ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. (WNCT) – After two teenagers were bitten by sharks in Oak Island last weekend, all eyes are on the coast, causing some visitors to worry about entering the ocean.
“It’s more dangerous getting to the beach in your car than any risk you would incur by swimming in the ocean,” says Windy Arey-Kent with the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.
While many admit that the incidents involving sharks this weekend in southern counties are tragic, that’s no reason for people to shy away from their beach vacation.
“What we need to do is just take a step back.,” says Arey-Kent. “If you’re not comfortable going in the water, you can still enjoy the beach.”
“People are calling and asking if the beaches are open, is it safe, and that sort of thing,” explained Carol Lohr, Crystal Coast Tourism. “So we’re passing on all of the tips for safer swimming and making sure that people understand the sharks are in the water along with jellyfish and all sorts of wonderful creatures and you just have to be aware of where you are.”
“We have a lot of people that are coming into our shop and renting jet skis and kayaks and paddle paddleboards,” says AB WaterSports owner Mike Gurrera. “They ask questions about are there any sharks out in the water and those kind of things, but they usually rent and go out because we explain to them yeah, there are probably sharks out there but as long as you use proper precautions, and be aware of your surroundings you’ll be okay.”
Still others say they plan to play it safe on shore. Although sharks may be keeping some people out of the ocean, some are reeling in guests to other Crystal Coast attractions.
“People are going to go out to eat,” says Lohr. “They’re going to go shopping. They want to experience some family time together. And if they don’t feel comfortable in the water they can certainly find something else to do.”
One main attraction is the shark exhibit at the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, which always generates a large crowd. Some visitors say the knowledge gained there may help prepare them to head back to the beach.
“You just need to know how to deal with the sharks and not let them get to you,” says visitor Alex Guaer.
Arey-Kent recommends visitors who decide to swim in the ocean, lookout for birds diving into the water this may indicate that there is an excess amount of fish in that area, including sharks. Swimming is also discouraged at dawn and dusk. Swimmers should also take off anything shiny before entering the water. Also, excess splashing is discouraged because this may attract sharks.
Swimming near a pier or fisherman casting from the shore is dangerous because bait is likely in the water. Swimmers are also encouraged to swim in areas monitored by lifeguards who may have a better vantage point of the water and can keep an eye out for potential dangers like sharks and rip currents.