Do foils attract sharks?
The question is popping up in many places on the Internet.
We have heard and seen sharks getting very close to foilers (kitefoils, surffoils or windfoils), and sometimes there are even some attacks on the wings.
The debate is on. Are sharks attracted by foilers? Is it safe to windfoil or should you be worried?
While there is no proven evidence that foiling may influence the behaviour of sharks, there has been quite a lot of observations over the past few years, and it’s possible to make some assumptions:
Sharks may be attracted by the vibrations of the foil.
Sharks may be curious when they see / hear a foil approaching, and come close for inspection.
Hydrofoils are more silent than regular kiteboards or windsurf boards, and the fish/sharks do not realize until the last second that there is something close to them. This is why hydrofoilers may hit or see more fish and sharks than regular kiters or windsurfers. As a result of "surprise" the sharks could react by attacking.
Sharks may believe that the foil is a big fish. The front wing of the foil (especially the large front wings) may resemble a ray, which is one of the sharks’ favourite meals.
The carbon fiber of the wings looks a lot like fish scales.
Others would claim that surfing around sharks is nothing new, but being half a meter above the water makes it easier than before to spot them, especially in light wind conditions with calm and clear water.
A ray may resemble the front wing of a foil
Whether these assumptions are true or false, here are 2 interesting and scary stories that we would like to share. The goal is not to scare or discourage you from going out foiling, but rather to make you aware of the fact that foilers may raise the attention of sharks more than conventional kiters or windsurfers:
1- Video of a shark attracted by a kitefoiler
Here is a video of a kitefoiler’s near contact with a small shark.
The shark gets obviously very interested by the foil passing by, probably believing that it’s a large fish.
2- Here comes the story of Bryn Kaufman, and “windfoil lover” in Kailua, Hawaii:
“I am writing this so other ocean Wind Foilers are aware.
Here is what happened:
The other day I was about 75 feet off shore at my favorite Wind Foil spot at Kailua Beach Park. I was going back and forth riding tiny swells, doing my turns, and having a great time.
Then I noticed a 10 ft. tiger shark underneath me. (3 meter long)
Once I got out I found out I was actually going back and forth over it for a while. When I asked a friend how long she said it was about 30 minutes. So, I thought wow that is a once in a lifetime event. However, a week later during my last 2 sessions upon turning around I saw a shark about 10 feet away. It disappeared fast, so I could not identify it, but it was 8 to 10 feet.
Bryn Kaufman foiling in Kailua Bay
The 2nd time I saw the shark I wrote it off to bad luck, but the 3rd time was getting ridiculous and I spoke to an experienced foiler about it and he said they are attracted to the foil. He mentioned one of the kite foilers had his foil bitten by a shark. He feels the foil gives off a vibration, similar to but not exactly like a fish going through the water, and this attracts them. I have no scientific evidence, but I believe they are attracted to the foil. This is a huge bay, and for me to be turning around in two different sessions and see a shark 10 feet away is no coincidence. I know my Slingshot Infinity 84 foil is big and slow, so it might be giving off the vibration of a big, slow, fish. So, this is something for other Wind Foilers to be aware of.”
If you have had any observations or experiences with foiling and sharks, feel free to share it in the comments below.