Everyone has heard about shark attacks on the California coast over the years, but where do they happen the most? We decided to dive into the data on California shark attacks starting in the year 2000 so we could see the areas with the highest concentrations. See the complete and updated list below.
Sure there are beaches, like Surf Beach near Vandenberg Air Force Base, that are notorious for shark attacks. That beach alone has four attacks, including two fatal great white shark attacks, since 2008. Other areas are not known for shark attacks, but when you put them on a map the dangerous areas are very clear. And the worst area is… everywhere!
Shark attacks have happened in recent years from Imperial Beach near the Mexico Border up to the Klamath River Beach near Oregon. Documented incidents have occurred in every single county along the California Pacific Coast since 2000! From this data we have determined that few open water areas are completely safe from sharks. Keep in mind that even if there are no recent shark attacks in an area, that doesn’t mean it is shark-free.
The proper way to look at the real risk to humans in the water requires looking at the quantity of shark attacks compared to the number of people who are regularly in the water there. For example, the aforementioned Surf Beach might be the deadliest beach in the state because it is a remote beach with cold water and is only used by a small amount of surfers on any given day. By contrast, the Huntington Beach area has had the same number of attacks (four) but has thousands of people in the water on sunny days. Clearly, Huntington Beach has a lower risk of shark attacks than Surf Beach. What we have found from the data is that the farther north you go, the higher the risk.
The majority of those attacked were surfing, but many were out enjoying some other water-based activity. More than 30 were in the ocean swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. One was windsurfing and another was in an outrigger canoe. So unless you are in a boat with a solid hull, the shark attack risk is present when you are in or on the water just about anywhere in California.
It should be noted that in most areas of California the risk of a shark attack is extremely low. Unless you have galeophobia (a fear of sharks) don’t let it scare you off from taking a dip, especially if you are in Southern California where the concentration of sharks is much lower. Rip currents, cramps from cold water, and poor water quality are all bigger concerns when going for a swim in the ocean.
The list below includes all the California beaches that have documented shark attacks since the year 2000. It is based on news reports and data from the Shark Research Committee who keep an up-to-date list of the attacks on the Pacific Coast (Washington, Oregon, and California). The beaches below are listed in descending order (those at the top of the list have the highest quantity of attacks).