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Don't go in the water (without protection) 

There are some theories floating around, dealing with what to do if you should meet a shark. Assuming that you have your wits and haven't regressed (soiling your wetsuit and splashing like a wounded seal) you could try gouging its eyes or poking at the predator's tender gills with your cold, stiff little fingers. If you're extremely tough, punching a shark in the nose will make it think twice about biting you.

click to enlarge SHARK FEVER? :  SharkCamo is a vinyl decal modeled after patterns found in nature that indicate something is not good to eat. SharkCamo hopes to distinguish surfers from shark bait. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SHARKCAMO
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF SHARKCAMO
  • SHARK FEVER? : SharkCamo is a vinyl decal modeled after patterns found in nature that indicate something is not good to eat. SharkCamo hopes to distinguish surfers from shark bait.

# These suggestions are pretty silly, especially when you consider that the chances of being attacked by a shark are slim. When sharks do attack people, it's usually just a case of mistaken identity and not fatal. Even so, any surfer will tell you that sharks are always in the back of their minds.

Cash and Pam McConnell of Grover Beach had surfing on their minds when they saw a program on the Discovery Channel's Shark Week. The show demonstrated that sharks find certain patterns and colors naturally repellant. Specifically, they don't like a black-and-white striped pattern common to poisonous aquatic animals. The scientists testing the design knew that they were onto something, but didn't have any practical application in mind.

Cash, however, knew immediately what to do with the info. He and his wife, both longtime surfers, came up with several designs to mimic the natural patterns for surfboards. Eventually, they settled on a black "thumb print" design that comes in the form of a slick vinyl decal. Then they had to test it.

The first hurdle came in finding a testing method. How do you measure the effectiveness of a product that protects against an event that's so rare?

The decided method involved two surfboards, identical except for the presence of the SharkCamo decal on one. The boards were placed in shark-infested waters off the coast of South Africa in an area known to be a great white shark feeding ground. Then, everybody watched and waited. The tests lasted six days, and hungry sharks repeatedly approached the boards. The plain board took some minor abuse from the sharks. The board with SharkCamo received some harsh looks, but was ultimately avoided.

The McConnells are convinced that the SharkCamo keeps them safer in the water. They ride with the design on their own boards and spend their time peddling the product all over the coastal United States and Hawaii. Their goal is to make it very clear to any shark that you are not prey. There's no guarantee against attacks, but many users report that they feel safer.

SharkCamo decals range in size from 40 to 48 inches, depending on the size of the board, and cost between $25 and $40.

Decals are also available for body boards and kayaks. For more info, visit www.sharkcamo.com or call 264-1718.

Kylie Mendonca compiled this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send your business news to kvelie@newtimesslo.com.

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