Shark Week…again

by Bev Sanders on July 1, 2016

Thoughts on the The Shallows by Bev, founder of Las Olas, who didn’t see the movie.

Jackie is in charge of guest services at Las Olas. Her job is to enlighten our ladies on any surf safari subject from free wi-fi in your villa to the best stay-on swimsuit for surfing. After a decade of various questions, one concern that pops up almost as much as finding the perfect latte— are there sharks at Las Olas?

Our stock answer is “There are are sharks in the ocean and we surf in the ocean,” but actually dangerous sharks are rare in the area where we paddle out. In fact, in 20 years we haven’t heard of any prowling in our line up.

Still, every year at this time the subject of sharks is front and center thoughout our culture. Not only do sharks have their own theme song (Jaws soundtrack) and their own calendar (Shark Week), but this year their own Hollywood movie—The Shallows.

Rather than sit on the shore, Jackie and her husband Brian, who surfs daily, set out to see The Shallows and investigate another source of our disproportionate fears about this relatively rare fish.

The plot is simple enough, a surfer paddles out at remote break only to be trapped on a jagged rock 200 yards from shore. The surfer, played by Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively, is forced to summon all her wits and determination to outwit the scariest animal on the planet. No, not Blair Waldorf— the great white shark!

Jackie reported, “I tried to wrap my head around how I could explain this movie, but the bottom line is: I wasn’t afraid of sharks before, but now I am.”

Brian, who regularly surfs waters known for sharks, added, “Just hope that nobody sees it.”

So how can two knowledgeable people seeped in ocean culture be so influenced after just watching a movie?

Simple: Media is expert at creating, selling, and stoking fear. It has a mission to exploit our emotions to promote cosmetics, buy votes, and sell movie tickets. Fear of aging, fear of diversity, and fear of the natural world parades past us in 24 hour cycles. But the ocean, which includes sharks, is an essential part of our environment and definitely not the enemy. It’s also in a precarious state due to humanity’s lack of compassion, understanding, and connection to it. More Hollywood movies about vindictive sharks don’t help.

George Burgess, a shark attack expert at the Florida Museum of Natural History reminds us, “It’s important that people remember fiction is fiction. Sharks have much more to fear from us than we do from them.”

And Blake agrees, “Sharks are villainized – people think of them as scary, as cruel, as monsters, but they’re not that at all. The shark is a wild animal in its habitat.”

In my twenty years hosting Las Olas I often ask what initiated our irrational fear of sharks. The usual answer— the movie Jaws. That drives me crazy! It’s now the job of our surf coaches to turn the baseless emotion around. When they do, we become happy surfer girls in love with the sea.

So I’m taking Jackie and Brian’s advice and paddle past The Shallows. Maybe I’ll find Dory instead.

See you in the waves!
Dory & Friend

Bev Sanders is founder and president of Las Olas Surf Safaris for Women and editor-in-chief of Jennifer’s Journey, the online travel portal for women adventurers. She started surfing at 44 continuing her lifelong pursuit of introducing women to sports. You’ll find her and husband Chris on the beach in Mexico throughout the surf season.

Blake Lively in The Shallows, photo by Vince Valitutti courtesy of Sony Pictures Digital Productions Inc.
Destiny and Dory in Finding Dory courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Complete interview with shark expert George Burgess at National Geographic.

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