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What color surfboards attract sharks?

What color surfboards attract sharks?

Surfing is a thrilling sport that involves riding waves on a surfboard. While surfing can provide an adrenaline rush, it also comes with some risks. One of the biggest dangers that surfers face is the possibility of encountering sharks. This raises an important question – do certain colors of surfboards attract sharks more than others?

Do Sharks Mistake Surfboards for Prey?

Many experts believe that sharks do not intentionally target surfers. Instead, they likely mistake surfboards and surfers for their normal prey. Sharks have excellent vision and can detect colors, contrast, and movement. They use these visual cues to find and hunt prey like fish, seals, and turtles. Since a surfboard floating on the surface vaguely resembles the shape and motion of a shark’s prey, the shark’s hunting instincts can kick in, leading them to investigate.

So while sharks are not actively seeking to attack humans on surfboards, the chance of mistaken identity and accidental bites does exist. This raises the question of whether some surfboard colors, patterns, or movements trigger a shark’s prey drive more than others.

Do Bright Colors Attract Sharks?

There is a common belief that bright colors, like yellow or orange, attract sharks. However, there is no strong scientific evidence to support this claim. Here are some key considerations:

  • Many sharks see color, so they may be able to distinguish between colors. But color perception varies by species.
  • Sharks are especially sensitive to contrast. A color that contrasts strongly against the water background will stand out.
  • Some sharks can only see in black and white. Color may not matter to them.
  • Sharks are attracted by distinct motion and flashing lights. Color alone may not trigger their hunting drive.
  • Prey like fish and seals don’t typically have bright yellow or orange coloring. So sharks likely don’t associate those colors with food.

In summary, while there is no concrete proof that bright colors attract sharks, very high contrast colors could catch a shark’s attention in some situations. But factors like motion and silhouettes probably play a bigger role.

How About Dark Colors Like Black or Gray?

Do darker natural colors like black, gray, or dark blue attract sharks? Again there is no evidence that these colors directly attract sharks. Here are some considerations:

  • Darker colors create less contrast against the water, so they are less visible.
  • Many sharks see well in low light conditions. Darker colors may not make much difference.
  • Silhouettes of prey like seals stand out against the bright surface. A dark surfboard may blend in.
  • Some prey fish have darker backs to camouflage against the ocean floor when viewed from above. So sharks may not associate black with food.

In general, darker colors probably do not attract sharks more than brighter colors. In fact, they may make the surfboard blend in a bit better against the ocean background.

Do Shark-Like Colors and Patterns Attract Sharks?

Another theory is that sharks may be more attracted to colors and patterns that resemble their natural prey. For example:

  • Gray, blue, or black coloring similar to seals and dolphins
  • White undersides like many fish
  • Stripes or blotches that mimic fish or cephalopods

This concept makes logical sense – sharks use visual cues to hunt for food, so anything that triggers that prey drive could attract their attention. However, controlled studies are lacking. There are also no published reports of sharks specifically attacking surfboards with prey-like colors or designs.

In one observational study, researchers watched white sharks interact with both solid black and seal-patterned surfboards. The sharks showed interest in both designs, suggesting color was not a major factor. More research is still needed in this area.

How Do Other Factors Like Movement and Silhouette Play a Role?

While color can be one visual factor, sharks also rely heavily on recognizing shapes, silhouettes, and movement patterns to hunt:

  • The distinct silhouette of seals, with a torpedo-shaped body and protruding head, stands out against the bright water surface.
  • Sharks notice the up-and-down bobbing motion of swimming prey.
  • Erratic flashes and faster movements can trigger a shark’s prey drive.

Researchers have observed that small flashing lights and irregular movements can quickly attract sharks. This suggests that the silhouette and motion of a surfboard may play a bigger role than color alone. Solid, smooth movements and clean outlines seem to be less attractive to sharks.

Do Surfboard Smells or Chemicals Attract Sharks?

In addition to vision, sharks also rely heavily on their sense of smell and electroreception to find prey. This raises some other questions about surfboards:

  • Could shark attractants or fishing bait odors on a surfboard increase risk?
  • Can sharks smell a human body on the board?
  • Do chemicals in wax, neoprene, or other materials smell like prey?

Currently there is little evidence that sharks are attracted specifically to surfboard odors or chemicals. However, strong unnatural odors combined with silhouette, motion, and other triggers could potentially pique a shark’s curiosity and lead them to investigate. More research is needed. Avoiding strong fragrances or bait smells on boards is a sensible precaution.

Which Colors and Designs May Be Safest?

Based on the available evidence, no surfboard colors or designs are proven to repel sharks or guarantee safety. However, the following tips could help your board blend in:

  • Avoid very high contrast colors that stand out against the water.
  • Muted solid colors without flashy patterns are less eye-catching.
  • Matte finishes are better than glossy, sparkly ones.
  • Avoid bold stripes, large blocks of contrasting colors, or bright white undersides.
  • Steer clear of colors or patterns found on common prey like seals or fish.

Following these guidelines could make your board look less like shark prey. But other factors like silhouette, movement, and odors also come into play. Staying alert and avoiding areas of known shark activity are still the best ways to stay safe.

Color Level of Visibility Shark Attraction Risk
Solid gray Low Low
Muted blue Low Low
Bright yellow High Moderate
Black and white stripes High Moderate
Realistic seal print Moderate High


In conclusion, while color may play some role, there is no foolproof surfboard color or pattern that will repel sharks or guarantee complete safety. Muted solid colors likely provide the lowest visibility and shark attraction risk. But motion, silhouette, odors, location, time of day, and other factors also influence shark behavior and risk. Vigilance, avoidance of areas with known shark activity, and proper safety precautions are still the surfer’s best defenses against shark encounters.

Surfboard color preference still comes down largely to personal choice and style. Following general tips like avoiding high contrast colors and prey-like patterns is sensible, but is not a complete deterrent. Paying close attention to the surrounding waters and signs of shark activity remains key for staying safe in the waves.