrofoils are quieter than regular kiteboards or windsurf boards, and the fish/sharks do not realize until the last second that there is something close to them. This is why hydrofoilers may hit or see more fish and sharks than regular kiters or windsurfers. As a result of “surprise”, the sharks could react by attacking.
- Sharks may believe that the foil is a big fish. The front wing of the foil (especially the large front wings) may resemble a ray, which is one of the sharks’ favorite meals.
- The carbon fiber of the wings looks a lot like fish scales.
- Others would claim that surfing around sharks is nothing new, but being half a meter above the water makes it easier than before to spot them, especially in light wind conditions with calm and clear water.
Whether these theories are true or false, here are 2 interesting and scary stories that we would like to share. The goal is not to scare or discourage you from going out foiling, but rather to make you aware of the fact that foilers may raise the attention of sharks more than conventional kiters or windsurfers:
1. Video of a shark attracted by a kitefoiler
Here is a video of a kitefoiler’s near contact with a small shark.
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You can see the shark sees the foil passing by and gives chase to it for a brief second, probably thinking it is a fish or trying to figure out what exactly it is.
2. Here comes the story of Bryn Kaufman, and “windfoil lover” in Kailua, Hawaii:
“I am writing this so other ocean Wind Foilers are aware.
Here is what happened:
The other day I was about 75 feet offshore at my favorite Wind Foil spot at Kailua Beach Park. I was going back and forth riding tiny swells, doing my turns, and having a great time.
Then I noticed a 10 ft. tiger shark underneath me. (3 meter long)
Once I got out I found out I was actually going back and forth over it for a while. When I asked a friend how long she said it was about 30 minutes. So, I thought wow that is a once in a lifetime event.
However, a week later during my last 2 sessions upon turning around, I saw a shark about 10 feet away. It disappeared fast, so I could not identify it, but it was 8 to 10 feet.
The 2nd time I saw the shark I wrote it off to bad luck, but the 3rd time was getting ridiculous and I spoke to an experienced foiler about it and he said they are attracted to the foil.
He mentioned one of the kite foilers had his foil bitten by a shark. He feels the foil gives off a vibration, similar to but not exactly like a fish going through the water, and this attracts them. I have no scientific evidence, but I believe they are attracted to the foil.
This is a huge bay, and for me to be turning around in two different sessions and see a shark 10 feet away is no coincidence. I know my Slingshot Infinity 84 foil is big and slow, so it might be giving off the vibration of a big, slow, fish. So, this is something for other Wind Foilers to be aware of.”
3. Other YouTube Videos
Here’s a video of a nasty crash form a kitefoiler wiping out after he directly hit a shark with his foil!
Finally, here’s some efoilers out for a ride seeing a massive shark –
So the question left is are foils attracting sharks, or are you just more likely to see sharks due to being high up off the water? We’ve yet to make a determination!
If you have had any observations or experiences with foiling and sharks, feel free to share them in the comments below.