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Santa Barbara, California: Surf Beach

They’re not changing the name of this sunny strip of Santa Barbara sand just yet, but with two fatal shark attacks in the last five years — both times on surfers — they might want to consider it. Some of the state's other beaches in San Diego, Humboldt, Marin, and Monterey counties have had similar shark scares in the years since 1926 (when they began measuring such occurrences). But in reality, this all amounts to fewer than 70 attacks in total, of which only six have been deadly, which is arguably safer than, say, driving on Highway 101.

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Swimmers Beware! 7 Crazy Places to Watch Out for Sharks

August 8, 2014

Sharks have been turning up in some unusual places as of late — and we don’t just mean attacking New York City on “Sharknado 2.” Over past few years, shark attacks have become increasingly common near beach towns where there had once been few, and on some coasts, sharks have re-emerged after periods of relative calm.

For example, places like the east coast of Florida (which had the most attacks worldwide in 2013), South Carolina, Hawaii, and California have returned to infamy after a particularly poor past few years. But there are unexpected new places to add to your do-not-swim list and at least one river you may want to avoid. (Yes, a river.)

Here are some stats to put it in perspective: According to the International Shark Attack File, worldwide shark attacks have doubled since 1960 and the U.S. is home to the most. That said, we’re also home to the smallest amount of shark-attack fatalities; and interestingly, twice the number of Americans have died in the jaws of an alligator than in the jaws of a shark since the 1950s. Since 1560 (when records started being collected), sharks have attacked only 1,181 swimmers in the U.S. and Hawaii and killed fewer than 200 worldwide; only 391 people have been attacked by alligators, with just 18 deaths since 1948. What’s more deadly than alligators and sharks? Cars, trans fats, and people. Oh, and sand: Between 1990 and 2006, sharks slaughtered 12 people in the U.S., but sand killed 16 after they were crushed to death burrowing into the beach.

So go out there! And enjoy the water. Or if you must, stay inside and at least enjoy Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. The 27th season starts Aug. 10.


Matt Bell has hitchhiked Hawaii and endured face-slapping massages all in the name of good stories, which have been published by Esquire, Men's Journal, and Travel + Leisure. He once swam with nurse sharks in the Bahamas but was more terrified that time he swam with a crocodile in Africa.