Editor’s Note: Taylor Paul is a surfer. A really good, big wave surfer in fact. Mavericks, Dungeons…all the scary ones, that come with lots of sharks. He has researched this, spoken with experts on shark populations, flown in helicopters to look for them (and found them) and lived in Santa Cruz, Southern California and San Francisco. He knows this topic, feels strongly about it. And he had a little something to say regarding some audacious things we’ve overheard recently about sharks. —Travis
It starts with shark sightings. Then shark sharing. Then a shark attack, which is the bomb that blows up the dam that was holding 45 million gallons of fear that rushes onto our social media feeds and into the parking lots of our favorite surf spots. And that’s when you start to hear it — the C-word — cull. Which is just a different way of saying slaughter. Or kill.
Look, I’m not even here to argue that shark culling doesn’t work, although experts say it doesn’t. I’m not here to point out the ecological ramifications of meddling with an apex species, although there are many. I’m not here to suggest that there probably aren’t that many more sharks, you just see them more because technology makes shark encounters more visible (GoPros, drones, cam rewinds, social media). And I’m not even here to mention that if you account for the influx of people in the water over the past 50 years, shark attacks in California are actually down. No, I won’t belabor any of those points. I’m here to say that if you are in favor of shark culling, you are a pussy.
There is no other explanation. You fell in love with a recreational activity with the perception that the odds of getting attacked by a shark were extremely low. So you kept doing it. And now that sharks are front of mind, the perceived risk is higher, and you’re scared. Your risk tolerance threshold has been breached and you’re panicking. You feel like you’re in danger. That you’ve lost control. That something needs to be done and the only solution is murder.
But there is another option, a fool-proof way of not getting attacked by a shark, a method that people have been successfully practicing since we crawled out of the sea — don’t go in the water. Nobody is making you go surfing or swimming. It’s your choice. So if it’s too scary now, start skateboarding. Climb a mountain. Take up Crossfit. Or rollerblading! Sharks cannot get you on the boardwalk. You will be so safe. And don’t worry, your knee pads will only chafe for the first week or so.
Alternatively, you can chill the fuck out. Take a few deep breaths. Understand that your actual risk hasn’t changed much since last week, and that the only difference is the fear you’ve let fester between your ears. But on the off chance a shark comes out of the ocean, busts down your door and tries to chomp one of your loved ones, by all means, kill the fucker. Till then, quit being a baby and go surfing.—Taylor Paul