By DAN KROSSE
When Nathan Garrison was in high school, his buddy got bit by a shark while surfing off the Folly Beach Pier. He couldn’t shake the memory of the attack and his friend’s recovery – and all that led to “Sharkbanz.”
Nathan convinced his father David Garrison to go into business— to find a way to keep the sharks away from swimmers, surfers and divers. “I wanted to develop something that was simple, affordable and stylish that would reduce the risk for people enjoying the ocean,” Nathan said.
Several years and an undisclosed amount of money and research later – David and Nathan sold their first Sharkbanz in 2015. Looking sleek and high tech, the Sharkbanz comes beautifully packaged like an Apple watch. The Sharkbanz is worn like a watch on the wrist or ankle – there’s no face and it is completely silent. So how can this stop a 2,500-pound shark in its tracks? Look no further than magnetic technology.
David’s eyes light up as he goes into the science behind Sharkbanz. He and Nathan discovered a body of research done on magnetic technology as a deterrent for sharks and they bought the patent. “Sharks have these very sensitive electroreceptors, the most sensitive in the animal kingdom and when they encounter the magnets that are in our Sharkbanz, it becomes overwhelming to the sharks.”
Imagine a bright light suddenly being shined in your eyes or how a dog reacts to a high-pitched whistle. For the shark, their electroreceptors are flooded by the Sharkbanz magnetic output. “It’s very uncomfortable. And so, they get close to it, they turn away and usually don’t come back,” David says.
Sharkbanz creators say sharks will stop within two to 10 feet of a person wearing a Sharkbanz. A study conducted by the School of Coastal Environment, Department of Marine Science, at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC backs that up.
The 2017 study took place in the Bahamas with some Sharkbanz, several dummies all named “Bernie” and some chum to attract bull sharks (the complete study is available on the Sharkbanz website along with videos of the research). Basically, “Bernie” is set to float with chum packed in his socks, or entire fish strapped to his feet, as Bull Sharks swarm.
When Bernie’s not wearing a Sharkbanz, it’s bye-bye Bernie. But when he is wearing the Sharkbanz? According to researchers Dr. Patrick Rice and Dr. Eric Stroud: “The data clearly demonstrated overwhelming evidence that the magnetic technology applied in the Sharkbanz products created an effective deterrent to bull sharks even when enticed to feed.”
In fact, according to the study, in the three days Bernie floated with the Sharkbanz (in four to five hour sessions), he was approached 1,295 times by sharks and never bitten. But in just 18 minutes without the Sharkbanz, Bernie was attacked almost every 60 seconds.
The researchers do point out that more research is needed and the Sharkbanz website notes “Sharkbanz are designed to prevent the most common type of ‘hit-and-run’ shark bites, oftentimes the result of an investigative shark in shallow, murky water, but our technology has its limits. The ocean can be a scary place, and we will never be able to fully control nature nor its creatures.”
SAFE FOR OTHER FISH?
While sharks like to think of themselves as the King of the Ocean, there are other fish and mammals swimming beneath. Can the magnetic signals from a Sharkbanz hurt other marine animals?
David says Sharkbanz doesn’t hurt any sea life including the shark, it just makes sharks uncomfortable. Other fish aren’t impacted because only sharks and stingrays have ampullae of Lorenzini, those electroreceptors that are so sensitive to electromagnetic forces.
“We love sharks because sharks play a very important part of the ecosystem,” David said. “We think by having a product like this, that people will become less acrimonious toward sharks.” Nathan adds that people will also fear the ocean less.
The creators say Sharkbanz are easy to travel with and are safe for humans (even kids), although people with pacemakers should check with their doctors before using.
SHARKBANZ FOR FISHING
Sharkbanz has become so successful, that the company launched a new product called “The Zeppelin” for fishermen.
Any angler can tell you; fishermen lose a lot of fish to sharks. Using the same technology as Sharkbanz, the Zeppelin hangs off a leader into the water or replaces the fisherman’s sinker and is designed to keep sharks from taking your catch.
According to David, “Sharks have gotten to where they hear a boat engine coming and they show up, you know, to kind of go, ‘okay, here’s dinner!’” In fact, on a typical outing, fishermen can lose more than half a dozen fish that they catch to sharks, before they can reel them in.
Nathan believes the Zeppelin technology will benefit fishermen and fisheries alike, “With fishermen losing less fish to sharks, that helps maintain abundant fisheries and puts more money in fishermen’s pockets.”
Sharkbanz are available at more than 300 retailers around the U.S., on Amazon and at Sharkbanz.com.
SHARKBANZ FOR DOGS?
David says his company is asked all the time to develop a product for dogs and he promises Carolina Tails will be the first to hear if a Sharkbanz dog collar is launched. However, he says many dog owners have told the company they are strapping a regular Sharkbanz wristband to a collar or creating a collar out of one or two Sharkbanz linked together. This allows owners to watch their dogs enjoy the ocean with a little more peace of mind..