"I am a professional shark diver."
This sentence sends chills down my spine every time I hear it. Our industry is increasingly becoming divided into two groups along these lines.
Two camps who alternately see shark diving as a sustainable business model, and those who see it as a vocation, like a fireman, or professional race car driver.
Claiming to be be a "professional shark diver" is perhaps one of, if not the most, ridiculous statements one can make in our industry.
Let me explain. Shark diving is a study, a long term study of animal behaviour. Those in the industry who come to it looking to create a business quickly realize they are little more than wide eyed students learning the intricacies of shark behaviour on a day by day basis. The teachers can be ruthless, but more often they reveal to us moments of grace and power based in lesson plans that were created over 100 million years ago. It's study that never ceases, school's never out for us, we learn from these animals each and every time we encounter them.
This is the nature of the business of commercial shark diving.
To make the bold statement that one is a "professional shark diver" is to infer that you have reached the peak of your career, that you know more about these animals than anyone else, that you have attained the level of "professional." It's a fools bet. Sharks always have something to teach us and while commercial shark diving operators have come to "understand" many of the animals they seek to call us professionals would be incorrect.
To be self styled professional even worse.
Do Buddhist monks ever call themselves professionals and carry business cards that boldly claim the same? No, they are monks, they continually grow and learn to become better monks, it's a lifetime understanding.
I submit to you that commercial shark diving is a similar lifetime understanding. We are lucky to encounter these animals more than most folks, but we can never stop learning. If we do, if we declare a "shark vocation," then we begin to divorce ourselves from what these animals have to teach us - and in the end will make critical mistakes that will lead to the darker teachings these animals are capable of.
Patric Douglas CEO