I recently embarked on an adventure OC1 paddle from Monterey to Morro Bay that placed me in some of the sharkiest of waters. In fact I paddled in what is called the Red Triangle. Don't know what that is? Here is a Wikipedia excerpt for you:
The Red Triangle is the colloquial name of a roughly triangle-shaped region off the coast of northern California, extending from Bodega Bay, north of San Francisco, out slightly beyond the Farallon Islands, and down to the Big Sur region, south of Monterey. The area has a very large population of marine mammals, such as elephant seals, harbor seals, sea otters and sea lions, which are favored prey of great white sharks. Around thirty-eight percent of recorded great white shark attacks on humans in the United States have occurred within the Red Triangle—eleven percent of the worldwide total. The area encompasses the beaches of the heavily populated San Francisco Bay Area, and many people enjoy surfing, windsurfing, swimming and diving in these waters. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Triangle_(Pacific_Ocean)
So, yea, I was in THAT. Paddling alongside delicious elephant seals, dolphins, otters, sea lions and tons of fish. Solo for long stretches with no beach-able entries, access to towns, roads or nearby people. I figured if I was going to willingly put myself in this situation I better take some precautions. One of those was acquiring two SharkBanz to wear and affix to my canoe.
A little bit about the product
So if you know me, sea-life is something I love. Including sharks! My respect for sharks and their importance of our ocean balance goes hand-in-hand with me being in their home when I paddle. So the last think I want to do is disrupt their habitat or harm their ability to thrive. So when I heard about SharkBanz I was interested to learn more. Their goals are to "develop simple, effective and affordable strategies to reduce the risk of a shark bite".
Their device and approach can be described as follows:
"Sharkbanz utilize powerful permanent magnets to create an effective shark deterrent that’s always on and requires no batteries or charging. When sharks approach Sharkbanz, they detect the device’s strong electromagnetic field, which provides a sudden sensation that is thousands of times stronger than the signal produced by anything in a shark’s normal food chain. Consequently, sharks are deterred away from Sharkbanz. This cause and effect is analogous to having a bright light suddenly shined in your eyes in a dark room. You would not be hurt, but you would want to turn away." (https://www.sharkbanz.com/pages/how-it-works)
So I had two of these bands which were very much like a heavy watch band. I wore one on my left ankle which fit fine in my foot-well. The second one I strapped to my ama behind the front iako/ama joint. This way I always had one in/near the water and one on me should I fall in, lose my craft, or need to swim for any other reason.
Once I strapped the items on I never noticed them again. In fact the only time I had any reminder of it was when I climbed up on my van to unstrap my canoe and my ankle pulled to the side of the vehicle and my leg attached to the steel metal side. After chuckling at the powerful magnet, I just pulled my leg away and proceeded to do my task. While the bands are heavy by comparison to a watch, they are not so heavy as to impede my movement while paddling, or make the canoe and ama so heavy that I couldn't paddle efficiently. In fact, I paddled over a hundred miles with them, and never gave it a second thought. Except of course the thought of what they are helping me avoid.
So let's be honest, if these really worked I would have a boring story to tell. And as far as sharks go, it was in fact very boring. Thank goodness. An average of 7 hours a day, between 23 and 30 miles, in calm and overcast to windy and surfing conditions. I never encountered any sighting of a shark. That doesn't mean they weren't there, but for whatever reason, I was not very interesting if they were. Which is exactly what I would hope for. I did encounter otters, sea lions, a sunfish and a dolphin. All within 4 feet of the canoe. I had a fin whale breaching about .25 miles away. They all seemed to have no problem keeping me company during the trip. I even had a curious seal follow me for over a mile surfacing every minute or so with a big exhale and make me flinch.
Disclaimer regarding Great White sharks
One disclaimer that gave me pause about how effective this product would be was that Great White sharks are ambush predators. They see you from a distance, and levy a high speed attack on their prey. This is different than bull, tiger and other breeds of sharks. So in my case, they might not sense the magnetic pulse and be deterred until they had gotten so close it was too late to pull back. So the website makes a point to say that Great Whites, are not included in their list of shark species that this is designed to help with. That said, if one was curious about me, and not throttling towards me to attack, it would be helpful.
Cost: The cost is $84.00 per band. So not as affordable as the awesome "I am not a seal" stickers by Better Surf than Sorry. But considering the potential hospital bills of a bite, perhaps a bargain! I had two, one black and grey, the other black and turquoise (which matched my canoe perfectly). Other styles and colors are available too, but really, I was mostly worried about their effectiveness. And well, I am here writing a review, with all my fingers (and toes) intact, so I am going to say I am pretty pleased. Would I wear them every time I paddle? Maybe not both of them. Perhaps just on my ankle in case I have to go for a long swim and lose my canoe in conditions due to broken leash. But the piece of mind when I paddled, especially solo, and even when I huli'd on a lunch break and wasn't paying attention to a rogue wave is pretty nice to have. So if you have visions of long ocean paddles, solo or with groups, and happen to be in areas that have been run by 'the landlord' or frequented by 'the man in the grey suit', I would consider this a worthy accessory. Plus, one last thing, having these helped my wife and mom feel "better" about my crazy adventure ideas. And you can't put a price on that. :)
See you on the water!
Team Writer Clarke Graves - If there is water, he will paddle it (regardless of craft). Clarke is a surfer turned paddler who grew up in San Diego but has traveled every corner of California enjoying its beauty and appeal. He has had the privilege of racing SUP, OC6, OC2, OC1, Prone, Dragon-boat and surf-ski.
One of Clarke's goals is to paddle as much shoreline in California as he can, with as many paddling friends who are willing to join him. If you have an idea for Clarke to write about or any questions, send it our way and we will pass it along!