While the odds of getting attacked by a shark are relatively low, 51% of Americans have reported that they are "absolutely terrified" of sharks, and 38% claimed that they are "too afraid" to swim in the ocean because they fear becoming the victim of an attack.
While these fears are understandably fueled by stories of lethal shark attacks, like the Australian swimmer who was attacked at a beach in Sydney last week, some people manage to escape shark attacks with their lives, and most of their limbs, intact.
Heather West, a Texas native, has first-hand experience when it comes to surviving a shark attack. While vacationing off the Florida coast on the Gulf of Mexico last month, West went snorkeling with friends.
She described the water as "choppy," limiting her visibility.
As she started to swim back towards the shore, West said that she felt something tug at her foot. A few seconds later, she was pulled under the water. Even though the water was murky, West knew a shark was attacking her.
Instead of flailing or screaming, West explained that she moved aggressively toward the shark and began punching and kicking its nose as hard as she could. She had read somewhere that if a shark attacks you, the best thing to do is fight back as hard as you can.
Eventually, the shark let go of her foot and swam away. While West's foot was severely injured, she didn't lose her limb. More importantly, her ability to think quickly under pressure and "attack" the shark back is the reason she is still alive today.
On average, there are less than eighty shark attacks reported each year. Therefore, your chances of being involved in one are incredibly slim. However, if you find yourself in a compromising situation with a shark, remember to put up a good fight like Heather West.