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Published March 31 2012

5 Things Sunday: Five things you need to know about fighting a shark

With summer just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about beach season. For some people, that means a tan, a swimsuit diet and a list of light reading.

But for the ever-vigilant man, there’s no room for that kind of frivolity. You understand what a trip to the beach really means: Sooner or later, you’re going to have to defend yourself and your loved ones from a bloodthirsty shark.

The statistics will tell you this is unlikely, that sharks attack fewer than 100 people a year worldwide and kill fewer than four. Don’t listen to them – that’s exactly what the sharks want you to think. As far as we’re concerned, engaging in hand-to-hand combat with a swimming, man-eating death machine is as inevitable a part of summer as baseball and lemonade.

Here’s what you need to know to come out on top:

Know your shark

Some of those beady-eyed, toothy beasts are more dangerous than others. White sharks – better known as great whites – are the No. 1 culprit in reported attacks on humans. Tiger sharks (noted for their curiosity and indiscriminate appetite), shortfin makos (the fastest sharks) and oceanic whitetips (responsible for the infamous attacks on the sailors of the sinking USS Indianapolis) are also trouble.

And just when you thought it was safe to stay out of the ocean, there’s the bull shark – an aggressive hunter that can thrive in freshwater. Bull sharks are believed to be responsible for terrorizing New Jersey in 1916 – the inspiration for the film and book “Jaws.”

Keep your eyes open

Sharks may be deadly, but they’re also cowards: In most attacks, the victim never sees the shark coming before it bites. Hit-and-run and sneak attacks are two favorite shark tactics. Paying attention to your surroundings and avoiding the open water can save you from a nasty surprise.

Sharks sometimes also employ a bump-and-bite tactic, slamming into the victim to intimidate and disorient it. When that happens, the shark is definitely looking for a fight. Which means the only thing to do is ...

Fight back

Sharks are bullies, and the only way to handle a bully is to stand up to it.

But don’t get noble about it. Cheap shots may be frowned upon in dry-land donnybrooks, but there are no points for getting eaten with honor. Go for sensitive spots like the eyes and the gills. Throw an elbow, a fist, a knee – whatever you’ve got.

Of course, if you really want to even the odds, you’ll ...

Carry a big stick

Specifically, a “shark stick” – a one-shot firearm designed for use underwater. It’s essentially a single cartridge in a tube that fires on contact. Bullets don’t travel well underwater, so for the weapon to work, you have to ram it directly into the shark.

If guns aren’t your style, there are a variety of other products that can give you an edge – repellent sprays that smell like shark corpse, jewelry and transmitters that disrupt or overwhelm the electrical sensory organs sharks use to feel their way through the water, or protective suits that will stop a bite (though they won’t stop limb-breaking force). Even a good old-fashioned knife can come in handy.

No matter how well-armed you are, remember it’s always OK to ...

Run away

I know what you’re thinking: What kind of man runs from a fight? Aren’t we in it to win it? But when you take on a shark in the water, it’s already won – it has you right where it wants you. Are you going to let a shark tell you what to do?

So if you can get out, get out – back to the boat, back to the beach, back to your domain. If that shark is really a tough guy, he’ll come fight you on your terms. If not, consider him a quitter and yourself a winner by default.

Editor's note:

"5 Things Sunday" is a new feature in HeSays that will run on - you guessed it- Sundays when the NFL is not in season. It will focus on quick tips, ideas and activities, but mainly on how to fight land and sea creatures - all in bunches of five. If you have a "5 Things Sunday" suggestion, contact us.