well as most of yallknow i am nutz about sharks. . .and im sure the rest of yall could tell by my name.
here is a little story from hawaii. while i was there in june i went swimming with sharks. . .
The day started out like most in hawaii. I woke up at the crack of dawn, before the sun was up because of the time difference. Spent the morning with Jimmy Buffett reading "A pirate looks at 50" and then walked to the marina. Talked to my new best friend in hawaii, a booking agent for magic sportfishing and a fellow lure maker. After swaping stories for a little under an hour I returned to the hotel to wake my girlfriend and her parents. It was a gorgeous day in waikiki, not a cloud to be seen, a slight breeze coming from the east side of the island just over Diamondhead volcano. It was also quiet, normally by this time of the morning, just after 8am, the small island is already bustling with activity. the streets are swarmed with families heading to the beach, dads with the days essentials stuffed under both arms and moms trying to keep their children in tow. Locals are heading to work, weaving through the trafic on scooters, bikes, and cars are backed up in morning traffic just as any other major city. Surfers are generally long gone and dot the break with nothing more than a pepper speck that can be seen from the window on my 26th floor.
But like i said, something was just a little different this morning. The streets seemed calmer, the beach seemed less desired, and the surf was less than perfect in the eyes of a seasoned hawaiian surfer. To me, the beach looked like an oasis while the surf was the pinacle of my existance. The ocean seemed to call to me that morning. To me, everything was perfect. . . except for this small twinge in the pit of my stomach. . .there was something different about this morning and the only one who seemed to notice was me.
Bill, my gf's father was quietly drinking his coffe while getting a head start on the days work. Carol, her mother was getting ready and Angela, my gf, was still groggily trying to get out of bed.
As 9am rolled around, both Bill and I tried to "gather the girls" and head to the famed north shore of Oahu. Everyone seemed normal, but I was on pins and needles. I was about to do something I have dreamed about since before I could remember.
We arrived at the north shore just before 10 and found our way to the marina, weaved through boats, cars, and people past E pier to where the boat was docked. This is something i have done a thousand times, but once again. . . it just felt different. This was not the feeling of confident excitement I get before every fishing trip, it was not a feeling of fear. . . it was just something different. I couldnt explain it in words if you put a gun to my head. No words could possible do it justice. . . it was a feeling only felt.
We all boarded the custom outfitted 28' dive boat with the 12' X 12' cage lashed to the back. Now I could start to see the look in peoples' eyes. A look i have seen many times with a rookie charter as they board the boat. The nervous silence followed by the shaky questions. . . "How far out are we going?" "Does it get rough out there?" "How long does it take to drive 3 miles?" After the first quick barage of questions, the other part of the charter arrives. 2 young men from spain less their girlfriends who booked the trip but had seecond thoughts when the moment of truth arrived and chose the safer course of sun bathing mixed with Mai Tais. It was these two young men who, in broken english, asked the questions everyone wanted to hear. "How big are the sharks?" "Are they really that dangerous?" "Do we get to see a great white?" "How big are the sharks?" "You are SURE we are safe in the cage right?"
The last part of our group never showed up, so they fired up the single diesel and began to shove off. With this action, I was promptly told to sit down and let them take care of it. It was second nature for me to instinctivly free the stern line and wait for the boat to slide out of the slip. The 2 men on board did not know my background and my experience around boats. Rather than explain. . .cuz i know what its like, i said "Sorry guys" and sat down. My experience was quickly explained by Bill on the ride out. While he was talking to the capt, the mate was readying the chum. Angela sat there with that 1000yd stare that someone on the verge of seasikness always gets. I watched the color in her face fade quicker than a white thats pulled from the water for a quick kodak moment. While pulling out every trick in the book to get her back on track, I feel us throttle back and notice a red marker bouy just off our port bow. I tell Ang to stand up and look in the water. As we slow to the bouy I saw a small flock of flying fish take off on their trademark escape route. Even this little sign of life got me talking. . ."Did you see that babe????" "Arent they awsome?" the whole time looking at her while I spoke, just trying to get her mind off her nausia.
Then I see that look, the same look a guy gets when he sees a bill slashing at a bait, the same look someone gets when they watch a tuna busting a bait leaving a volkswagan size hole, the same look someone gets when they see a pod of porpoise for the first time offshore. It was that eyes as big as baseballs, mouth wide open unable to speak look. I look back at the water and I see it. That unmistakable shadow 20ft below the surface. IT WAS A SHARK. This was not a small shark mind you, it was 10' from tail to teeth and it represented everything of the word SHARK. We were not at an aquarium, we were not watching TV, we were on the ocean staring at its greatest predator. I have seen these fish many times before this day, I have killed my fair share and nothing I had ever experienced could prepare me for the feelings and emotions that took over me when I saw that first shadow. . .
Like i said something was different about today. Today, I would enter their world. Today, I am not the hunter, today, I am the hunted. Sudenly, every naieve fear that most people harbor towards sharks flooded my body. While the theme to Jaws endlessly repeated in my head, I had visions of Chief Brody saying "we're gonna need a bigger boat" I saw headlines from FOX news, 2 shark attacks in 3 days on Florida beaches. My whole body went numb and the voices of the guys from spain didnt registered in my brain and nothing more than loud silence, the mates commands to "suit up" were not heard, Bill asking Carol what bag the masks were in, the sound of the engine, the slap of the water against the hull, the clanging of the cage as it was released and lowered into the water. . . all of it went unheard. All i heard was silence as I stared at the water and the growing number of sharks circling under the boat. There were at least 6 of them cruising effortlessly under the boat awaiting a free meal. That meal was either going to be football ahi or a SharkJP blue plate special. I was only released from my trance by Angela grabbing my shoulder "John. . . John. . . JOHN!"
"Oh, yea babe, whats up?"
"get your crap on, didnt u hear the mate? We are up first."
First?? ohh great, im gonna be lunch and everyone else is gonna get to see the show.
I put on my rash guard, mask, attach my snorkel and step up to the plate, angela and bill right in tow behind me. I had to carry an air of confidence. After all, Im the guy who spends all his time on the water. Im the guy who has shown everyone pictures of me standing next to giant bloody makos that I have killed. Im the one who "knows what he is doing."
"OK everyone, here is what you do. Just grab the handles on the cage and step down the ladder into the water and make way for the next person. Who's going in first?"
"I will go first" I still had to carry my confident ficade. . . cant let everyone else know how i really feel. I have to show them the way. Here goes. I cant breathe, my first foot touches the water. . .im not actually scared, but im far from confident. I have a million thoughts racing through my head. . .my sences are on overload. I take the next step. . .and the next one, Im up to my waist and I let go. Im free, im not touching the cage. . .i float. I ease my head under the surface and the silence returns. Nothing but the fast pace breathing through the snorkel. I look around and suddenly all doubts are gone. A new feeling overcomes me, Im home. I drift to the far side of the cage. This cage is not what you saw in Jaws. This one was built for tourists. Its built for our protection, but once under water, you dont exactly feel that protection. There is plexiglass in 8' x 4' rectangles on each of the 4 sides of the cage. When looking through this, you dont feel like your in a cage, you feel like you have no barrier between you and the greatest predator to ever live. One that has survived millions of years of evolution to only survive a million more. One that has one thing on its mind. . .its next meal. But im not scared. . .i feel serene. There is a calmness about the situation that is comforting. These sharks dont want to hurt me. . .they are just there to coexist. Im in their world, under the water, and Im coexisting with sharks. . . some of which are over 400lbs. It was one of the greatest feelings of my life. You loose touch with reality. . .watching over 30 sharks gliding around you, dancing with you. . .showing their power. . . but also their grace. These are the most amazing creatures I have ever seen. Time stood still while I was under water. 45min felt like 45 seconds and 45 years at the same time. My only tie to reality was a protective arm around my girlfriend from time to time when she needed it. But it was rare. Someone who has an intense fear of sharks no doubt felt the same as I.
Too soon we were tied back to the boat with 2 guys from spain anxiously awaiting their turn in a differnt world. While they were in the water. . .there were a few more pictures snapped, but mostly the time was spent in silence. Back to a familiar world, reflecting on the world recently left behind. The ride home was a blur. . .the drive along the windward shore will go unremembered. . .but the time under the water. . . the time in a different world. . .the time spent with the SHARK. . . that will always be remembered.
a few pics. . . these sharks were galapogos sharks.
a few underwater shots
more underwater shots
more shots from their world
All I can say is WOW!!
I've done many things, from jumping out of planes, to scuba diving, to jumping off cliffs, to ... well there is a long list, but THAT is AMAZING.
23' Potter SeaCraft I/B
shark, awesome pics man. glad you had a great time. is that a dorsal fin i see growimg out of your back LOL
Don't let Matey drive!!
Fantastic story, superbly told. Super photos.
Thanks for sharing it.
wahoo breathless. . . .hmmmmmmm, thats new