For the most part, shark repellents probably don’t work. That doesn’t stop people from selling them, though. A fool and his money are soon parted, after all, and there’s a sucker born every minute. In the last few years, surfers’ fear of shark attacks seems to have risen in a crescendo, reaching feverish, near-panic levels. Of course, that fear has been there since Jaws demonized nature’s most fearsome predator, but god damn, is it ever getting out of hand. Culls and shark attacks streamed live to the world and so many different devices claiming to keep you safe! The newest one? Shark repellent wax.
Neil Campbell, the man who came up with the idea for Chillax Surf Wax, moved from Syndey to Adelaide just over a year ago. As a child, Campbell had the fear of sharks that many others do, but took it a step further: he’d cover himself in different, strong smelling things in an effort to smell less like something a shark might like. “I used either Tiger Balm or tea tree oil as part of this instinctive private idea that I wouldn’t smell like shark food, he told The Lead. “That idea appears to have lingered and I’ve made it grow up.”
Campbell went with some pungent odors for his wax. Using eucalyptus, chilli, cloves, cayenne pepper, neem, tea tree oil, citronella, coconut and beeswax, Chillax Surf Wax is using the same principle that makes mosquito and bear repellents (slightly) effective: if it smells like something the creature in question doesn’t like, it won’t come close enough to get a taste. “The essential idea is that you’ll smell different from shark food,” he explained. “There are a number of combinations of these natural smells and spices that are used as deterrents, specifically for grizzly bears, dogs, leeches, brown snakes and of course mosquitoes and flies.”
Of the many different shark deterrents on the market, one of the strangest and perhaps most effective is eau de rotten shark–essentially just putrefied shark tissue extractions in a bottle. Campbell’s looking into adding that to the mix, as well. “I think I’m on the right track with this simple strategy of effectively masking yourself with something that’s very unpleasant to him,” he said.
Although Campbell is planning on doing independent studies on his wax in the coming months, he’s already got a trip scheduled. “I’m going to do a road trip with the car loaded up with as much wax as I can and go and do the New South Wales coast and as much of the coast in between as I can manage,” he said. As for the cost, it’s about twice the price of a regular bar of wax.
As with most shark repellents, there’s not much science to back up the claims that they actually do what you’re buying them to do. No studies have been done yet, so basically, all this is is surf wax that looks like a flan, but tastes like chilis and smells worse.