Shark Shield: Ankle or Kayak?

SeanSean Member
edited April 2015 in Beginner Questions


I am fairly new to long distance swimming, having taken up the sport after many years of no swimming (i was a sprinter as a kid). I will be participating in a 15 km event later in the year in waters where shark attacks have occurred (although not for many years). And as I have a serious (irrational) fear of sharks, I am considering swimming with a shark shield. However I am worried about 2 things:

1) Drag

2) It getting in the way during the chaos at the start of a race

Which leads me to my question..... do you wear the shark shield on your ankle, or from the support kayak? Is the range of the shark shield (presumably 5m according to the comment below?) large enough to safely use from the kayak?

I noticed in the thread , FOREVERSWIM says:
"I was far from the kayak which had the device turned on (the radius I believe is 5m). I take full responsibility to stay near my kayaker if I was concerned about being in the "shield" of protection."

Is this the general practice of marathon swimmers, or do some prefer to wear on your ankle?


  • TheoTheo Oxnard, CAMember

    There are several things to consider. In a group race I see no way you could or should wear the shark shield especially the one with the long trailing whip. It shocks all who inadvertently come in contact with it. From experience it is not pleasant to be on the receiving end. There would also be a safety concern with the run into the water other people possibly stepping on it, or it getting caught on other things. On open water swims with support boats it is also a safety concern that the "whip" could get caught in the propeller. I am not sure it would be ethically appropriate for a support kayaker to trail the shield during a mass race as there is the possibility that other swimmers could come in contact with it.

    You wear it on your ankle and yes the thing drags and you definitely know it while wearing it.

    There is an electronic shielding device that does not have the whip out of Hawaii. I do not know how effective it is or if it shocks other swimmers that come in contact with it. Other promising deterrents are from a couple of companies that are developing a wrist wearable device the size of an oversized watch that uses the sounds of orca and dolphins to keep sharks away with a much larger radius of effectiveness. One company is planning to have some available in May last time I checked.

    Bottom line is most channel swimming authorities prohibit the wearing of a shark shield or other deterrent device on the swimmers body during the attempt. Most will allow it to be trailed off the supporting kayak. But I would never advocate or allow someone to swim with a shield in a large group race swim on their person.

  • SwimSydneySwimSydney SydneyMember

    As Theo said, I can't imagine wearing it on the ankle unless you were the only swimmer around due to the chance of it hitting other people. It's not painful if you come into contact with the tail, it just gives you a bit of a zap but you definitely know about it.

    I use one hanging off my support kayak, rigged towards the back of the kayak. The unit itself needs to be submerged, not just the tail. This means that it tends to sit down in the water and trails behind the kayak, minimising the chance that you come into contact with it whilst swimming (I like to have my head just in front of where my kayaker sits). My kayakers do tell me that they're aware of the extra drag caused by the Shark Shield so I owe them extra coffee/beer.

  • SeanSean Member
    edited April 2015

    Thank you both for clarifying this for me. Swimsydney, what is the range of the device / safe distance to swim from the kayak, and how do you stop yourself from getting zapped?

  • DocScottDocScott Redwood City, CaliforniaMember

    I believe the range from the shark shield unit is a 10 meter radius. When I swim solo, or a small training group,I attach it to my ankle directly. I definitely feel the drag and I usually get a small zap at sometime during the swim (if I take a rest or when I'm returning to the beach). I also have used a short surf leash to increase comfort on my ankle and to slightly extend the shark shield behind me. The surf leash is also an easy way to attach to a kayak to insure the unit is fully submerged.

  • SwimSydneySwimSydney SydneyMember

    I try to hold about 3 metres from my kayak. I'm alongside the kayak and the shield drags behind it so there's very little chance I can come into contact with it whilst swimming. The only time I have been zapped is at feeding time when the shield's tail is slack and I've been doing breaststroke kick to tread water.

    I wouldn't be convinced that the range of the shield is 10m. I was swimming the other day with the Shark Shield on the kayak next to me and swam over several sharks. They were only small dusky whalers, so nothing to worry about. They may have been about 5-6 metres below me and didn't seem remotely concerned or affected by the Shield.

    I once did a long swim in sharky water at night (their feeding time) and contacted a shark expert to get some advice. He said that a Shark Shield may deter a curious shark that's just coming for a closer look. But if the shark is hungry then it won't do anything at all. It can help for a bit of peace of mind though.

  • my understanding is that the Shark Shield electronic field radius is no more than 2-3 m hence I swim close the boat that the shield is anchored onto....

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