My family goes twice a year to the Panhandle area. We alternate going to Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, AL and to Ft Walton, Destin, and Panama City, Fl. We have been going for 26 years.
I have parasailed, riden helicopters down the beach and flown down the beach in small single engine aircraft. I have always seen sharks right offshore. Normally they are anywhere from 150 to 300 yards offshore which is ususally several sandbars from the shore, but they are ALWAYS THERE !
I have seen schools of sharks stretching for miles right offshore.
Most people go into knee deep or waist deep water usually within the first sandbar and are fine. When you venture out further the odds of encountering a shark are greatly increased. Shark attachs are rare and are tragic but no one should doubt for a second that the sharks are there everytime they venture into the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic coast of Florida.