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The Business of Shark Repellent: These Startups Say They Can Keep You Safe in the Water

For surfers in summer, unappetizing is the new black.

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BY Emily Canal - 05 Jul 2018

The Business of Shark Repellent: These Startups Say They Can Keep You Safe in the Water

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy Sharkbanz

Nathan Garrison was a teenager growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, when a friend told him about the time a shark ripped said friend from a surfboard and dragged him underwater. The pal survived, but Garrison was scarred. So, in 2015, he and his father invented Sharkbanz--wrist and ankle bands and leashes that connect surfers to their boards with Velcro straps, which contain magnets that create an electromagnetic field that repels sharks. It makes sharks feel the way humans do when a bright light shines in their eyes, Garrison says. "It's a defense," he adds. "Before, you were relying on luck." Last year, Sharkbanz took in almost $970,000, way up from 2015's $617,000.


Sharkbanz house magnets that create an electromagnetic field that repels sharks.CREDIT: Courtesy Sharkbanz

Sharkbanz isn't the only company trying to prevent sharks from taking a bite out of your ocean fun. Surf competition organizers have started using drones to monitor waters from above for signs of sharks, paying close attention to shadows and shapes lurking in the curl of a wave.

There are also several apps that track tagged sharks or report shark sightings. For example, Sharktivity provides information on great white shark sightings and detections in the New England area. The app was developed by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Cape Cod National Seashore, and local officials. Cape Cod has maintained a reputation as a great white shark haven since the movie Jaws was filmed on Martha's Vineyard in the early 1970s, but the Conservancy hopes the app will help people and sharks co-exist peacefully.

Another option for beachgoers who don't want to spend their summer in the sand: Australian startup Smart Marine Systems, which makes two wetsuits designed with visual technology that it claims reduces the risk of shark attacks. The patterns were created to confuse sharks' vision and make the wearer appear confusing or unlike typical prey, Smart Marine Systems' technology general manager, Simon O'Sullivan, told Inc.

Smart Marine Systems' Diverter (left) and Elude wetsuits. The company claims the patterns are designed to reduce the risk of shark attacks.CREDIT: Courtesy Smart Marine Systems

The goal of the company, O'Sullivan says, is to develop non-invasive marine technology that gives people an added layer of protection when spending time in waters that sharks frequent. O'Sullivan and his team have other products that aim to protect people from sharks, but the wetsuits are some of the least expensive: One costs about $240, which is the average price of a similar wetsuit on Amazon.

SMS's "Elude" wetsuit is designed with light and dark blue patterns that are meant to hide the wearer in the water. This suit was conceptualized with divers in mind and helps mask them in the water column. The second suit, called "Diverter," is striped with navy and white and meant to look unpalatable to sharks, unlike black wetsuits, which make humans resemble those predators' favorite snack: seals. For surfers in summer, unappetizing is the new black.

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