Why This Shark Didn't Eat Me
Updated: Apr 28, 2018
This past week I had the chance to join some friends as we boarded a Live-on-Boat and headed out to sea in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. We were all looking for the same experience, to be able to swim with giant Tiger sharks in the open water.
As I prepared for the trip all I kept hearing was how crazy I was and how I was going to get eaten by these 15-20 foot sharks. There were a lot of experts that apparently knew a lot about shark attacks, all or most of which they had learned from what they had heard or seen on t.v.
Here is my favorite picture from the trip, this was one of 5 Tiger Sharks I got to swim with for several days straight.
When I was a younger I was terrified to go into the ocean. I thought for sure I was going to get eaten by a shark and in fact, I was quite sure it was going to be a hammerhead. Every time I went into the ocean a sense of fear would rush over me.
Over time I forgot about this fear and I picked up a book one day about sharks. I learned all about these amazing animals and I became somewhat obsessed with them. I learned that there are over 400 types of sharks and I learned that they pre-date the dinosaurs going back over 450 million years!
A few Christmas’s ago I asked my nephew James what he wanted for Christmas and he said, “A Shark!” He didn’t want a small shark either, not a stuffed animal shark, but a real life shark just like in the movies. Sharks were also his favorite animal and for the past 2 Halloween’s he had been a shark and a shark diver. I had promised him I’d get him whatever he wanted for Christmas so I started to look around at the possibilities. Let’s just say this, you can’t just own a shark.
I decided to do the only thing I could so I bought him a huge stuffed animal shark thinking that would get it done. Only problem was my sister-in-law showed me a letter she had found to Santa a few days before Christmas and it said, “Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is a giant shark! If you can’t find one call my Uncle Jimmy and he can get it for you.” No pressure, your 7 year old nephew only thinks you are one step better at getting gifts thank the man that delivers them to every kid in the world in one night!
Under that pressure I finally came up with a genius idea and so I called a friend of mine that was working over at the Living Planet Aquarium and we hatched a plan. They let us adopt their giant shark! They let my nephew give it a name, he got a photo of it and a certificate that they offered to present to him at a breakfast ceremony. My nephew to this day 3 years later loves to brag about his shark and he tells everyone about it!
Because of his love and my own love for sharks I wanted to go swim with them in Hawaii. I had heard there was a spot you can go and get in the water and you can swim with 20 Galapagos and reef sharks in the ocean. What happened on that trip though was nothing I ever could have expected. As nervous as I was to do it, I decided to get in the water anyways and swim with the sharks. There were over 20 of them and it was the most majestic experience I’d had in years. They were so beautiful and peaceful. I was in heaven.
As part of the tour the guides explained to us all the misunderstandings surrounding sharks and the problems it is creating. Over 100 million sharks are killed each year, most of which are slaughtered for their fins and nothing more. There are some cultures such as China and other Asian countries that believe the fin is a delicacy and a status symbol to eat it in soup and so the sharks are massacred and their fins are sold for a hefty sum. (For more info on this check out this documentary, it’s eye opening http://www.sharkwater.com/ )
As I studied and got educated about the truthfulness of sharks I learned that even though hundreds of thousands of people swim in shark infested waters every year, there are less than 4 attacks on humans per year. You literally have a 1 in 3.7 million chance of being killed by a shark! To put that into perspective 1 in 340,000 people will be killed by fireworks and we 1 in 5 are killed by heart disease. So that fast food in your hand or soft drink on your desk as you read this is probably 100000 X more likely to kill you than a shark.
So why are so many people afraid of sharks? Because TV, movies, and the media exploit them to sell a story. Every single time there is an attack they blow it up all over the news and make it seem like everyone within a mile of the beach is in danger. The movies like “Jaws”, “47 feet under” and the new “MEG” movie coming out this summer seem horrifying if you don’t know any better. What I am asking you though is to quit letting your mind get hacked. Quit letting the news and the media tell you what you should be afraid of. We fear that which we don’t know. We have to start learning from uncomfortable places to progress and grow together instead of apart.
Are you afraid of black people? Go visit a couple and get to know them!
Are you afraid of Muslims? Go have lunch with a few and see for yourself if what they media is telling you is true!
Who are you afraid of? Who is different from you that you are uncomfortable around?
It is very hard to hate someone when you know their story and when you know who they truly are. Lean into them. Lean into the hate or fear you have for others.
The sharks is just a metaphor for whatever it is in your life you think is scary and dangerous.
Swimming with over 6 species of sharks this past week was a bucket list item for me and one of the coolest experiences of my life. I would have missed out on that if I had listened to the media and ran from an unknown fear. Start looking at others as I am looking at this shark here. It’s ok to get close, to try and understand them, to not be afraid.
“Everything you want in life is on the other side of fear”