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Oregon Shark Attacks: What to Know for 2024

There are plenty of factors preventing people from surfing on the Oregon Coast: the ice cold water, the learning curve, the costly price. 

For many, Shark Week and Spielberg's Jaws will forever keep them clear of the ocean, a fear present on the Oregon Coast. 

But what is Oregon’s relationship to these horrifying creatures, and how can you avoid them when surfing in the Pacific Northwest? 

How Many Shark Attacks Have Happened on the Oregon Coast? 

Shark attacks prove extraordinarily rare on the Oregon Coast, and the only fatality was documented in 1975 when Oliver and Grace Conger capsized their small fishing boat 200 miles northwest of Astoria. 

Although Oliver’s body was unscathed, Grace was found with multiple shark bites –– perhaps the cause of her death. 

Thankfully, this horror story stands alone in Oregon’s history –– the only fatal shark attack of the 31 documented by the Global Shark Attack File, started in 1958. 

Many of these reported attacks were no more than dented boards, and in the last decade, less than six shark attacks have been reported. 

What Kind of Sharks Live Off the Oregon Coast? 

Oregon is home to fifteen different species of sharks, from the giant but gentle Basking Shark, to the infamous Great White. 

Although surfers can encounter smaller and more harmless species, White Sharks pose the greatest threat to surfers on the Oregon Coast. 

That said, the White Shark is extremely uncommon, and the chances of encountering one of these beasts remain very, very low. 

When Are Sharks Most Active in Oregon? 

Different species become active during different seasons. 

As for the White Shark, it comes out to feast on the calving Elephant Seals during the Sharktober months (September-November).

During these months, White Sharks flock to nearby river mouths utilizing the low visibility of dawn and dusk to hunt seals, while some juvenile sharks even feast on the running salmon.

How Can You Avoid a Shark Attack in Oregon?

While you can never completely prevent a shark attack, despite their rarity, you can take some precautions to lower your chances.


For the most part, surfing in groups can sway a hungry shark from attacking, as they typically pursue lonesome prey. You may also want to forgo morning and evening surf sessions during the months of Sharktober. 

Along with avoiding dawn and dusk, steering clear of river mouths and offshore sandbars or reef breaks will give you further insurance. 

Perhaps consider the more popular spots available in Oregon, like Otter Rock or Pacific Beach, where larger crowds prove common throughout the Sharktober months. 

What To Do in the Event of a Shark Attack in Oregon 

If you or a friend has been bitten, the shark will almost always retreat from the scene –– known as the bite-and-run.

This means that you’ll have a lengthy dose of adrenaline to get you or your injured friend to shore, without the concern of the shark returning. 

If you're surfing, a board comes in handy during this phase, as you can load the injured person onto the surfboard, and steadily escort them to the beach, applying pressure to the wound the entire way. 

With the shark likely gone, getting to shore should be your primary focus; worrying about fending off a returning shark will waste precious time. 

If you haven’t been bitten, but take notice of a curious shark –– perhaps circling or coming toward you –– you need to appear as “un-seal-like” as possible. 

This means not frantically swimming or paddling away, but rather standing your ground, vertically suspended your body in the water. 

Ideally, the shark will notice that you are not a seal, but rather a different creature, unreactive to its presence. 

When calling the emergency services, you need to specify exactly where you are on the beach to ensure a faster response time. 

To do this, reference landmarks or popular beaches in relation to your location and in the meantime, apply firm pressure on the wound to halt the bleeding as much as possible. 

Shark Attacks in Oregon: Final Thoughts 

Although encountering an aggressive shark in Oregon is rare, learning about sharks and their behaviors can ensure your safety while surfing in our cold waters. 

That said, the fear of hungry sharks should never prevent you from surfing in Oregon, as most Oregonian surfers will go their entire lives without seeing a shark in the water –– all the while enjoying fun waves and exploring a vibrant coastline.


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