June 22, 2024
sharks in san diego

Are There Sharks in San Diego?

As surfers, we hope to never be surfing with sharks. Unfortunately, they are lurking about and yes, there are sharks in San Diego.

In this post, expect to learn about what kind of sharks live in San Diego, where they are, and how often shark attacks in San Diego happen.

The goal of this information is not to scare but simply to be aware of one of the ocean’s greatest creatures!

What Kind of Sharks Live in San Diego?

To begin, let’s find out what kind of sharks live in San Diego.

There are several species of sharks in San Diego swimming about. Actually, most sharks in San Diego are harmless including Leopard sharks, horn sharks, and sevengill sharks. These types of sharks, especially the Leopard shark normally don’t bother humans. In fact, thousands of snorkelers and divers try swimming with Leopard sharks in San Diego every summer!

leopard sharks in san diego
A harmless Leopard shark in La Jolla

However, there are the occasional rare sightings of great white sharks in San Diego. Of course, great whites can be aggressive if provoked and are a shark you don’t want to encounter while surfing or swimming in San Diego. Outside of great white sharks in San Diego; the only other potentially dangerous sharks or blue, mako and thresher sharks. However, these types of sharks are normally miles from shore. They aren’t something the average beachgoer will likely encounter.

In summary, there are several kinds of sharks living in San Diego. Most are harmless and even the harmful ones like great white sharks are rarely encountered.

Where are Sharks in San Diego?

Sharks are always on the move so it’s hard to say where you will spot them. Shark sightings in San Diego can happen at any beach up and down the over 70 miles of coastline.

With that said, it also depends on the kind of shark. For example, leopard sharks are almost always swimming the waters of La Jolla Shores (jump down for more info). On the other hand, great white sharks are much more difficult to home in on their location.

In reality, great white shark sightings in San Diego don’t happen more than a few times a year. When it does happen, it’s all over the news and the beach where the shark was seen will post warnings for swimmers, surfers, and beachgoers.

shark sightings in san diego
Surf at your own risk when you see warning signs like this.

Ultimately, spotting a great white shark in San Diego is a pretty rare event. If you are really an adventure seeker, you should book an expedition with San Diego Shark Diving. They will take you to places offshore like Guadalupe Island in Mexico to swim with sharks from the safety of a cage. Don’t worry, this is far from your San Diego beaches!

Do Sharks Attack Surfers?

Okay, it’s every surfer’s worst nightmare to be attacked by a shark. But actually, do sharks attack surfers? Although it’s pretty rare, we will cover how and when it can happen; and how to avoid it.

Firstly, any shark attack on a surfer or swimmer is usually a mistake. Surfers and swimmers are sitting above the water causing them to be more easily mistaken as a seal. Seals are a shark’s prey. This is why shark attacks on surfers and swimmers are more common than on divers. Sharks recognize that divers are not prey.

When a shark does attack a surfer, the shark immediately recognizes human is not what it’s after. Unfortunately, shark bites even if a mistake can be fatal.

In order to avoid shark attacks while surfing, here’s a few tips.

  • Avoid surfing near seals, sea lions or other common shark prey.
  • Do not go surfing with an open wound. Blood attracts sharks.
  • Wear Sharkbanz – these bands emit an electric field that studies show keep sharks away!

These tips will help you stay safe while surfing. Some say that surfing at dawn or dusk is more likely shark hunting times but, those are also the best times of day to go surfing! My last piece of comfort I can offer is that dolphins are your friends! Sharks and dolphins don’t get along. This means; if you see dolphins swimming in the waves, that’s a good indication no sharks are about.

In conclusion, shark attacks on surfers are rare and you can take steps to protect yourself. Next, find out the likelihood for a shark attack while surfing in San Diego.

Do Shark Attacks in San Diego Happen?

As rare as shark sightings in San Diego are, shark attacks in San Diego are even more rare.

To zoom out for a moment, California actually isn’t even the state with the most shark attacks despite all the surfers and swimmers. In fact, it’s not even close. On average, Florida has 5x the total number of shark attacks per year than California does.

If we look at California as a whole over the last 10 years, there have only been 29 shark attacks in the entire state. That’s an average of about three per year. So, when we zoom in to shark attacks in San Diego, that number is much smaller. The number of shark attacks in San Diego in the last century are ONLY 20. Of which, two of these San Diego shark attacks resulted in fatalities. The most recent fatality occurred in 2008 in Solana Beach when a shark attack a triathlon contestant.

So, what can we learn from all this? In reality, shark attacks in San Diego are quite rare. The presence of sharks in San Diego should not deter to you from enjoying your favorite water sports.

*Don’t take any of this as safety advice. Enjoy the ocean at your own tolerance.

Shark Season in San Diego

Depending on the type of shark, shark season in San Diego varies. Two kinds of sharks in San Diego people are most interested in are great white sharks and leopard sharks. Great whites because people fear them; leopard sharks because swimmers love to swim with them.

leopard sharks in san diego
Snorkeling with leopard sharks in San Diego

Great white shark season in San Diego generally occurs summer through fall. This is because that time of year is hunting season for great white sharks. As a result, great whites will come closer to shore to search for nutrition during the months of April through October. So, if you are concerned about sharks; surfing or swimming during winter is probably safer.

The next shark season in San Diego is leopard shark season in San Diego! Every summer, leopard sharks in San Diego find their way to La Jolla Shores. Here, they use the shallow waters near the beach for mating season. Remember, leopard sharks are harmless. For this reason, San Diego is a very popular destination to go swimming and snorkeling with leopard sharks. There are literally hundreds of leopard sharks swimming near the beach on any given day in summer months.

Grab your snorkel and book an adventure with Everyday California (use GOSURF10 -10% discount) for your best shot to swim with leopard sharks in San Diego!


In conclusion, sharks in San Diego are swimming about as they are in most beach locations around the world. Some sharks like leopard sharks are harmless whereas others like great whites, you hope to never encounter. I wish you a safe swimming, surfing, and ocean experience while enjoying the waters of San Diego!

To read more ocean updates or guides to other sea creatures in San Diego (like stingrays or seals), subscribe below.


  • Gavin Bechtold

    Gavin has been living and surfing in San Diego for over a decade. He loves the ocean and is lucky to call San Diego home. Frustrated with mainstream reviews, he set out to create the best source of surf reviews for San Diego beaches. Check the About page for more info!