I grew up surfing at a beach notoriously known for having sharks and lots of them. New Smyrna Beach Florida is best known for being the shark bite capitol of the world and knowing sharks like Great Hammerheads were just beneath the surface petrified me. There was not a day that I surfed there and did not see a shark in the water. Spinners. Black tips. But back then, the idea of intentionally diving with sharks was out of the question, that was until I began to understand their role as the oceans’ top apex predators. Sharks remove the dead, the dying, and the diseased. They are key to cleaning our oceans, making them stronger and healthier, yet humans continue decimating shark populations. As a wildlife photographer and filmmaker, my responsibility is to accurately illustrate wild animals and the ecological issues they face, including sharks. To fulfill this responsibility I needed to become more comfortable with them and overcome my childhood fear.
Diving with them opened my eyes about them. And now, diving with great hammerheads is nothing but stoke—pure joy. I am still constantly looking around, but they are kind of chill and kind of relaxing.
One of the best locations to see great hammerhead sharks is the Bahamas. Its shallow turquoise waters allow you to view them very close up with pristine clarity. They can reach up to 20ft long and have weighed in over 1200 pounds. They are gigantic predators that could easily consume anything in their path but believe it or not there has yet to be a single recorded fatality by a great hammerhead. During my first dive with them I had seven 13-foot great hammerheads coming from all different directions and although you must stay very alert and aware of your surroundings, it was ultimately a very calming experience. As they passed by I would lock eyes with them and see this massive eyeball looking directly back at me, and instead of feeling threatened, as I imagined I might, I ended up feeling as if they were just curious about what I was.
Hollywood films and news headlines tell us sharks are life threatening man- eaters, but statistically speaking this couldn’t be further from the truth. They are simply just misunderstood. If you haven’t yet been on a shark dive, please begin researching ones that interest you and give it a go. The more people that dive with sharks, the faster we can help protect them and ensure the overall health of our oceans.