Are There Sharks In Florida: A Surfers Guide - Green Iguana Surf Camp

Are There Sharks In Florida: A Surfers Guide

Florida, one of the capital surfing destinations in America, with destinations like Cocoa Beach, Ponce Inlet, Jacksonville, and Boynton Beach.

Unfortunately, Florida’s marine geography isn’t well suited for good, consistent waves. Florida’s surf conditions are location-specific.

Due to factors like, waves, wind and the swell-conditions, this really affects the coastline continuously. However, there are certain gems alongside Florida’s east coast which have good overhead and barreling surfing waves.

This is even better when there are hurricanes and big storms offshore. These events can generate larger, sustained waves and ground swell conditions, which will make for a better surf. 

Now we all know the odds of encountering sharks is really low, but shark attacks to happen. The north-east coast of Florida is both the best place to surf and also the highest concentrated level of shark attacks.

The county of Volusia has had 320 confirmed shark attacks. Before we all start freaking out, this has been since 1882. There had only been two confirmed deaths from shark attacks in the whole state of Florida, one in 1998 the other two years later.

A majority of the attacks were on ‘surface recreationist’, which unfortunately is surfers, water skiers, windsurfers, boogie boarding, rafting or just floating on an inflatable during the time of the attack.

Tips On Being Safe

  • Try to stay in groups, sharks are less likely to attack a group.
  • Stay close to the shore.
  • Don’t surf at night, sharks are active at night, will have a complete sensory advantage.
  • Do not enter the water if you are bleeding from an open wound, and also enter with caution if you are menstruating.
  • Wearing shiny jewelry is a no-go, due to the reflective light being similar to the sheen of fish scales.
  • Avoid waters with known to high levels of sewage and are being used for fishing. 
  • Be cautious when the water is murky and avoid uneven tanning and bright bathing suits, this will attract attention.
  • Also refrain from excess splashing and avoid pets in the water due to their erratic behavior. 
  • Be careful around areas between sandbars and or near steep dropoffs, due to them being prime places for shark activities. 
  • Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present, also evacuate the water if sharks are spotted. Also, do not bother a shark if you encounter one. 
  • If you are attacked by a shark, an intermediate response is required. Hitting a shark on the nose, preferably with an inanimate object, this will usually help scare the shark away.
  • If the shark actually bites, it is suggested to claw at its eyes and gill openings, as it is the sensitive part of a shark.
  • You should never act passive under attack, as a shark respects size and power.

Types Of Sharks In Florida


A blacktip shark (Carcharhinus Limbatus) is usually a dark bluish gray shark, it bears a distinctive black tip on most of its fins, which gained its name.

Blacktips are pelagic but they inshore in large schools. This is the most common shark (especially younger ones), in Clearwater alongside the beaches in Florida.

The blacktip is a valuable and collected shark in commercial shipping. Blacktip are also fished for sport and are known to leap out of the water when hooked.

The Blacktip is often associated with the type of shark most likely to attack humans.


A Spinner shark (charhinus brevipinna) is a large and slender, fast-swimming shark that regularly leaps “spinning” out of the water, thus giving it its name.

A spinner shark feeds on fishes like sardines and herrings, but also on small sharks and rays. A spinner shark coloring is usually  gray-bronze  with a white belly, and is typically mistaken for the blacktip shark.

Commonly found in coastal waters, it grows to an average of about 6 feet (1.83 meters) in length. 


A Sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus), is also known as ‘the brown shark’, typically found nearshore, typically at depths ranging from 60 to 200 feet (60.96 m).

It is both a predator and scavenger, feeding chiefly near the bottom on fish and shellfish. It migrates long distances and matures at about 6 feet (ca. 183 centimeters) in length but can reach a maximum length of nearly 8 feet (243.84 cm).

A sandbar shark is brown or gray with a white underside. It migrates south in schools to Florida waters during the winter. Some remain throughout the year. This shark accounts for about 60 percent of the state’s commercial landings. 


A Blacknose shark (Carcharhinus acronotus) is a small shark commonly found in Florida bays and lagoons over sandy, shell and coral bottoms. It has a very noticeable dusky smudge or “mustache” on the tip of its snout, which is more prominent when young.

The blacknose feeds on small fishes, but is often preyed and attacked  by larger sharks. Its color ranges from a pale olive-gray above to white. Its maximum length is about 5 feet (152.4 cm). While commercially valuable, especially in the fishing industry, they pose little threat to humans.

Scalloped Hammerhead 

A scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) is a predator, feeding mainly on fish, squid, and stingrays. It has a distinctive flattened head extending to hammer-like lobes on each side, thus giving the shark its name.

It can grow quite large — usually between 6 feet (1.83 meters) and can reach 20 feet (6.1 m). The Florida record is 991 pounds (449.51 kg). It is often confused with the much less abundant but larger great hammerhead.

The Scalloped hammer head has more of a curved back of their head, compared to the great hammer head, which is much straighter. 


A Bonnethead shark, (hyrna tiburo) is the smallest of the hammerhead family, commonly only 3 to 4 feet (ca. 122 centimeters) in length. It is mainly found in Florida waters, and popular in aquariums.

Gray or grayish-brown in color, the bonnethead has a broadly widened head in the shape of a shovel. It feeds chiefly on crabs and other crustaceans. It is a good sport fish, though of limited commercial value, used mostly as crab bait.

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