Yesterday, surfer legend Laird Hamilton proved to the world that even famous "watermen" may need to take a science class. TMZ cornered Hamilton in Malibu as he was getting into his car to ask him about the odds of being bitten by a shark, thanks to recent reported sightings on SoCal beaches.
"Most shark attacks aren't fatal," he told TMZ, looking off camera with an air of authority. "It's usually a mistaken identity," referring to the possibility of a shark mistaking a person for a seal.
Unfortunately, he continued: "The biggest, most common reason to be bitten is a woman with her period, which," he shrugged matter-of-factly, "people don't even think about that. Obviously, if a woman has her period, then there's a certain amount of blood in the water."
Researchers, however, have debunked this myth. Dr. Steve Kajiura of Florida Atlantic University's Shark Lab told Broadly last year that there's no evidence sharks attack the menstruating more than other humans. And while these creatures can detect blood from more than a quarter mile away, period blood isn't actually all blood. According to The New Our Bodies, Ourselves, menstrual fluid contains "cervical mucus, vaginal secretions, mucus and cells and endometrial particles as well as blood (sometimes clotted)."
One marine biologist told Mother Jones that she actually started menstruating while swimming with a whole bunch of sharks, and nothing happened. "I've been diving for decades and even got my period while underwater with a school of hammerheads," said Marie Levine, founder and executive director of the Shark Research Institute. "The sharks were not interested and I had to fin like crazy to get close to them."
Moreover, sharks aren't really on the hunt for your blood anyway. Dr. Tricia Meredith, a biologist at Florida Atlantic University who's studied the olfactory response of sharks, previously told Broadly that she hasn't researched human blood's effect on sharks because it's not relevant. "I never investigated shark's sensitivity to blood. I used amino acids instead because they are prey-related odors, and human blood is not. I know people are interested in sharks sniffing out our bodily fluids so they can find us and bite us, but that's just not how it works."