On Tuesday, Zack Davis was doing what he’s done almost every day for the past two years: surfing. Just two things were different.
One was a green bracelet around his wrist, a Christmas gift, that is advertised as a scientifically tested way to repel sharks. The second was a shark, likely a five-foot long blacktip.
At the end of a wave the 16-year-old North Hutchinson Island, Florida, resident, plunged a few feet underwater and his arm dragged along the sand, he told TCPalm.com. Then, the shark bit his arm and held on for two or three seconds, he said.
When the animal finally let go, Davis was bleeding into the water. He wrapped his surfboard’s cord around his arm as a makeshift torquinet and then ran to his house nearby, per WPTV. Once there, his mother called 911 and he was rushed to the hospital, where he received 42 stitches, his mother told TCPalm.com. He has since been discharged from the hospital and told media outlets that he plans to return to the ocean as soon as he can.
But his mother told CBS 12 the incident isn’t completely over. She’s seeking a refund of $80 for the shark repellent bracelet she bought. Davis told CBS 12 and WPTV that it was the first time he ever wore the bracelet in the water.
For decades now, ocean enthusiasts have searched for ways to keep sharks away from humans. While the risk of shark attacks in the U.S. is relatively small — the odds are one in 11.5 million, per Oceana — the publicity surrounding attacks has led to everyone from the U.S. Navy to Julia Child to try to formulate a method to ward off sharks, per Smithsonian Magazine.
For the most part, these efforts have focused on making a chemical compound that would deter sharks. However, such methods have proven to be unsuccessful, and most of the products currently available, including the one Davis was wearing, use magnets, not chemicals.
The hypothesis is based on the idea that sharks, who have small chambers near their heads full of gel called the ampullae of Lorenzini, can sense weak electric fields around their prey, per Hakai Magazine. A strong enough magnet or electromagnetic pulse in the water disrupts and confuses sharks, according to the website of Sharkbanz, the makers of the bracelet Davis was wearing.
The popularity of these devices has grown as shark attacks continue to recieve significant media attention, per Surfer magazine, but their effectiveness is still being debated by shark experts and scientists.
For one, researchers can’t exactly test the products on humans with any degree of safety. A 2012 Australian study attempted to sidestep this problem by attaching the devices to seals and letting them swim free. The results were inconclusive, per Smithsonian, with some seals getting eaten but others surviving.
“There are a variety of anti-shark products out there. Some have a theoretical base and some are just nonsense,” Dr. Carl Meyer, a researcher at the University of Hawaii, told Surfer Magazine. “The devices based on electromagnetism have some potential. But I’m hesitant to say that they’re completely effective. I still believe that there needs to be more exhaustive, independent research done before we can come to any concrete conclusion.”
Davis, for his part, told media outlets that he has seen sharks in the water before, but all of his experiences were “nothing like” the attack.