Why You Should Never Swim in the Red Triangle in California

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From below the water's surface, a sufer's legs dangle precariously of her surfboard in the depths of the ocean.

Some people are daring enough to pay big bucks to swim with sharks. However, you don’t have to pay to swim with sharks if you jump into California’s Red Triangle. Thousands of people leap into these shark-infested waters despite the risks. 

Today, we’re sharing why you should think twice before swimming in the Red Triangle in California. Ready to dive in?

What Is the Red Triangle in California?

The Red Triangle is an invisible triangle off the coast of California. It extends from Bodega Bay to the Farallon Islands, then down to the area around Big Sur and Monterey.

The ‘Red Triangle’ off the California coast is known for great white shark attacks.

It’s a popular area for surfing, windsurfing, swimming, and diving. While the coasts may be beautiful and the waters feel inviting, this can be a hazardous area.

Behind the Name

The Red Triangle gets its name due to the abnormally high amount of shark attacks in the water. Approximately 38% of all great white shark attacks in the United States have occurred within this triangle, which is 11% of the total shark attacks in the world.

Despite there only being approximately 100 shark attacks worldwide each year, you should still swim at your own risk when jumping into these waters!

Bodega Bay, the norther point of the Red Triangle in California, attracts surfers and divers from around the world to its rocky coastline.
California’s beautiful coastline attracts surfers, divers, and swimmers worldwide.

Hidden Dangers in the Red Triangle

The red triangle is home to a massive amount of great white sharks. Dave Ebert, Program Director of the Pacific Shark Research Center, states, “I’ve never seen such a concentration of white sharks that we’re seeing in Monterey Bay right now.”

Humans don’t generally rank very high as favorite foods for great white sharks. This is often why only 5% to 15% of attacks are fatal.

A woman kneels on a paddleboard and enjoys the sunrise from out on the water over a bay in California.
There are accounts of seals climbing onto surfers’ boards to get away from sharks.

The sharks are usually more curious about what they see swimming in the water and let go when they discover they don’t like the taste. Do you know the feeling when you’ve taken a drink or bite out of something and expected a different texture or taste? It’s a similar experience for the shark.

However, despite having such a low fatality, being bitten or attacked by a great white shark is no walk in the park.

Traveler’s Tip: On the topic of dangerous animals, learn what NOT to do if you encounter an alligator in the wild.

Why Are There So Many Sharks in the Red Triangle?

Researchers believe that there are so many sharks in the Red Triangle because of the large population of sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters. They’re all top favorite foods for great white sharks. These waters are practically an all-you-can-eat buffet.

A Great White Shark, commonly found in the Red Triangle, swims along the the water line, mouth agape and rows of teeth bearing.
The Great White Shark is protected in the state of California.

You also should know that California began protecting great white sharks in 1994. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, “It is illegal to catch, pursue, hunt, capture, or kill a white shark, which includes intentionally attracting white sharks with bait or other methods.”

One Southern California angler landed himself three years of probation and a $250 fine for killing a great white shark.

Tips for Staying Safe While Swimming in Shark Territory

Do you know how many shark attacks have occurred outside the water? None. It may seem obvious, but sharks can’t attack you if you’re not in shark-infested waters.

However, you can still stay safe while swimming in shark territory. Here are a handful of things you should keep in mind when swimming! 

Avoid Seal Spots

Sharks love to snack on seals, and they can easily confuse you for one. They may bite into you and discover you’re not a seal, but you’ll still have a massive wound and a traumatic experience. If you see seals swimming in the area, stay out of the water.

A seal perches on a rocky shoreline as waves crash below.
If you see seals swimming the the water, it’s a good idea not to join them.

There have been accounts of seals climbing onto surfers’ boards to get away from sharks. So before you think you’ve made a new buddy, you might want to consider that there could be a massively hungry shark near you. Shoo the seal away and get back to land ASAP.

Bring a Buddy

You should never jump into the water on your own. Many who have survived a shark attack did so because they had someone near them to provide care.

In the event of a shark attack, most people will flee from the encounter. You don’t want to be stuck on your own or rely on strangers to take action.

Be Observant

Being observant of your surroundings can be tremendously helpful in staying safe. Animals will behave differently when sharks or other predators are in the area.

You may notice birds circling, or the behavior of seals and dolphins in the area may change. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Some surfers have noticed small fish gathering under and around their surfboards when sharks are in the area. You may be able to avoid an encounter by observing the way animals behave around you.

Dolphins swim under the waters surface near the beach.
Be aware of how animals around you may react differently when a predator is in the water.

Don’t Bleed in the Water

If you have a cut, get out of the water. The scent of blood in the water can attract curious predators like sharks from miles away.

Just as a bear can smell the food you’re preparing at your campsite, a shark has a powerful sense of smell. If you’re injured in the water or have a fresh wound, stay out of the water.

Think Twice Before Swimming in the Red Triangle

Swimming in the Red Triangle is not a great idea, but people do it every day and live to tell about it. Shark attacks are so rare that the odds are minimal that you’ll be the victim of a shark attack.

However, you should still take it seriously and practice safe swimming practices. A shark bite is not the souvenir you want to take home from your trip to the beach.

Have you ever encountered a shark while swimming in the ocean?

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