There a few things you should know about me before I proceed with this article. One, I don’t like water (it knows why). Two, I’m not a strong swimmer (a rock swims with more grace). Three, I hate being underwater (because a dude probably goin’ drown). That being said, Discovery Channel invited me to go on a shark dive as press for “Shark Week 2019.” I’m in New York, so my initial response was, “Yall do shark dives in New York?” to which I was informed that it’d be happening the Bahamas. As I mentioned before, I don’t really fuck with water, but I decided to go for a few reasons.
If Discovery Channel invites you somewhere, it’s cause they think you built Ford tough for the wild shit, and I’m very Ivan Drago, “if He dies, he dies” (with the He being me) when it comes to these things so fuck it. Also, I could hold this over everyone’s head at work for forever. “Why didn’t I hand that article in on time? Well, because time is a flat circle and cause I dived with sharks for this nerd shit. Did you? Nah? Aight then.” Oh, and did I mention there’s no cage? Why? Because this is Discovery Channel, baby. We out here for real for real. I found that out after I landed. Ivan Drago, yo. We out here.
Shark Week 2019 Avengers Line up
Now, if you’re rocking with sharks then you want a team of experts with you, right. Discovery said, “We’ll do you one better and get you the Avengers for shark dives.” That’s Paul De Gelder and Joe Romeiro. Paul is a Navy diver and a shark attack survivor; dude lost two limbs in a shark attack back in 2009 and is still out here doing shark dives, writing books, keynote speaking, and hosting Shark Week. Clearly seeing the “WTF is going happen” in my eyes before the dive, Paul was talking about his experiences shark diving, what to expect, and offered some advice.
Paul de Gelder: One thing I learned from diving with bull sharks, tiger sharks, great white sharks, and all that crazy stuff, “Don’t act like food and they won’t treat you like food.”
Me: Cool, I’m goin’ go down there and start shadow boxing then.
Paul: What’s funny is, once you’re down there, a lot of folks find it very peaceful and zen-like.
Paul then explained how we had two of the best camera folks on the planet with us for this dive. Enter wildlife filmmaker, conservationist, tv host/naturalist, Joe Romerio and Marine Biologist, Oceanographer, and wildlife filmmaker, Lauren Benoit. These are the folks that’ll give you that Hype Williams fish lens camera angle capturing sharks (really hope someone gets the hip-hop references).
I got to see some of the camera work Joe and Lauren do filming mako sharks. Not from afar but right up close. Like paparazzi close. Like, “How the hell did you get this shot” close.
Me: Sooo, yall really on that “My heart pumps no fear” for this.
Joe: Ehhhhhhhh,*tilts head to the side* there’s a bit of fear there.
Shark Week is here to learn ya
Here’s a not so fun fact, sharks get killed by the millions. They’re poached, and some cultures use their fins in certain dishes to shows status. Shark fins have a very high monetary and cultural value in some regions. However, their population is taking a hit, drastically. A big reason for Shark Week is to bring awareness of this. Sharks aren’t really murder machines like they’re depicted in movies. A lot of Shark Week 2019’s episodes revolve around debunking certain myths, stereotypes, and “facts” about sharks.
The situation reminded me of an essay I read in my freshman year of college (2003) about a man that was from India near the Ganges river. The river was a big part of his culture growing up; however, in his studies, he becomes a scholar and environmentalist (or something along those lines). The Ganges river is very polluted, but the people still use it for certain traditional purposes including bathing in it. The author’s struggle was wanting to partake in his traditions and culture but knowing that the river is polluted he couldn’t, and nor could he convince others to stop bathing in it cause it’s a spiritual ceremony. It feels like a similar issue here. How do you stop this tradition or cultural practice that’s been done for so long that is now affecting an animal to a point of extinction as well as entire ecosystems? And here you thought Shark Week was just about Shark shit, huh? See how philosophical and real it gets?
A few things before we dive in…
Now, before the actual shark dive, I had to go through procedures for an actual dive in a pool. You get on your knees in the pool then go over: how to clear water from your mask, purging water from your mouthpiece (that you breathe through), popping your ears to alleviate pressure, and how to recover your mouthpiece if it gets knocked out of your mouth. *looks dead at the camera* You can’t hold your breath that far underwater, your lungs will collapse, so you have to blow bubbles out slowly while reaching to hook the line for your mouthpiece around your arm to bring it back in.
*pointing at camera* Fuck. That. There’s no way in hell I was letting that mouthpiece out of my mouth. Being on my knees in a pool was enough to freak me out, but I shoved that panic out deep down inside me cause I’m not going to be the guy everyone remembers freaking out in 5 feet of water when he coulda just stood up. I refuse. After getting the cosign on the diving procedures, we went on a practice dive of 20ft. The next day, when it came time for the actual dive, I found out it’d be 40ft.
Shark Week 2019: Sharks Doing Sharky Shit
The actual dive (as you can see in the video above) was rather majestic. We were down there for about 40 minutes. The shark arena is where you’re taken to, to watch as the sharks get fed and swim around you. Soon as we got to the arena, I swear on Namor (Aquaman woulda been to easy, so I went obscure) a nurse shark came up to Paul and fell asleep between his legs. They greeted this dude like he was Norm walking into the bar on Cheers.
Shark Week Host Paul De Gelder having fun
Me screaming with my eyes next to Joe Romeiro
Sharks overhead Top Gun style
I’m just goin chill here and let you do your shark thang
That breathing air above water thooooo
The arena is a giant circle and looks like an actual arena. It was calm, aside from getting a shark tail slap to the chest. The best part was the game of is this a person or shark touching me, when feeling a tap on my shoulder/back. You’ll all be glad to know I didn’t lose my mouthpiece at all. I bit on to that thing for dear life. Sharks are really out here just trying to mind their own business is what I learned from this experience. They really just came around for food and look at you like, “whatever, yo.”
Yall can check out our Shark Week 2019 write up coming soon for more on sharks doing sharky things. When you see the myths they bust for sharks and how they do it, you’ll realize that Discovery is back on their “sign that waiver and let’s get this shit rocking.” I mean, somebody gotta do it for the sharks, right? You know Discovery mos def will. Shark Week 2019 starts up on July 28th.
*Footage courtesy of Discovery Channel cause who else been rocking with sharks for 30+ years and it on lock like that? Exactly.