When I tell someone that I surf, I often hear back "aren't you afraid of sharks?". If you put aside traffic crashes that take 1.25M lives every year and other more-likely-to-happen accidents, there's a deadlier animal that poses a danger to surfers — crocodiles.
Humans are natural crocodiles prey while sharks usually attack us by mistake (we're too big for them), so there's no surprise that crocodiles kill 100 times more people.
Until today I never considered crocodiles as a threat. I saw them in the wild only once, in a river in Sri Lanka that runs through the city where we stay. Even for the locals, this was a big surprise. Just like us, they stopped by the road to gaze at the monster. That thing was huge (the average size of a male is 4-5 meters), but unfortunately, the only photo I have doesn't convey how scary it is:
Today we came to the beach, the waves weren't good enough to jump into the ocean right away. We walked back and forth and when I decided to go out and was preparing the board a guy stopped by and said that there's something big pointing to the break. I struggled to parse what he was saying and thought that he's talking about a wave, so I answered not looking where he was pointing, "okay, sure." He was excited and repeated: "no, really!". So, I answered: "yeah, I'm going now, cool." He was confused. I went to change my shirt to the surf vest and when I returned it turned out that there's a crocodile in the ocean. Dozens of surfers already rushed to the beach and were swarming and staring at the monster.
Nobody was hurt, but I could imagine how they felt. I wasn't there with them by the sheer luck, but if I would, I'd probably be scared to death. I surf at this spot several times a week and often go out alone before the sunrise.
By estimation, approximately 10 surfers die every year, and the most popular reason is the head injury with subsequent drowning. Crocodiles aren't in the list as the most of the crocodiles are freshwater species and posses greater danger in the lagoons, rivers and on the shore. Although surfers sometimes die in the jaws of the monsters, like that poor guy took a break from surfing to poo in the bushes:
There're also crocodiles that live in salt water, but they aren't common especially in Sri Lanka, so it's hard to tell if the crocodile we saw today was one of them or it was a freshwater specimen moving from one river mouth to another because of territory dispute or another reason.
Right now while I at home, sit at a sofa and type this post I'm not afraid and looking forward to the next surfing session, but I can't say how I'll feel in the ocean.