A Phobia Of Being Shark Bait

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - March 08, 2006

There has been another shark attack on Maui and it’s almost getting to the point where I won’t step into the shower anymore.

Yes, I am a shark wimp. It was the summer of 1975 when I visited my aunt and uncle in Wheaton, Ill. A movie about sharks was being released and it reminded me of a book excerpt I read, ironically at the same aunt and uncle’s house years before. They asked if I wanted to see Jaws , and I said, “Yes!”


What the heck was I thinking? Sure enough, I refused to venture into the water after seeing the mayhem that ensued. It didn’t really matter what kind of water - just water in general. The ocean is out of the question, but I also banned lakes, rivers, streams, pools, bathtubs, car washes and lawn sprinklers. I was not taking any chances.

I loved to fish when I was a kid. Mostly bluegill and crappie, but also bass and pike. Even rowing a boat on a small lake became a phobia for me.

Remember the scene in Jaws when the lifeguard in the rowboat tried to get the kids out of the lagoon? Remember what the shark did to him? Let’s just say the shark got a “leg” up on him.

At least I was motivated to paddle faster.

I did emerge from my self-imposed ban on all things water. When I worked in the Caribbean it was difficult not to get into the water. As a matter of fact, I became quite a fan of snorkeling in Cozumel, Mexico, and Grand Cayman, and bodysurfing in Barbados.

Then I was reminded of how careless and reckless I had become.


Our cruise ship would dock right outside of San Miguel when in Cozumel. Since we stayed late in the evening, nightfall would come and the ship’s lights would come on above and below decks. I was hanging out by the railing on one of the upper decks and looked down. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Circling the ship were several hammerhead sharks - big ones, small ones. It looked like a hammerhead convention. I looked out a bit farther and I saw underwater lights. Yep, night divers no more than a couple of hundred yards away. I spoke with some crew who loved to dive and they were all aware of the sharks in the water. Hmmm. Why not coat yourself in honey and dance on an ant hill? Neither makes sense.

I love that experts tell us the chances of getting attacked by a shark are extremely rare. The chances you will discover you are your own father’s sister’s broth-er’s aunt’s younger grandfather are greater than getting bitten by a shark.

Sorry, not good enough for me. This last attack on Maui?

It happened in about a foot of water.

Fine. You can’t even dip your toe in the water without getting munched.

Tell these victims how slim the chances are.

Here is my logic. Fish live in the water. Sharks are fish. Sharks can eat me. I stay out of the water. Done.

This approach to beach-going has worked pretty well so far. If I do get back into the water, all I can say is, “You better have a bigger boat.”

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