8 Places For Surfing Without Sharks (With Pictures)

Surfing can be a dangerous sport. With hard surfboards, sharp fins, reefs like razors, and oh yeah, the sharks.

Although it may seem as though surfers don’t care about sharks, the truth is, most surfers have an underlying awareness that there may be a shark around them at any time.

Countries such as France, Portugal, Ireland, and Spain are abundant with shark-free surf spots, but if you can’t travel, then finding a shallow reef or shore break could work just the same.

Some surfers simply accept this as part of the experience, however, others choose to surf in locations less likely to attract dangerous sea life.

Let’s look at some of the best places to surf that will help you stay safe from sharks, as well as places that you should make sure to avoid.

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8 Places For Surfing Without Sharks

Where Can I Surf with No Sharks?

Sharks migrate, and it is often difficult to know where they will be, and if there are any in the water at the present time.

That being said, we can take a look at some of the shark attack data from around the world and make some assumptions of the best places to surf shark free.

1. Portugal

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NAZARE, PORTUGAL

Portugal has put itself on the surf map thanks to the legendary Nazare which produces some of the largest surfable waves in the world.

Although it’s the huge swell that makes Portugal so popular, there is an abundance of smaller breaks, and best of all, no sharks… ever.

Last reported shark attack: Never

Total unprovoked shark attacks since 1900: 0

Best surf locations:

  • Praia do Norte, Nazaré.
  • Jardim do Mar, Madeira.
  • Direita do Casino, Espinho.
  • Praia do Areal de Santa Bárbara, Azores.

2. Costa Rica

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Couple of surfers – Costa Rica

Sunshine, consistent waves, warm water, and almost no risk of sharks, Costa Rica is an idyllic surf destination and has quickly become a favored surf holiday destination for travelers from the USA.

Although Costa Rica is not free from shark attacks, they happen so rarely and spread out that you have a higher chance of being killed by a lightning bolt.

Last reported shark attack: 2011

Total unprovoked shark attacks since 1900: 10

Best surf locations:

  • Playa Naranjo (Witch’s Rock), Santa Rosa National Park, Guanacaste.
  • Playa Negra, Nosara, Guanacaste. 
  • Playa Avellanas, Tamarindo, Guanacaste.
  • Playa Grande, Tamarindo, Guanacaste.
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3. Ireland

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Surf beach in County Donegal, Ireland.

Ireland is home to some monstrous swell that is made worse by the icy waters that the winters bring.

Although the water is freezing and the waves are rough, one positive side of surfing in Ireland is that there are no sharks.

Ireland has had no recorded shark attacks, provoked or otherwise since 1900 and is one of the safest places in the world to surf shark-free, just make sure you wear the correct wetsuit or you’ll be freezing before you know it.

Last reported shark attack: Never

Total unprovoked shark attacks since 1900: 0

Best surf locations:

  • Easkey, County Sligo, NW.
  • Inchydoney, West Cork, SW.
  • Perfect Wave, County Waterford, SE.
  • Mullaghmore, County Donegal, NW.

4. Indonesia

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Bali, Imdonesia

Home to an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, and hundreds more offshore reefs, Indonesia possibly has more breaks than any other country in the world.

Being one of the most popular surf destinations in the world, and not a shark-free area, one would assume that shark attacks are abundant, but thanks to the many reefs around islands, you can surf in Indonesia shark free without much effort.

Last reported shark attack: 2016

Total unprovoked shark attacks since 1900: 14

Best surf locations:

  • Desert Point, Lombok.
  • Uluwatu, Bali.
  • Dylan’s Right, Simeulue.
  • Tuba, Bali.

5. El Salvador

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El Zonte, El Salvador.

Not commonly thought of as a surf destination, El Salvador is home to some of the longest point breaks in South America, with some of the smallest crowds.

Furthermore, El Salvador is a relatively shark-free country and has only experienced 2 reported shark attacks in the past 100 years.

Separated into the two known surf areas, La Liberated, which is the most popular, and the “Wild East” which is rawer, has a larger swell, is much more isolated, and draws very few crowds, El Salvador is a shark-free surfing paradise.

Last reported shark attack: 1993

Total unprovoked shark attacks since 1900: 2

Best surf locations:

  • Punta Roca, La Libertad.
  • Punta Mango, Las Flores.
  • Playa Las Flores, Las Flores.
  • Playa El Zonte, El Zonte.

6. France

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Hossegor, France

The heart and epicenter of surfing in Europe, some of the best swell in the northern hemisphere hit these coasts.

The southwest coast of France is abundant with sandbanks that produce long, thick, and powerful barrels which bring numerous surf contests throughout the year.

Although they’re not shark-free, there is such a little risk of an attack that you might as well ignore them.

Last reported shark attack: 2014

Total unprovoked shark attacks since 1900: 8

Best surf locations:

  • La Gravière, Hossegor.
  • Anglet, Basque coast.
  • La Torche, Brittany.
  • Hendaye, Basque coast.

7. Maldives

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Surfer on perfect blue big tube wave in Indian Ocean in Maldives

The Maldives are famous around the world for their crystal clear waters, warm tropical climate, and SCUBA diving like none-other, however, the surf around these islands is exceptional, and often overlooked.

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The Maldives are shark free and have never reported shark attacks, however, surf spots are difficult to reach as they often require a boat, and the islands surrounding popular areas are not cheap.

Last reported shark attack: Never

Total unprovoked shark attacks since 1900: 0

Best places to surf:

  • Sultans, North Atoll.
  • Pasta Point, North Malé Atoll.
  • Chickens, Kuda Villingili Island.
  • Love Charms, Huvadhoo.

8. Madagascar 

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Located 740 miles off the east coast of Mozambique, Madagascar is open to the Indian Ocean and has an extremely small surfing population which creates somewhat of a surfing paradise.

Madagascar can be difficult to travel through and surf spots are isolated, but the waters are clean and the breaks are shark-free.

Last reported shark attack: 2010

Total unprovoked shark attacks since 1900: 5

Best places to surf:

  • Concussion Bowls.
  • Ankaninoof.
  • Ambila Lamentsa.
  • Safari Vezo housebreak.

Spots to Avoid If You’re Afraid of Sharks

It’s one thing to know where all the safest shark-free surf destinations around the world are, but this doesn’t help if you don’t find yourself in these locations.

Although the best way to avoid sharks is by surfing where there simply are no sharks if that’s not possible it’s a great idea to avoid surf breaks that are known for shark attacks if they are something that concerns you.

8 Most Shark Infested Surf Destinations

Although shark attacks are generally concentrated in small areas, the following list is of some of shakiest countries to surf in, as well as their shark attack data.

CountryNumber of Unprovoked Attacks Since 1900Last Reported Attack
United States16572021
Australia9042021
South Africa3952021
Papua New Guinea1182011
Brazil862021
New Zealand792021
Bahamas742016
Mexico622013

The USA leads the charge when it comes to shark attacks, however, most of these are concentrated in small areas such as Florida, which is home to more than half of the shark attacks throughout the country.

How to Avoid Sharks While Surfing?

There’s less than a 0.00018% chance of getting bitten by a shark if you consider the number of surfers in the world and the number of shark attacks that happen each year.

That being said, it’s still worth taking precautions while surfing to avoid any undesired injuries.

1. Avoid River Mouths

River mouths are often high in nutrient deposits from soil and plant matter that has washed down to the ocean.

This creates an abundance of sea life from the smallest microorganisms to larger animals such as fish and seals.

This, of course, attracts larger predators such as sharks.

Furthermore, because of the large amount of moving water and soil deposits, river mouths usually have unclear water, which for a shark, creates the perfect hunting ground.

2. Don’t Surf at Dusk or Dawn

The prime hunting time for a shark is during sunrise and sunset. 

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At these hours there is enough light in the sky for a shark to see fish and seals swimming on the surface, but not enough light to penetrate to the deeper water and expose the shark.

Surfing at sunrise and sunset is an amazing experience, but if you’re paranoid about sharks, you should avoid these times.

3. Don’t Enter the Ocean with Open Wounds

Sharks can swim 30mph and smell a drop of blood from up to a mile away. This can be a slightly unsettling fact if you spend a lot of time in the ocean.

Although a small cut on your finger will likely attract no sharks, entering the ocean with open wounds and running blood increases your chances of attracting sharks, not to mention the bacteria that are lurking around our coasts.

4. Lookout for Shark Flags

Shark flags indicate shark spotters, and if there are people looking out for sharks, it’s best that you listen to what they have to say.

If your break has shark flags, ensure you learn what the different flags mean, and stick to their warnings.

After all, they are there for a reason.

5. Surf with Other People

There’s safety in numbers. Just as the way fish swim in schools increases the safety of each individual, surfing with others does the same.

Not only is there less chance of you being attacked by a shark if you are in a group, but if something does go wrong there will be someone around to help.

6. Avoid Wearing Shiny Objects

Many fish and other marine life are attracted to shiny objects.

Rings, piercings, reflective tape, and your board and other jewelry can often catch the sun and create a shine that attracts fish.

Although this, on the most part, is not a risk to you, with fish come seals and larger fish, which in turn, invites larger predators such as sharks.

Although the risk might not be high, it’s safer to leave your jewelry at home before paddling out for a surf.

7. Avoid Beaches Known for Shark Sightings

It may seem obvious, but the best way to avoid sharks while surfing is by simply staying away from surf breaks that are commonly known for shark sightings and attacks.

Some of the most shark-infested surf breaks include New Smyrna Beach, Florida, Eyre Peninsula, Australia, and Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.

Conclusion

When you are new to surfing, or as a non-surfer, the thought of sharks in the ocean can be a huge setback to improving your surfing (or even starting to surf).

Although most of us go through this at first, the truth is that there’s an extremely low chance of you being attacked by a shark.

That being said, if you can’t seem to let go of your shark paranoia, your best option is to avoid breaks that are known for shark attacks, and when possible, surf in an area that sharks tend to avoid.

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