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April 29, 2007

I am on my way home from Houston. I went up there Friday to crash Paul's (our staff photog) brithday party. His wife set it up and Paul was totally surprised that I was there. It was fun, I drank one or two beers. (Ok maybe it was more than one or two, but no more than three!) Anyway, it was a good time, and a long well deserved relaxing weekend. I hung out with Paul and his fam, the whole time. We spent Saturday at the gun range. My first time shooting a hand gun. That was interesting, then today we spent the day at the Astros game. I watched the Astros get their asses kicked, again. My brother and dad flew up for the game. I really enjoyed having them their with me.

We finished off the afternoon by visiting our friends at Landry's Downtown Aquarium. I got to see and show my dad and brother my beloved sharks. They are getting big. Ok for those that don't know,SDM was invited to dive their shark tank last year when we were filming our TV series. They have a really cool shark tank with about 6 or 7 species in it. Including a couple of sawfish, ( I love those sharks). We were the first and last non-employees ever invited to dive their tank. So we stopped in to say hi and talk shark. I wanted to talk to them about possibly filming an entire episode on them. Possibly a day in the life of an Aquarium diver sort of thing. Guaranteed sharks, you can't beat that.

While we were there, they also gave us a behind the scenes tour of their white tigers, which was cool. They have four tigers in captivity, big cats. I got to feed their 400 pound male. He got annoyed because of the camera flashes going off in his face.

There is such a hi/lo to animals in captivity. the hi is that the every day joe gets to see and enjoy an animal they would never get to see in their average walk of life. And most learn to appreciate these animals, and the animals gain some respect, and a new advocate to help fight for their species. But on the down side, these animals are locked away in enclosures, losing their freedom, and sometimes their wild spirit, which is what makes these animals beautiful in the first place. So its hard - a total double edge sword. I understand and respect the need for zoos and aquariums, and I support them for the positive things that come from them. But deep down, I would rather see these animals running, or swimming free in their natural habitat, living out their lives on their terms, under the power of their own spirit. Just like I wish that upon my fellow man.

April 27 2007

Qoute Of The Day!
Happy Birthday Paul Spielvogel! Paul is one of our staff photogs.
"Your getting old, I hope you can still see?"

I was mentally getting ready to write up a new E-Chum newsletter but was having trouble getting inspired to write. And since I have been writing almost daily in our journal, I was stumped with major writers block. What could I write about that I am not already writing about in our journal? I know that normally I come out with some pulitzer prize winning stuff (it's my lie, let me tell it anyway I want!), so I need to keep up that momentum. But what damn it? Then it hit me while I was reading a book about writing. Yes, I was reading a 'How-To' book. How else will I get better? Other than to continue writing everyday. A few ideas from the pros helps out sometimes.

My opinion when trying to get better at any activity is you need to get tips from the pros, or your fellow peers, then you need to go out and practice that skill-over and over. Especially when you are just starting out, you need that advice, it's a must. And learning is an evolutionary process. Because as you continue to improve and get better, you sort of out grow your original coaches and you need to move up and on, if you are ever to become great, or even legendary. You just keep going, doing your shit; then one day you wake up, and you have your own ideas on how it should be done, or how far you can push, or how high you can fly. You just start doing things your way, and it doesn't matter if you fall flat on your face, what matters is that you did it your way...your terms...your ideas...YOURS. Damn that felt good to write and say. It's a bit jumbled , but it is so true. At the end of the day, if your doing what you love, what matters most is you are 100% happy with the way you are doing it.

In the sport of shark diving, when I started out, I looked up to the operators who took me out to see sharks. I thought, "Man these guys are amazing. I hope one day to be like them." Then as I got more and more into the sport, I learned that many (not all) of these operators deep down don't even like sharks, or they are afraid of sharks. Some won't even get in the water with them! I know it sounds funny, but it is true. That just blows my mind. Sadly it often comes down to a money thing, or worse! A scuba diving lifestyle thing...diving to dive for the sport of diving.

I fracking LOVE sharks! For me it is an obsession. I love the sport, I love the lifestyle, I love the people who work all year for that one day, or week that they come out and live the dream. They truly eat, live and breathe the sport of shark diving. They are the ambassadors to our sport, not those poser shark operators. Because they don't get paid to go sharkin'- they pay to go sharkin', and they talk about our sport with passion, and they inspire... That's the shit I love and live for!

Oh yea, I got side tracked, about the E-Chum Newsletters. I have decided to change it up. It will still be called E-Chum, but it will be 'NEWS AND NOTES'. I will post some shark news on it, stuff that's happening here at SDM, show updates, and so on and so forth. That way I can continue to write the pulitzers here on a daily basis for you all.

Have a great weekend everyone. Go sharkin', play with your kids, write a story, do something cool, and I'll see you all on Monday.

April 26, 2007

Qoute Of The Day!
"No matter how good you've gotten it somewhere, you're always going to have that itch to find something better"

I didn't have time to update my journal yesterday. It was spring cleaning in my office. And did it need it! I have not cleaned out my shelves, and boxes since 2003. Talk about a packrat. So I totally rearranged my office, and I threw away a bunch of stuff. I even sucked it up and threw away a bunch of stuff I thought I needed. You know the story, you pick something up that you haven't looked at in years, and you say..."I need this." When it will sit there for 5 more years, untouched. So anyway, I threw away a bunch of that stuff. Raf (underwater cameraman, and business partner) stopped in yesterday to see what was going on. He didn't stay long though. Once he saw what I was doing, he got a quick film update, read some of the latest email highlights and got outta there.

So my office is completely clean and done. And I had a plan, I laid it out for everything we need. For meetings, kicking back, and more importantly for filming (we set it up with plenty of light). Plus my desk is strategically arranged now, so I can feel powerful and president-like; it's also good for eating, sleeping, and maybe building a little fort. But what ever the task, my office is ready.

The rest of my day was spent packaging and mailing mags, answering emails, and planning out my next two weeks. Yesterday, we decided that every Friday the whole local SDM crew will get together to plan out every single phase of our year. From mag ideas, story lines for our series, upcoming shark trips, interview schedules (we have a few of those coming up), to planning and finding all our shooting locations for our new movie! I love that shit, were making a movie now. We do not officially kick off any shark diving film trips till June, so there is a lot of down time while we wait for that to happen. But once it does, we do not stop till December...yea!

Me, Raf, Steve, and Rusty will be kicking off a few filming runs in the Gulf before then; just to get all the bugs worked out before we hit the road to get all sharky. We are just waiting for that break in the weather. Till then, its looking at maps, making calls, mailing mags, designing our new product line, sitting through meetings, and laying out issue 15.

April 24, 2007

"These are the days that make you keep rolling the dice. Sooner or later, it's going to pay off."

I talked to Rusty and Steve yesterday about the plan to shoot a movie while we are out there filming season 2. They loved the idea. This will free us up to go hard with our story telling. The way it is out there, all the foul language, insanity, and fun that has made this great sport what it is. We also have some pretty graphic shark fishing footage that we really had no where to show because it is too graphic for TV, and the kids will have trouble handling it, so I know it will not be allowed, but we can show it in our movie!

While we were out at Holbox Island, Mexico we talked the local shark fishermen into letting us tag along and film them check their longlines for sharks. They said yes, allowing one of us to join them on the panga. We sent Rusty, our topside cameraman. It was 100 degrees, with no shade, and no wind that day. He was sick as a dog with Montezumans revenge, and the pangas had no toilet on board. Plus he did not speak a lick of spanish, and the fishermen spoke zero english. So being the sweet people we are, we had to send him.

He was on the boat trying to figure out how he was going to plan out our murder. He figured since we were in Mexico, it would be easy, no CSI stuff to worry about. But as the day wore on and the fishermen started pulling in their catch; tiger sharks, and bull sharks, he turned on the camera and started filming. The footage he captured that days was beyond words incredible. Not for what the fishermen were doing, but how they were doing it. He came back all red faced, and miserable from the heat, chattering away. Rusty was not a shark diver, so he did not have the same perspective as we did. All he knew about the sport at the time was what we have taught him. (Talk about a warped perspective). Rusty was fresh from film school, not really sure what he was going to do after graduation. He wanted to make movies, and he had a few projects he was working on, but money issues kept him from making his movie full force, it was a part time thing.Then we showed up, asked him to help us full time. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Or maybe it's the wrong place, at the wrong time. I don't know if Rusty is sure yet either.

We do have one big problem though. Rusty has fallen in love with shark diving. Originally he was the perfect person for this job, because he hated the water. We thought, perfect. He won't mind staying on the boat while we film our sharks. But then he caught the bug. He just kept watching us pop out of the water, all smiles, chattering away, so he decided he wanted to try it out and see what it was all about. You know, to get that divers perspective. So that way, when he is in the cutting room he'd understand it better. Now all he wants to do is hold the camera underwater, he doesn't want to be on the boat anymore. What can I say... it's an addictive lifestyle!

April 23, 2007
I spent the weekend writing outlines for upcoming episodes of our series. I storylined episode 4, and started making notes for episode 5. Its fun doing this as it brings back in full vivid memory the adventures we filmed. I tried not to work too much this weekend, as I wanted to sort of just unwind after the week I had. It was busy and frustrating and long. I went through meeting after meeting. All having to do with the show. I really did not know what I was getting myself into when I started all this, I really didn't. I mean I knew it was going to be difficult, but damn.

It's fun though. How often does one person get to go out and document their lives on film? Not very often, so it is a blessing...and a curse. I just hope the world is ready for me and my buddies. It is shark diving at it's best, and worst. But it is the real world of shark diving. It is not always perfect, and it is not always good, but it is always fun. Even when your out there getting tossed around in the soup, and you feel like you want to die, its always fun. A bad day of sharkin is still WAY better than a good day in the office.

I talked to Raf on Friday about us filming a movie for the film festival circuit next year. Yea, I know, I know. We havn't even finished cutting our first season of our series yet, and already I am talking about making a movie. But that's the speed in which we move here, the sharks will be out there, and so will we, and our stories must be documented.

Which is what we do with our mag, and now our films, we want to tell you all great stories, and get you fired up to go out and document your own. And if the shark trips that I have scheduled this year pan out, I will have a great story to tell, and I really want to tell it. Imagine a shark tale - totally unsensored. Of course our show is unsensored right now. But I know we will have to sensor it for the kids. To me that will take the heart and soul of what the shark diving world is though. It is not always sweet and nice. There is a rawness to this life, and the people who are out there livin it. So while we are out there shooting season 2 of our series, we will also be filming a movie as well. I do have to ask myself, because I know my lawyer Paul will ask me this once he reads what I am up to, "am I really ready for this, I am already stretched out as it is?" And the answer is, hell no... but I am doing it anyway.

Livin' the Dream!

April 19, 2007
I just submitted my request to jon the Sea Shepard team, well at least the donation part. I have decided to donate a percentage of every subscription sold to Sea Shepard. I should of done it a long time ago, but you get so busy with self interest and survival that it easily gets overlooked. We have supported conservation efforts over the years, with exposure, articles, film, photos and such, but this is the first time we have decided to actively give back financially. Long ago I said as soon as we start making money we would give a percentage of those profits to the cause, but five years later we are still waiting for some extra money laying around to help out. So I decided to treat it like that day will never come, and help out from our actual working capital. Starting this month, the donated percentage from each magazine sold is initiated.

April 18, 2007
I recieved a film from my porbeagle contact today. It was from one of his shark fishing expeditions, and on it they caught and released 2 porbeagle sharks. I am so fired up now to get out there and find these sharks. Talk about great stuff. I mean not the actual act of shark fishing but the potential for some amazing shark action to happen when I am out there. These sharks are so damn cool.

While I was looking at this film, it reminded me of a conversation I had with one of my readers. I was telling him about chumming up our own days of shark diving, and he asked my why I do that? He said, as the editor of Shark Diver Magazine, you are pretty much invited to dive for free at all the top shark diving destinations in the world, so why would I bother getting my hands dirty, by going out to places that no one has ever been to with the risks of getting skunked, or worse. I just looked at him and smiled... It is all about the adventure man. I dive with sharks, and I love to travel to new spots and seek out new species and first desents for the pure and true love of the sport. I know that Galapagos is an amazing place, or Cocos, or the Bahamas. But there as so many places yet to be chummed up and explored. Thats the kind of shit that gets me stoked, the uncharted map, the uncharted place, and the shark that has never been photographed without a hook in it's mouth. So anyway, in September, while most of the shark diving world is in Guadalupe diving with white sharks for their seasonal migration, I'll be in Canada, dropping into cold murky ass water, chasing porbeagle sharks, trying to get some photos of a shark that has only been recorded by hook and line.

Livin the Dream, doing things my way!

April 17, 2007
I got a call yesterday to see if I was interested in helping film some underwater whale shark footage in Holbox, Mexico for a California production team. I of course said yes! We still have not discussed money, but that's just details, for me it is another opportunity to dive with whale sharks, how do you lose? Their current plan is to try and film it in July around the time that I am going to be up in Holbox, so they can cut some costs, and meet my schedule. So I might be in Holbox for 10 days of diving instead of 6. Pretty cool.

It is going to be crazy around that time for me. So it looks like I will be heading out there around the 10th or so of July, leaving there around the 23rd, then going home for a few days to, pack some clean cloths, and begin mailing out issue 15. Then I am flying out to Canada to meet up with shark photographer Andy Murch for 6 days of some crazy open ocean stuff looking for big blue sharks, and salmon sharks (hopefully) around the tuna boats, then heading in to seek out sixgill or sleeper sharks.

Our plan is before we head out for blue sharks, in what is supposed to be gnarly 20-30 foot swells (imagine topwater diving in that?) we will have some chum boxes that we are dropping in an area known for sixgill. The hope is that when we get back from 4 days in the open ocean, these deepwater sharks will be there. Then I will leave that spot to head out to California for our reader mako shark trip. I should be pretty salty at that point. We will do that for 4 days, then I will probably spend a few days diving for leopard sharks, and seeking out soupfin sharks. If I have my new HD cameras by then, I may hitch a ride out to Guadalupe to film white sharks, not sure on that one yet, only time will tell. After that, I am headed home for a couple of weeks of rest, hang out with my family, answer emails, mail out more mags, talk to my film editors Rusty and Steve, check out their work (it's always good), probably film some pick-ups, then make plans for the next issue.

Then its back out to Canada for hopefully greenland sharks and porbeagles in late August/early September...Livin' a hard core Dream!

April 16, 2007
Total skunk-olla. The weather was for crap this weekend, and we were docked. This is the first time in 5 years that I have been weather skunked. Not a bad record, but I hope it is not a trend. I felt really bad for my buddies who came down for this trip and were not able to get out. Nathan, Marc, and Viviana, so sorry. We did make the most of it, and spent the evenings, talking shark, drinking beer, and just generally having a good time. The one thing we should of done, which we didn't do was bungee jump while we were out there. I think I am going to make that a requirement when on one of our shrimp boat trips. YEA, you will have to bungee jump when coming out to my neck of the woods, sort of like a right of passage. Ok guys, you all got out of that one before you left, but upon your return, we're dropping... I mean why not, we are already out there doing some of the most extreme shark dives in the world, why not add to the craziness of the adventure.

Ok, its getting bad, here I am the editor of Shark Diver Magazine, and I have only been diving with sharks once this year. It's pathetic. I should of started a surfing mag, those guys are out there having all the fun right now. Bad weather for us, means good weather for them. Another few bundles of issue 14 are leaving today, so keep an eye out for the new issue...

April 11, 2007
I have already started putting a list together for this weekend. So far things look good, the weather is going to be beautiful but we still don't have the official weather report. But we won't call it officially until 6AM on Saturday morning. My first list consists of chumming materials, in case we decide to chum up sharks instead.

-4 bait boxes
-12 volt battery, with charger for my mako magnet
-200 feet of nylon cord, for hang baits, and current safety line
-buoy balls
-25 pounds of dive weights
-chum churn

I am bringing out all the guns. If we get good weather and a good spot with plenty of shark sightings, were getting some sharks. Time in the water and a good guide, the rest is up to you!

Oh yea, we also have a new short video on our film page... check it out!

April 10, 2007
I have my bait boxes. I was out looking for a couple of milk crates yesterday to drop a bunch of fish carcasses in for this weekend and I got four. So that will give me two boxes to tie up in the back of the boat. What we do is get two boxes together, load them up with fish, tie them together and drop them in. We need to prep for a day of chumming just in case we don't see the shrimpers, and after speaking with Captain Ashley yesterday, he tells me we could waste the day trying to find them, so it is looking more and more like a day of chumming. But it is cool, because I got another mako report this morning. Anyway I am excited to have my boxes already so I don't have to worry about that, I just need to make sure Captain Ashley understands exactly how much bait we need to insure we have a good showing. I will call him again this afternoon and remind him that plenty of hang baits will be needed. On Thursday I will head out to the island and start collecting some additional baits for us anyway. I want to pack those bait boxes tight. We may be anchoring up to a wreck, and I know bull sharks always hang around wrecks, so we have a good shot at bulls also. Damn this weekend feels good.

It is always pleasant having a bunch of bait hanging around for a few days, such a nice smell, but once we hit the dive site on Saturday, they will be dropped in and the smell will go away... I hope. Who am I kidding, it never really does. That's shark diving.

April 9, 2007
I talked to captain Ashley today, prepping for this weekend, shrimp boat diving! Captain Ashley is taking us out this weekend. So far things look good, at least good enough to get out there and dive. The weather forcast says it should be in the low 80's on both Sat, and Sun. So it will be nice hot days for us out in the water. It is the end of the shrimping season so most of the boats have already docked. There are still a few out there, which if we can find them should be loaded with sharks and marine life. Think about it, for the past 4-6 months there has been at least 100 boats out there ripping up the Gulf, (it sucks I know) and the sea life has been hanging under these boats all that time. Now that most shrimpers are gone, the few that remain are supporting all these animals that are used to feeding this way. It has to be insane. Maybe even scary insane. I won't know until I drop in and have a look around.

We will plan our day according to what is happening. If the boats are within viewing distance once we hit the 15 mile mark we will hit them up, if not we will hit one of the wrecks out there, anchor up and start chumming. If not we could easily end up driving all day long and not see a thing. So we will make a judgement call and decide what is appropriate for the day. If we do chum it will still be good because they have been seeing a lot of mako sharks out there. So we have a good chance to spend the day swimming with blacktips and mako sharks, and that is NEVER boring. Never! Makos are the gnarliest sharks out there... period. Now until I spend the day swimming outside the cage with a white shark, the makos will hold this title, but from what I have seen and heard about white sharks, I do believe makos will keep this title. They are just gnarly aggressive sharks. They will be in your face all day, it is so much fun diving with them. But you have to be ready for them because they will be in your face, and they will approach divers mouth open, ready to bite a diver, or your camera, or whatever. They are the only sharks I have encountered that will do that (so far). They are just cool sharks. We shall see, I am prepping for this weekend as we speak. More updates later.

April 5, 2007
Rusty and Steve, our film editors came by the office today and we filmed a bunch of stuff for our upcoming film blog, 'Notes from a Shark Diver's Journal' It was fun, but hard. Because we were trying to capture a moment of time in this film clip and it is sometimes hard trying to remember an exact emotion, even though you were there and lived it. It is hard because it happened so long ago, or at least it felt like a long time ago. I am pretty excited about these film blogs, because they are going to compliment our reality series so well. The reality show is based on our lives as professional shark divers.

Our job is to go out and find sharks to film and photograph, so the series is really a look at the behind the scenes life that we lead. The hardships we face, the dangers, weather, long roads, lonliness, and in-fighting, as well as the cool moments from our shark sessions. But because we are covering everything, it is hard to really dive into specific moments or dives. Thats where our video blogs come into play. Here we get to show you specific shark sessions, and the things that go wrong or right. Those are the moments we write about in our magazine, those are the photos we come back with. So next week we will release the first one, and then every two weeks after that... It is going to be the shit!

April 4, 2007
I am going to buy a boat. Yes it is true. I am no longer going to be waiting and watching water, and hoping and dreaming of the perfect day. And when that day comes, I will no longer be sticking my thumb in the air hoping for a ride out to a sharky spot. I have been thinking about this for a while now, and I have to do this soon.

Now that I got that off my chest, on to the current obstacles that are in my way;

- I have no budget for this and with everything I am currently working on I won't have a budget for this new project anytime soon.
- I have no captain's license.
- I have never driven a boat before.
- I don't know anything about boats.

You know it is funny, now that I have put this in writing, none of it seems like obstacles anymore, just minor meaningless details. And I am not looking for anything wild, or exotic, I have very simple needs. I have already decided what to call her when I get her. And this is not impulsive talk, I have a well thought up list of what I would need and want from a boat;

- a boat big enough for 4 people
- A boat easy enough to trailer from one spot to another (20-25' will do)
-A gas tank capable of taking me 50-60 miles out (too start)
-An emergency life raft, just in case the boat is a bit run down
-A rack of some kind to safely transport mine and my buddies cameras
-A chum storage (of course a few 10 gallon buckets will do)
-Dry storage for towels and food, (ice chests and dry bags will be fine)
-Rack for a few tanks (if neccessary)
- A weather radio of some kind to see what is going on out there
-A radio for distress calls ( you never know?)
-First Aid kit
-Extra 12 volt battery for my Mako Magnet
-200' of nylon cord, and a few buoys
-Maybe an anchor line ( in case we are not drift chumming)
-Sleeping bags
-Oh yea some lights for the overnighters
-A small barbeque pit

You see I can plan things out, I am not always a fly by the seat of your pants editor. I do have my moments. Now that I have already started planning this, I am so fired up to make it happen. I will keep you all updated on this project from time to time.

As if I did not have a bunch of projects I am buried with all ready. Oh well, what's one more? But I really like this one. Can you imagine getting a call that the hammers are migrating through Stetson Bank and the ocean is only 1-2 foot swells with no off shore winds? If I had my own boat! I could just hitch up the trailer and high tail it to Freeport. I could be in the water and on my way in less than 10 hours. I love this new plan...

Oh yea, one more thing to add; a couple of d-ring hoops on the life raft, in case the boat goes down and we are stuck at sea for a few days. We can hang the chum buckets and see what kind of sharks we can pull up. Imagine how gnarly it could be drift chumming for a week straight? Awesome.

April 3, 2007
We have our April Shrimp Boat trip coming up in a couple of weeks. It should be good, I am just worried about the weather, it has been a long hard winter. We have been trying like mad to get out and film some sharks since January 2 but the weather has been hard. Great for surfers, bad for shark divers. So far I have found one window to get out there this season, but that is it. And we found sharks, you can't ask for more than that, but damn it's been a long tough winter. Especially since winter is such a good time to get out there and find the big sharks. That is what the Gulf in winter time is - big gnarly sharks. So hopefully it will go good, we are going to have crappy weather all this week, but next week should be good. I am just hoping for one good window to get out there to find some sharks, and turn my guests loose to shoot sharks, and get gnarly out there.

We are bringing the Pages of Shark Diver to LIFE!
I know I keep saying that, but it is finally true. We have already started editing our 'Notes from a Shark Diver's Journal' video clip series. Every two weeks we are going to release a short video story from some of our highlights captured on film from last years Shark Diving season. They will be different every time. Some stories will be on a specific shark encounters, some will be on a specific moment in the water. Some scary, some cool, all of it, gnarly!

April 2, 2007
I just got back from Seaspace Scuba Show in Houston. It was ok. The best part for me was catching up and hanging out with old friends and making new ones. That is my very favorite part of this business, getting to spend time with our readers. These scuba trade shows are a great way to do that. Share stories, drink a few beers, and talk shark. The Hebels & family, Chad, Lisa, Graham, Kickady, Rene, and Michael, and the little brother (sorry I forgot his name)...It was great seeing you guys.

I also ran into legendary filmmaker, Howard Hall and his wife Michele. You know, I am not often awed by people, but this guy is just cool. I talked to him for a brief few minutes and he gave me some advice on where to find sixgill sharks. One day I hope to sit down with him, and just chat it up over a couple of beers. I can only imagine the stories he could tell. Me and my friends have had some amazing adventures, but I know that if I ever had that opportunity to talk shark with Howard, I would just sit down, shut up, and soak it all in man.

As exciting as my past adventures have been and how wild my upcoming adventures will hopefully be, there are just some people in life you will never one up!

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