I tried windsurfing a long time ago, when I lived on the California coast near San Francisco. Back then, the occasional shark attack on a surfer, not to mention the movie Jaws, was enough to keep everyone I knew out of salt water.
I can't say that I've gotten over my fear of sharks. Stats don't help: You're more likely to be struck by lightning than be bitten by a shark, especially if you stay on shore; however, there's always an exception. Just because you can't think of one doesn't mean a shark won't.
Learning about sharks doesn't help either. For instance, if you think you're safe in fresh water, you've never heard of a bull shark--or a porbeagle. Porbeagles have nothing to do with dogs. I hear they're a problem mostly in Venezuela, but there's no guarantee they won't vacation in the Hudson someday.
Fortunately, irrational fears that are deaf to reason are tuned to ridicule. I owe a great debt to the silly 2005 TV series Invasion. You'll recall that fluorescent orange swimming aliens were snatching people off Florida boats and riverbanks, sticking their tentacle-tipped legs into the victims' torsos, and taking over their bodies. It didn't scare me because I couldn't stop snickering. A few times when my husband wouldn't put down his newspaper, I tried out the moves on him. It didn't scare him either.
Now I snicker about Day-Glo aliens when I'm at the beach. Still, I've been learning to windsurf only on lakes so far. Bull sharks can only get you if there's a direct link to the ocean; even so, I like to think that a sensible respect for offshore currents is what keeps me inland.
The only scary thing I've seen on the lakes here was a water snake. Sure, I ran to shore like one of those web-footed tropical lizards, but that was only out of respect for lake ecology. I could've grabbed it with my bare hands. Really.