GO AWAY, SHARKS!
Lured by the smell, a hammerhead shark swam toward a surfboard where fish bait was on a dummy’s foot.
Within eight to 10 feet of the board, the shark stopped and quickly did a 180-degree turn.
Good thing the dummy was wearing his Sharkbanz.
Sharkbanz is a patented, watch-like rubber band — i.e. “banz” — that goes around the ankle or wrist of a swimmer, surfer, diver — or in the case of the testing in the Bahamas, a dummy. It can be adjusted for a comfortable fit.
The bands contain magnets that project an intimidating electromagnetic field that discourages or bans (“banz,” again) sharks and stingrays, Sharkbanz co-founder Tim Nelson told the News-Press on a recent, cloudy morning on Loon Point Beach in Carpinteria.
Mr. Nelson, 31, said the strong electromagnetic field from Sharkbanz tells sharks that you’re not food and could pose a threat.
“This (Sharkbanz) tells them, ‘This is something I’ve never experienced. This is abnormal. This is dangerous. This could harm me,’ ” he said as he walked with Nathan Garrison, his business partner and fellow Santa Barbara surfer, on the beach.
As Mr. Nelson talked, a dolphin briefly surfaced in the Pacific Ocean.
“Just around the corner is where all of the juvenile great white sharks have generally congregated off Padaro and Santa Claus lanes over the last several years during summertime,” he said.
Mr. Garrison said Sharkbanz, which sells for $84 at www.sharkbanz.com and only one California retailer (Bird Rock Surf in La Jolla), deterred a shark that approached him as he surfed in Cape Town, South Africa.
Customers have testified on Sharkbanz’s website that the product has protected them from sharks.
“Last month, a black tip shark came out of the water to bite my arm, but it detected my Sharkbanz on my ankle and made an abrupt turn,” wrote Maxine P., a swimmer in Sunset Beach, N.C.
Mr. Garrison, who started the company with his father, David Garrison, of Charleston, S.C.,? said they began work on Sharkbanz after a shark attacked the son’s close friend in Charlotte, N.C.
“We discovered this (electromagnetic) technology,” said Mr. Garrison, who persuaded the company with the technology to license it to Sharkbanz.
He and his company figured out how to put the device into a wearable rubber band, which doesn’t require batteries or charging. A contractor manufactures the lightweight product in Los Angeles.
Mr. Garrison brought in Mr. Nelson and Davis Mersereau in Los Angeles as Sharkbanz partners in 2014. The four men make up the company’s entire staff.
The partners tested the product extensively in the Bahamas, where sharks are plentiful as a government-protected species.
“We demonstrated that no dummies were attacked by sharks while wearing this product,”? he said. (Dummies without Sharkbanz were attacked.)
Mr. Garrison said Sharkbanz proved to be a hit even before the first product was shipped.
“The first news story was on Sept. 30, 2014, at our local Charleston, S.C., news station,” Mr. Garrison said. “The next morning, I woke up to a request (for interviews) from ‘ABC World News,’ ‘America’s Newsroom’ on Fox News and Australia’s ‘Today’ show.
“Within a couple days, it went globally viral,” said Mr. Garrison, whose company accepted pre-orders that fall and started shipping Sharkbanz in January 2015.
Since then, the company has sold between 70,000 to 75,000 units, Mr. Garrison said. He noted the highest number of sales has been in Florida, followed by California, then Hawaii.
Mr. Nelson stressed the product is durable. “As long as you don’t physically damage the chassis, where it’s housed, the magnet is not going to lose its strength.”
Sharkbanz has benefited from Mr. Garrison’s and Mr. Nelson’s marketing experience.
Mr. Garrison grew up in Charleston and earned a bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism in 2009. After teaching English at elementary schools south of Bangkok, Mr. Garrison moved to Santa Barbara, which he loved from having visited it when his brother attended UCSB.
“I started pedicabbing,” he said about his jobs, which included his own drone photography business.
In March 2011, Deckers Brands in Goleta hired Mr. Garrison as a project manager for its Teva sandals.
He scaled back to being a part-time video contractor in 2013 at Deckers, where he continued to work until 2016 while he was starting Sharkbanz.
Mr. Garrison met Mr. Nelson, a San Diego native, in 2013 on a river trip and video shoot that promoted Teva.
“He was the model, and I was a videographer,” Mr. Garrison said.
The next year, Mr. Nelson, who earned his certification as an EMT at Palomar College in San Diego, moved to Santa Barbara to find work in the U.S. Forest Service.
As he looked for that job, he was hired part-time by Deckers Brands in 2015, and his position evolved into full-time work with the company’s brands for trade shows.
“We found ourselves on the same team,” said Mr. Nelson, who, like Mr. Garrison, is no longer with Deckers.
The Sharkbanz product is also sold by retailers in Oregon.
“Eighty percent of our retailers are on the East Coast, if not more,” Mr. Nelson said.
The partners are looking at selling their product at a Santa Barbara retailer.
They’re also working on research and development for a new version of Sharkbanz to specifically meet the needs of surfers. They explained they can’t elaborate further at this time.
Mr. Nelson noted surfers, swimmers and divers can take precautions such as avoiding the ocean at dawn and dusk, popular times for sharks along the coast.
“But you can’t always spot them,” he said.
“By putting on Sharkbanz, you’re reducing the risk.”