Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Extreme Shark Diving-Bad Idea or Industry Trend?

Editors Note:The following Internet post opens the table for discussion about Extreme Shark Diving. To us the industry is divided into two camps on this.

1. Those that see extreme close encounters with macro predators as a way of proving sharks are simply misunderstood and not "wanton killers".

2. Those that understand that sharks are first and foremost "predators" and that extreme commercial grade encounters with these animals might be a recipe for disaster.

We generally fall into camp two. The main point here is differentiating between solo extreme encounters or extreme encounters done by filmmakers and professional photographers vs extreme commercial shark diving applications, where divers of various levels and experience are completely exposed to macro predators-i.e "riding" great whites.

It's a distinction that has been glossed over recently. It's also a point that needs to be addressed industry wide. For those operations in camp one the death of a diver by a shark sets the perception of sharks back to the stone age. At what cost are these extreme shark encounters to the very animals we are all trying to dispel the "wanton killers" mythos?

Our main point is this-few up and coming shark diving outfits are content to sit by and not attempt their own brand of extreme encounters using previous and existing businesses as models. Have we reached the pinnacle of these encounters? Is there an industry wide protocol for these encounters?

Here's the post:

The frontier of marine sports has just stretched with extreme diving. Extreme diving is the break from the “monotonous” scuba diving experience to push yourself to new limits and experiences that can bring you new-found rush. While many people consider scuba diving an extreme sport in its own right, advanced divers may end up being bored from their usual diving routine. Extreme diving adds a double serving of risk to challenge the depths of the sea.

Extreme divers could be your normal scuba diving session with an added twist. It may start with diving in deeper water, diving at night, passing through ship wrecks or exploring an underwater cave. These experiences are much more interesting than the usual scuba dive in sunlight depth, watch your helping of corals, then returning to the safety of the diving boat.

One popular definition of extreme diving is attacking the deeper parts of the sea. Extreme divers dare to reach more than 2000 meters using highly specialised suits. For divers who have reached this depth, the lack of light gives an aural void that many describe as literally out of this world. It seems that the deeper you go, the higher the thrill one can experience.

Another form of extreme diving is cave diving. Taking this field of scuba diving will need a series of intensive training. For starters, cave divers use a different suit than normal scuba divers. The other dimension of these equipments is using them to your advantage to build your own cave diving experience. Cave divers find the thrill in exploring where underwater holes end up.

Diving with great white sharks could be at the far edge of extreme diving. There are cage diving site in Mexico and South Africa. While that is dangerous enough, there are shark divers who dare to ride their fins in open water. For these divers, they are trying to point out that great whites are not such killers.

Extreme diving is an exercise of the diver’s imagination to try out something new. It may be a fresh thing that you might immediately try or you may need to sit-down for lecture and training. Either way, extreme diving is about your experience and what you add into it. So if scuba diving is not extreme enough for you, then you can consult different online communities or your local diving club to learn about extreme diving.


Anonymous said...

Articulate post...
I would however go a little further with the discussion about divers that pursue physically interacting with super predator shark species... I am reminded of the SNL skits with the 'look what I can do' guy. If either shark or diver are to be exposed to unnecessary danger there should be rational, legitimate and relevant reasons for doing so...

Anonymous said...

Well said and the answer is no, there are no protocols. Each operation makes it's own protocols to suit the operations site requirements.

It is inevitable that we will see more diver deaths in the coming years as operations one-up each other or set the bar lower and lower.

I remember when all shark diving was done behind bars, and then the few early pioneers left the cages.

Today you take your chances. Every year it get's a bit more crazy out there.

DaShark said...

Excellent post - I mean, yours.
The other one is thankfully nothing more than the ranting of some armchair warrior. Not to worry.

The questions you raise are important and timely, as always.

No, as you well know, there's no industry-wide protocol - nor will there ever be one.

This due to the huge difference between dives (procedures are always situation-specific) but more importantly, to the difference of protagonists and philosophies, and the perceived need to up the ante in order to succeed in an increasingly competitive market.
Keep in mind that on all major locations, you have several operators and inevitably, somebody will be tempted to push the envelope in order to "differentiate" himself.

All we in "camp 2" can do is to continue talking about it. Hopefully, more and more of us will agree that regardless of the demands by our customers, we need to set clear limitations to how far we're willing to go. For the sake of safety and ultimately, the survival of our industry.

I'm actually quite hopeful that we will prevail.
We all have the experience, we all care about the animals, we all have no death wish, we are all interested in the continued success of what we do.

And the others will go down.
Look at Wall Street if ever you needed confirmation that greed and recklessness cannot prevail long-term.

Anonymous said...

Well said but let me ask this question-What business is it of YOURS as a shark diving company to even be looking at other companies and the way they do business with sharks?

DaShark said...


Good point.

It's pure self-defense.
This is a global business and any developments anywhere in the world have a ripple effect impacting everybody else in the industry.
In that sense, it is very much our "business"!

The diving community has always prided itself for being self-regulating and it should be kept that way, no need for "Big Brother" to step in.

That however implies dialogue and when necessary, controversy and outspoken critique, too.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

We would have to agree. The damage done by any operation where a diver is hurt or worse killed, let alone video's showing clearly suspect activities with sharks damages everyone. Let me explain:

The worldwide shark diving industry is interconnected via perception. The anti-shark diving lobby is always looking for an excuse to jump into the debate with old and tired yet popular sound bites ranging from "we train sharks to kill people" to "we damage the eco system".

I can name four areas where this is happening right now.

1. South Africa
2. New Zealand
3. Hawaii
4. Isla Guadalupe

If we as an industry want to move ahead with any credibility-discussions about what constitutes "the industry" should and must happen.

No one likes to look into an industry and it sometimes does not make you any friends by doing so. In our view it's called leadership.

It is also the height of arrogance to believe that our companies operations affect no one-but ourselves.

Typically we operate in foreign countries. Our activities affect the entire region if "they go south" and we are very aware of that every time we drop a diver into a situation with sharks. We let that be our guide to our activities.

1.Divers safety first

2.Host countries tourism second

It is sometimes hard to think beyond-and break out of-the "scuba industry" paradigm of being #1 in terms of divers served, reefs visited, and tanks filled. Commercial shark diving is not scuba diving.

Perhaps the conversation starts there.