If you are considering Folly Beach, Charleston in South Carolina for swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving or other any other water activity, you may be wondering what sharks are common at Folly Beach.
There are many shark species found off the South Carolina coast in the USA, some of which may or may not surprise you. But if you want to see sharks, or perhaps you don’t want to see sharks, it’s important to know does Folly Beach have sharks.
There are around 40 species of shark at Folly Beach, South Carolina, but the most common sharks found off this coast of the USA include spinner sharks, sand tiger sharks, sandbar sharks, bull sharks, blacktip sharks, tiger sharks and great white sharks.
Sharks that are pinged from tags placed on them by Ocearch in Long Bay, where Folly Beach is found, include great white sharks, tiger sharks and hammerhead sharks. Great whites and tiger sharks are among the largest sharks found in the oceans, alongside the whale shark. The latest pings from sharks in Long Bay are shown in the image below, which is when the shark breaks the surface.
Are sharks common at Folly Beach?
There are many sharks at Folly Beach, and some species of shark found on this part of the USA coast may surprise you. The common sharks at Folly Beach include the following species of shark:
- Sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus): The sandbar shark is closely related to the bull shark and can grow up to 2.5 metres (8.2 feet) in length and 120kg (264lbs).
- Blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus): Blacktip sharks are the most common of all sharks in Folly Beach and grow to about 70kg (154lbs) and 13-16 metres (4-5 feet) long. It is the blacktips that are found searching for food in the surf on Folly Beach, which includes fish, but not humans.
- Spinner sharks (Carcharhinus brevipinna): Spinner sharks grow to around 3 metres (10 feet) in length and around 90kg (200lbs).
- Sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus): Despite how menacing sand tiger sharks look, these sharks are very docile sharks and present no threat to humans. The measure up to 3.6 metres (11.8 feet) and weigh up to 290kg (640lbs). Sand tigers are also known as the ragged tooth shark.
- Bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas): Bull sharks have the highest level of testosterone of any animal and are highly aggressive sharks. They are able to live in salt water and fresh water, so are likely to swim up the many rivers near Folly Beach. Bull sharks grow to over 340kg (750lbs) and 3.4 metres (11 feet) in length.
- Tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier): Tiger sharks can grow to over 4.3 metres (14 feet) and weigh up to 635kg (1,400lbs). They are unmistakable due to the tiger-like stripes on their flanks and the broad mouth. Said to live in Folly Beach year-round, but are most common between March and November when the waters are warmer. Looking at the above map of South Carolina and Folly Beach, you’ll notice that tiger sharks are the most common tagged sharks.
- Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias): The Great white shark is the most feared shark of them all, which is partly down to Spielberg’s film Jaws. The white sharks leave Folly Beach area when the waters get warm in the summer months and most leave around March time. They return in November/December time when the waters cool down again. Great whites can grow to over 6.1 metres (20 feet) in length and weigh over 2,300kg (5,000lbs).
- Hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna gilberti): South Carolina is home to four types of hammerhead sharks, which include the bonnethead, scalloped, Carolina and great hammerhead sharks. The largest of all hammerheads is the Great Hammerhead shark, which can grow to 580kg (1,280lbs) and up to 4.3 metres (14 feet) in length.
- Lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris): Lemon sharks tend to live in groups and can grow to 3.7 metres (12 feet) in length and over 250kg (551lbs).
This is a video of a couple fishing for sharks near Folly Beach:
Is it safe to swim in Folly Beach today?
It is safe to swim from the beach at Folly Beach, unless there are signs to suggest otherwise. Whilst there are sharks in the waters off the beach at Folly Beach, you are unlikely to ever be attacked or bitten by a shark.
But you might like to read the safety tips listed towards the end of this article if you intend to go swimming, boogie boarding or surfing at Folly Beach.
Are there great white sharks in Folly Beach?
There are great white sharks in waters off Folly Beach from no earlier than October and no later than May every year. Great white sharks are most common in Folly Beach from December to March when the waters are in the range 12-24 °C (54-75 °F).
The most recent great white shark tagged in South Carolina off Folly Beach was on 10 September 2021.
If you would like to discover where else you can find great white sharks, with a few surprises, please take a read of this article: Where to find great white sharks. The places that surprised me the most were Florida Keys and the great white shark spotted by a snorkeler on the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
Talking about snorkeling, you may be wondering if the snorkeling is any good at Folly Beach. If you are, please take a read of this article: Is there good snorkeling in Folly Beach.
Tiger sharks at Folly Beach
There are many tiger sharks off the coast at Folly Beach, which are very large sharks that grow to 4.3 metres (14 feet) and weigh up to 635kg (1,400lbs).
Are there bull sharks in Folly Beach?
There are bull sharks in Folly Beach and they are at their peak numbers between July and August, but bull sharks are in South Carolina between March and October every year. Bull sharks thrive near rivers and estuaries, and love places like Charleston, but they are found in the sea off Folly Beach.
This is a video of a scuba diver offshore from Folly Beach and Charleston, South Carolina spear fishing and is visited by a bull shark (apologies if you don’t like spearfishing).
The following video is people fishing from Folly Beach pier, when this boy catches a large Bull Shark.
Safety tips to avoid shark attacks when entering the water at Folly Beach
Whilst the risks associated with shark attacks at Folly Beach are very low, you reduce the risk even more by following these safety tips when entering the sea at Folly Beach:
- Avoid swimming at dawn or dusk, as you may get mistaken for prey.
- Don’t swim near where people fishing.
- Don’t swim near to the Folly Beach Pier, as this is a common spot for fishermen and their bate will attracted sharks. Fishermen often chuck their bait into the water, which will attract sharks to this area.
- Avoid swimming in the ocean during or immediately after storms, as the bait fish are stirred up which the sharks will feed upon. If you are swimming among the baitfish, you may get bitten by mistake.
- Avoid the steep drop-offs and the deep areas between the sandbars, as this is the ideal spot for sharks to hunt for their prey.
- Try to avoid being a solitary swimmer, as sharks are more likely to attack someone on their own rather than in a group or swimmers.
- If you spot anyone shouting and waving at you to get out of the water, especially if they are making shark-fin signs, don’t hesitate and get out of the water immediately.
- Don’t boogie board or surf next to the pier, as this is a spot frequented by sharks due to the fishing. Plus you may also wrap yourself around one of the pier posts.
- Stay out of the water if the warning signs indicate to do so.
- Don’t wear shiny jewellery, as this may be mistaken by sharks for the shiny scales of a fish.
How late can you swim Folly Beach?
Folly beach is open until 10pm at night to swim, but it’s not advised to swim at dusk or at night, as you increase the odds of being attacked by shark. The odds are extremely low of being attacked by a shark at Folly Beach, but sharks feed at night and you may get mistaken for prey.
Keep in mind that you are entering the sharks territory, the sea is their home and you need to respect that. But also, the dangers associated with rip tides are more likely to be a concern to swimmers on Folly Beach. More beach users die as a result of drowning in rip-currents than from shark attacks.
Safety Tip: Always remember if you get caught in a rip-current (which will be dragging you out to sea), swim across the current not against it. This means you should be swimming parallel to the beach, and within a short distance you will swim out of the current. If you try to swim against the rip-current, you’ll tire and get into serious trouble.
Before you leave my scuba diving blog, and if you are interested in learning more about sharks, you may like to know what fish can eat sharks. In this article there are two videos you may not believe unless you see them for yourself. Please take a look at what fish eat sharks…I’m hoping you’ll be as surprised as I was when I watched both these videos.
Have there been any shark attacks on Folly Beach?
There have been shark attacks off Folly Beach, which are mostly on surfers. The latest shark attack on a surfer was in September 2020 when a 12 year old boy was bitten off Folly Beach. Prior to this a woman who was surfing on Folly Beach in 2017 was bitten by a shark.
In both incidents, the surfers who were attacked by sharks survived.
Where are the sharks in Folly Beach?
The sharks in Folly Beach are found across the whole of Long Bay, which is the bay where Myrtle Beach sits in the middle. The different types of sharks will be found at differing depths and places.
Where to find the types of sharks found in Folly Beach:
- Bull sharks are found near rivers and in estuaries and feeding in the surf, between the sand bars and where the seabed drops off to deeper water.
- Sandbar and blacktips will be found in the shallows hunting for fish in the surf and between the sand bars and where the seabed drops off to deeper water.
- Spinner sharks can be found in the surf feeding on menhaden, herring and sardines.
- Sand tiger sharks will be offshore in the deeper waters off Folly Beach and can be found diving on wrecks.
- Tiger sharks will patrol the outer banks off Folly Beach and will feed on almost anything. Tiger sharks are partial to turtles, where loggerhead turtles can be found off Folly Beach. They are likely to patrol the coast where the seabed drops off to deeper waters too.
- Great white sharks will largely be patrolling the deeper waters off Folly Beach around a mile offshore, so beach goers don’t need to worry. But if you’re a scuba diver, there’s every chance you may come face-to-face with a great white shark in the winter months off Folly Beach (see video below). I say largely that great white sharks patrol in deeper waters, but this TikTok video tells another story with a great white shark patrolling in shallow waters on a few metres off the beach:
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Have fun and be safe!