Great White Speed: Just How Fast Are Great White Sharks?

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: April 29, 2023
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Great White sharks are the third largest shark with some getting to be 23 feet long, but are they the fastest? How does a shark that big move so fast? Could a human out swim a shark? Let’s find out about Great White’s speed. Just how fast are Great White sharks?

Key Points:

  • The Shortfin Mako is the faster shark, typically at 31 mph; the Great White is the second fastest at 25 mph. A Shortfin Mako has been clocked at 46 mph, and the Great White can have bursts up to 35 mph, but those are occasional speeds only.
  • Humans swim at only 2-5 mph, but we don’t have streamlined bodies or powerful tail fins to propel us through the water like Great Whites have.
  • Dolphins swim at 18 mph, and whales around 20-25, so the Great Whites and whale swim at about the same speed. However, Great Whites swim faster than seals, sea lions, and elephant seals, which is one reason these animals are on their menu!

Read on for comparisons to the fastest fish, land animals, and birds!

Are Great White sharks the fastest sharks?

What Do Great White Sharks Eat?
Are Great White sharks the fastest sharks?


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Think You Can?
Shortfin mako shark with pilot fish.
Shortfin mako sharks are the fastest sharks with the top speed of 46 mph!

©Xavier ELIAS Photography/

No. The shortfin mako is the fastest shark. It can reach speeds of 31 mph with the fastest recorded time of 46 mph. Shortfin makos have a sleek torpedo shape and a long pointed snout. Mako’s are easily identified by their large black eyes. They are smaller in size than great whites, with some getting to be 13 feet long. Remarkably, a shortfin mako was spotted off the shores of El Garraf, Spain, on July 22, 2022, and a representative from Spain’s Associacio Cetacea (Cetacean Association) was able to film the swimming shark. Shortfin mako’s have become endangered in certain areas of the world, including the Mediterranean, so this was an amazing sight!

Just how fast are Great White sharks?

great white shark
Just how fast are Great White sharks? They can swim 25 mph with top speeds of 30 mph.

©Ramon Carretero/

Great Whites sharks can swim 25 mph. They are the second fastest sharks in the world. Great whites are capable of faster speeds in short bursts around 35 mph. Remember they are active hunters and can use their speed to create a strong force when they collide with prey, tooth-filled mouth open for the bite. There are also not a lot of prey that can outswim Great Whites, which is one of the reasons they are apex predators.

How fast can humans swim?

Humans can swim around 5 mph, that is Olympic swimmer speed over short distances. The average person can swim around 2 mph, which would take around a minute to swim a 50 meter lap.

Could you out swim a shark?

No. Sharks swim 25 mph and the fastest humans can only swim 5-6 mph.

How can Great White sharks swim so fast?

The secret to their speed is their streamlined shape and powerful tails. The strong muscles in their tails move back and forth, side to side to propel them through the water. If you think about dolphins and whales, which are also fast swimmers, their tails move up and down to create movement. Researchers that studied the movement of shark’s tails also found that the sharks can stiffen their tail midswing, altering the movement to adjust and create faster speeds.

How fast are dolphins?

jumping animals - dolphin
The tails of dolphins move up and down to propel them through the water.

©Willyam Bradberry/

Dolphins can swim 18 mph over short bursts. Their typical cruising speed is around 8-10 mph. Frequently they will swim in the wake of boats, which gives them the ability to reach faster speeds. Dolphins swim in pods of other dolphins and you may see groups leaping out of the water together as they swim.

How fast are whales?

Blue Whale under water with sun light streaming down from the surface above
Blue whales are the largest animal in the world and one of the fastest of the whales at 20-25 mph.

©Atomic Roderick/

Whales can swim 28-31 mph at top speeds. Fin whales, Blue whales and Sei whales are the fastest baleen whales and because they are migratory can cruise long distances. Their cruise speed is around 20-25 mph, which is quite a clip. They slow down when they are in feeding mode to speeds between 5-10 mph.

What are the five fastest fish?

The five fastest fish are:

Fastest water animals
At top speeds of nearly 70 mph, the sailfish is widely considered the fastest fish in the ocean.

©A Cotton Photo/

  1. Sailfish: These large fish have an impressive sail that goes the length of their back. They also have a swordfish-like snout. They are more than twice as fast at Great Whites with top speeds of 68 mph!
  2. Swordfish: The bill of a swordfish can get to be 3 ½ feet long! That makes up about a third of the length of an average swordfish which average around 10 feet long. They are a bit smaller than sailfish and marlins but are still fast. Researchers think the estimated top speed of a swordfish could be 100 kilometers an hour (62 mph). they discovered that the swordfish has an oil gland at the tip of the sword that releases oil to lubricate it’s head making it super fast!
  3. Wahoo: These fish do not look like swordfish or sailfish, they look like torpedos! They can reach speeds of 60 mph. They are a basic long skinny fish that can grow to be 8 feet long but most are closer to 3-5 feet.  
  4. Black Marlin: Similar in shape to the sailfish, black marlins do not have a large sail but two smaller dorsal fins. They have been recorded going around 50 mph with some debate over their top capable speed.
  5. Tuna: You might be surprised to see Tuna on this list because tuna can get be 15 feet long and weigh 2000 pounds! The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is the largest tuna and also one of the fastest. They are also torpedo shaped which is how they can obtain speeds of 43 mph.

What is the fastest land animal?

Fastest Cats - Cheetah
Cheetahs are the fastest land animals at 70 mph.

©Maros Bauer/

The fastest land animal is the cheetah which can reach speeds of 70 mph!

What about birds, what is the fastest bird?

Peregrine Falcon in New Jersey
A diving Peregrine Falcon can reach speeds of 200 mph!

©Harry Collins Photography/

The fastest bird is the Peregrine Falcon and it can fly 56 mph but when it dives, with the help of gravity, it can reach speeds of 200 mph! For reference, when people skydive they can reach speeds of 120 mph, so the Peregrine can go almost twice that!

Are Great White sharks faster than seals, sea lions and elephant seals (their favorite meals)?

Largest Seal - South American Sea Lion
Sea lions are quick but Great White sharks are faster.

©Foto 4440/

Yes! Great White sharks are faster than seals, sea lions and elephant seals. They often prey on the younger juvenile seals, and can out swim them. Seals typically swim around 6 mph but can reach 18 mph in spurts. Great Sharks can swim 25 mph or faster in spurts. Sea lions can reach speeds of 25 mph so they would give the Great White a could race. Elephant seals are very clumsy on land but in water they can reach speeds of 10 mph, so definitely slower than a hungry shark!

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the fastest shark?

The shortfin mako is the fastest sharks. They can reach speeds of 31 mph with the fastest recorded time of 46 mph.

How fast can Great White Sharks swim?

Great Whites sharks can swim 25 mph. They are the second fastest sharks in the world. Great whites are capable of faster speeds in short bursts around 30 mph.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.