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10 People Who Narrowly Escaped Death by Shark Attack

by Jeffrey Morris
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

A man is considered lucky when something good happens to him by chance. On a daily basis, someone, somewhere, will get lucky. This includes escaping death, dismissal from work, automobile accidents, heartbreaks, bankruptcy, among others. In all of these categories of escapees is a very small group of people we find exceptionally lucky—those who narrowly escaped death by a shark attack.

It is estimated that there are about 400 to 500 species of sharks in the world’s oceans. While sharks are top predators of the oceans and can be very dangerous, they rarely become aggressive toward humans—only about 12 species have been known to attack people. However, they have caused some deaths and given other people permanent scars and disabilities, but they are not the man killers of myth and Hollywood. Over the past five years, the average number of unprovoked shark attacks per year is 80, but 2020 only saw 57 attacks, with only ten of those proving fatal.

However, an encounter with a shark is one that can never be forgotten if the victim manages to live through the experience. When a person escapes a shark attack, it calls for celebration. This is a list of ten people who narrowly escaped death by a shark attack.

Related: Top 10 Times Animals Held Grudges Against Humans And Took Revenge

10 Saved by a Drone

Pro Surfer Matt Wilkinson Shark Encounter

Matt Wilkinson is a professional surfer who was paddling on his board near Sharpes Beach in Australia in 2020. Unknown to him, a shark was trailing him. He heard a splash in the water beneath his feet but continued surfing when he looked around and saw nothing. Luckily for him, a drone operator, Beau Monks, was using a drone to survey the water when he sighted the shark.

Monks quickly broadcasted a warning to Wilkinson that a shark was on the loose and too close to him for comfort. He asked Matt to head for the beach, and he did. Matt didn’t realize how close he was to the shark until he returned to the beach and saw the video footage. The shark was about to attack Matt on the leg when it may have been distracted by the noise from the drone. But for the drone operator, Matt Wilkinson could have possibly lost his life that day.[1]

By the way, 18 of those 57 unprovoked attacks in 2020 occurred in Australia! The second most of any country on the list.

9 Spearfishing Surprise

Man Who Survived Shark Attack In Bahamas Details Terrifying Tussle | TODAY

In 2019, Jonathan Hernandez, a professional boat captain and fisherman from Florida, was spearfishing with friends off Abaco Island in the Bahamas when he was attacked by a shark. The effect of the attack made him think that the fishing boat had run him over. Hernandez was bitten on the left calf but managed to swim to safety before the shark could do more harm to him. Luckily, he and his friends managed to tourniquet the wound within about 60 to 90 seconds of the attack, preventing further blood loss.

Hernandez notes the attack was likely the result of the increase in tourist-driven local shark feeding businesses, which allow sharks to be fed by humans. This, in turn, has let the sharks in the area associate humans with food. The shark that attacked Hernandez was out to feed, and his story could have ended in total tragedy had he been at sea alone that day without anyone to help. His attack happened just days before a young college student was also killed by a shark while snorkeling in the Bahamas.[2]


8 Missed Me by a…Foot

Shark Attack Victim In North Carolina Speaks Out About Terrifying Encounter | TODAY

In 2019, a 19-year old student named Austin Reed narrowly escaped a shark attack when he was surfing with his brothers and friends at about 2 pm at Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina. The shark grabbed Reed’s foot and pulled. By the time Reed managed to pull his foot out, it looked as if a knife had cut across the left and right side of it.

Reed was taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington where he underwent surgery for the injury he suffered.[3]

Oh, the United States had the most unprovoked attacks in 2020—coming in at 33. However, only three of those resulted in death. While the U.S. topped the list in overall attacks, Australia was number one in deadly attacks: they had 6 in 2020.

7 Fight Off a Shark, Take Selfie.

Braxton SharkBoy Rocha UPDATE!

Braxton Rocha, a 27-year-old spear fisherman, was swimming about 60 yards off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island when he was attacked by a tiger shark in 2015. Rocha told reporters that the tiger shark had his leg in its jaw at one point during the attack. His instinct kicked in, and he started to fight the shark. Luckily, the shark let go of his leg after he punched it on the head. Rocha managed to swim back to safety with his leg almost torn off his body. He was later assisted by a friend and fellow fisherman, Shannon Pasco, who got him into an ambulance.

Rocha ended up taking selfies and videos of his injury which he uploaded on Youtube and Instagram. He underwent a three-hour surgery and it took 100 staples to close his wounds.[4]


6 Really…in the Middle of a Competition

Shark Attacks Mick Fanning at the J-Bay Open 2015

Mick Fanning, a three-time world surfing champion, managed to win the battle for his life when he tangled with a shark while surfing. Aside from being a surfing legend, Fanning accomplished a new feat when he fought off a shark attack in the middle of a competition in South Africa. He was a finalist in the J-Bay Open Competition when the shark struck, and the incident was captured on television. Fanning was waiting for his first wave of the final when a fin surfaced behind him.

Fanning did not notice the shark in time. When he did, he padded away, but it was too late as the animal had already noticed him and was soon in pursuit. The shark collided with his surfboard, which made him lose balance and drop into the water. Fanning was able to chase it off by punching it on its back, avoiding injury. Rescue boats located nearby quickly intervened, and Fanning was ferried to safety. The most dramatic element of this near-death encounter is that Fanning’s mother watched the whole incident unfold on television. At one point, she feared that her son would not make it out of the ocean alive.[5]

This attack occurred in 2015, and coincidentally, Matt Wilkinson was also competing in this competition.

5 Overboard for 28 Hours

Surfer falls overboard and forced to fend off sharks | 60 Minutes Australia

Brett Archibald fell overboard during a surfing trip to Indonesia in 2013. He fell at night, and as it was dark, no one saw him go into the water. Archibald initially thought the end had come, but that was not to be. He managed to stay afloat for 28 hours.

Trouble began for Brett when he experienced a case of food poisoning mixed with seasickness from the choppy waters. He woke up in the middle of the night and started throwing up. He then went to the railing of the boat to continue vomiting, and the next thing he noticed was that he had fallen overboard. While he was in the water, he got bumped by seagulls and a shark. He was lucky that the shark thought he was a distasteful meal; it turned away without harming him. After 28-hours of agony, he was spotted by an Australian skipper, one of many boats searching for Archibald, taking him for medical treatment after being rescued.[6]


4 Face-to-Face with a Great White

Rodney Fox: Shark Attack

Rodney Fox, a respected filmmaker and conservationist, cheated death at the age of 23. He was attacked by a great white shark while competing in the South Australia Spearfishing Championship at Aldinga Beach, South of Adelaide, on December 8, 1963. During the encounter with the great white shark, Rodney made several unsuccessful attempts to subdue the animal, including an attempt to gouge out its eyes. Fox’s hand was also badly damaged when it went into the shark’s mouth as he tried to push it away.

At one point, the shark succeeded in pulling him toward the bottom of the ocean, but Fox was lucky to escape before it could kill him. His injuries were so bad that he needed 462 stitches to close them up. His ribs were shattered, his diaphragm was punctured, and his lungs were ripped open. For many people, the attack would be the excuse they needed to give up on ocean diving, and the world would have pardoned Fox if he did so. However, the attack made him dedicate sixty years of his life to protecting sharks.[7]

3 Man Fights Off Shark to Save Partner’s Life

My Partner Fought Off a Shark And Saved My Life | This Morning

On a Saturday morning in August 2020, Chantelle Doyle, an environmental scientist, was up early to work on her Ph.D. She was staying with her partner Mark Rapley and their three-year-old son, Hamilton, at her parents’ place near the beaches of Port Macquarie, New South Wales. She and her partner decided to go surf and get some fresh air that day. They were both surfing at Shelly Beach when a 10-foot great white shark attacked her, causing severe lacerations to her right leg.

Rapley’s reaction made news bulletins across the country and parts of the globe. Seeing his partner in trouble, he paddled frantically toward her, jumped on her back, and rained punches down on the animal’s head and near its eye until it let go and slipped away. Other people who were surfing nearby also joined in the rescue. Like Rodney Fox, Doyle and Rapley have started working toward better understanding and conservation of this much-feared creature.[8]


2 Punching for Survival

Surfer escapes shark attack at Bells Beach, Australia

In a narrow escape encounter, Dylan Nacass managed to punch his way to survival during a shark attack while surfing at Bells Beach in Australia in 2020. Upon noticing the shark, Nacass tried to surf as fast as he could, but the animal tracked him, gave chase, and latched onto his leg. Nacass responded to the attack by punching the predator twice.

A local man named Matt Sedunary noticed the struggle and moved in to save Nacass. At first, Sedunary thought that Nacass was joking with his friends when he heard him screaming. Then, Sedunary went to investigate the cause of the screaming and saw a fin. At that moment, it dawned on him that Dylan was under attack by a shark.[9]

1 13-Year-Old Shark Attack Survivor

ABC Exclusive: Shark attack survivor Keane Hayes speaks on his recovery

In 2018, Keane Webre-Hayes managed to survive a great white shark attack at the age of thirteen. He is one of the youngest shark attack survivors we know today. He was looking for lobsters in Leucadia, California, just north of San Diego, when he was attacked by the animal. Luckily for him, three men who were in a kayak nearby helped him get to the shore.

He was immediately airlifted to a hospital, where he underwent surgery. The teenager expressed his willingness to return to the ocean immediately after he suffered the attack, but he didn’t get his chance until nine months later. He returned to the ocean in spectacular fashion, spearfishing in deep ocean water.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen