How fast can a great white shark swim? This question may be running through your mind when you watch shark videos, or more urgently if you’re swimming or scuba diving and think you’ve seen the fins circling you. If you’re fishing, you may wonder if sharks will be able to outgrow your boat.
Sharks are built for bursts of speed when they attack their prey, much like lions and tigers on land. They must be able to swim fast enough to chase their prey for a short distance, then lunge for the kill.
The speed of sharks also depends on the species. Smaller and sleeker species are capable of greater speed than larger and larger sharks.
White Shark Average speed
The general rule of thumb is that sharks can sail at around 5 mph (8 kph), the fastest Olympic swimming speed. If you’re just a good swimmer, they’ve got you beat. But often they swim at a slower speed of around 1.5 mph (2.4 kph).
But sharks can swim faster when they attack, at around 12 mph or 20 kph, the speed of a human running on land. You won’t be able to swim fast enough, you’ll need a boat or a jet ski or some other equipment.
White Shark’s fastest speed is 31 MPH
In a competition between sharks, the short mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) will win. The strong and slender short mako sharks are reported to have been at 31 mph (50 kph), although some sources say they can reach 60 mph.
This may be due to being able to catch up with the faster fish, sea trout, and swordfish, which can reach speeds of over 60 mph (when jumping). Mako can also perform giant jumps up to 20 feet out of water. Researchers in New Zealand found that a young mako could accelerate from a dead trail to 100 feet in just two seconds, which would make its velocity in a lunge more than 60 mph.
Shortfin makos and great white sharks are able to conserve their metabolic heat, so they are not strictly cold-blooded. This can help their swimming ability. Luckily, makos are rarely encountered by swimmers and divers as they usually live far offshore but rarely do they attack boats when hooked.
Shark’s vocational speed by species
- The great white shark ( Carcharodon carcharias ) is estimated to have a top swimming speed of 25 mph (40 kph), possibly with short bursts of 35 mph (56 kph). Their swimming speed is 10 times faster than ordinary human swimmers.
- The tiger shark ( Galecerdo cuvier ) reaches a swimming speed of around 20 mph (32 kph).
- The blue shark ( Prionace glauca ) has been reaching 24.5 mph (39.4 kph).
How dangerous are they?
Looking at its body, rows of teeth, and its ability to detect prey, everyone would agree that the great white shark is a very dangerous fish. But do they really like to hunt humans fiercely like in Hollywood movies?
The answer is no. Cases of the great white shark attacking humans only occur about 30 to 50 cases per year worldwide, and on average they are not fatal. According to NatGeo, the bite of a great white shark is not for hunting purposes, but is simply a “sampling bite”.
After biting, the great white shark will usually release its bite. That’s proof that humans are not food. Sharks really like the smell of fish and seals, but not the smell of humans. But of course, you are strongly discouraged from swimming in areas where there are known great white sharks.
Great White Shark Populations and Conservation
There is no reliable population data for the great white shark, but scientists agree that their numbers are declining rapidly. Overfishing and getting caught accidentally in fishing nets are their two biggest threats. This species is classified as vulnerable—one step away from endangered—by the International Union for Conservation of Nature