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AUGUST 29, 2007
A not so sharky blog today.
I don't have much energy today. I went to a MANA concert last night. I am a die hard MANA fan. In case many of you do not know who MANA is, they are a spanish rock band, and they have an islandy sound. I love their music, and so do people from all over the world. They often play stadiums with 100,000 plus people in attendance. I called Andy Murch, our staff photographer from the concert to let him know I was there, rubbing it in a bit. Andy is a fan as well.
Band members of the group MANA.
It is funny how I look at this evening as one of the great moments of my life. A concert is such a simple thing, so why should it be a highlight? The reason is because I have spent many a night, throughout the past 13 years of my life listening to this band. Whether it was in a bar hanging out with my friends, or at home, or in my vehicle, I was listening to them. A cold beer, and MANA playing on the radio is always a great way to pass the time. Their music has always been there, and no matter what mood I was in, it always made me feel good. Great music will do that to you.
During the concert, I turned to my wife and told her that I was living a dream right now, I had always wanted to see them play live. She said "I know." She was not a huge MANA fan, probably because I have played their cd's so much, that she burned out. She likes their music, and had a great time at the show, and by the end was a big MANA fan. The show itself was amazing, it was everything I had hoped it would be, and more. It ended way to soon in my book. I told her my next goal was to one day meet the band and shake their hand to say thank you for all the years of good times your music has brought me. She smiled and said yea.
At the end of the show, we were walking out, passing through the huge crowd of people, and I spotted my marketing rep, Mel Ramirez. We said hi, and he said follow me. So we did, and he led us back stage to meet the band. Mel has a lot of well connected friends. Unfortunately, the band had already left the building, but they told us to head out to this pub where the after party with the band was at, so off we went.
I was sitting there sort of in a daze, and not just from the beer, but from realizing that I was sitting a couple tables away from the band. It was another one of those moments where I am saying, "holy shit, this is my life!" They were there, hanging out, chatting with fans, drinking beer, and listening to the girl who was singing on stage. It was great, I soaked in the moment. I didn't bug them, or get all groupy on them. I did what I had wanted to do. I walked up to them, said hi, shook their hands and said "thank you for your music, it truly has been a big part of my life. " The guys said thanks, we got a photo op, and we parted ways.
Me, my wife Marti, Alex the drummer, and my sister Chrissy - I had to get a photo!
At 2:30 AM, Mel walked up to me and said "hey they are having an after party at a friends house, you want to come?" I was totally out of gas, and slurring, so I declined. I am glad I did because that party did not end till 5:30 AM. I do kick myself a bit for not going, I missed a jam session with Alex Rodriguez, the drummer for the band, and Tato, a local song writer, and singer. They played this gnarly free style Jazz set for something like 10 minutes. It must of been incredible. Oh well, next time.
Livin the Dream!
AUGUST 28, 2007
The day begins with plans and preparations for both issue 16, and my upcoming adventure. I am trying to get issue 16 done by the end of September. What the goal is to have it ready to ship by mid October. We will be making SDM history with this one. I have decided to change things up, yet again. Making this issue very interactive with our website. Basically you will not get the full effect of each issue unless you read the mag, and then visit our website. This is also in preparations of our upcoming web show.
Yup I said it, I am creating a monthly web series that will update you on all the goings on here at SDM. This is very different than our Chasing Sharks series. It will be about the different people and places we visit. From our day with Hollywood's prop man Eddie Paul, to hanging out with my good friend Walter 'The Mako Man,' Heim. Different shows will be about, our off the beaten path adventures, what it takes to chum up sharks. What it takes to film sharks, photography tips with Andy Murch. Basically all the things I write about in our blog, will be coming to life in our series.
I briefly talked about it with my editing team, Rusty and Steve. They sort of tried to talk me out of it, because they have their hands full cutting our DVD series, so if they read this blog they will find out that I have decided to go through with it. Lovely! The first one will air on November 1st. Which will go hand in hand with the biggest industry trade show of the year DEMA and issue 16.
So issue 16 will finish up our year for mags in 2007, and our web series will hit the web on November 1st. A busy ass time. I don't know why I do this to myself
Notes on my next shark adventure.
If you read yesterday's blog, then you already know I am leaving next week for porbeagles. I was hoping to bring a mako magnet with me, but mako sharks broke it while diving with Walter earlier this month. We had 7 different makos to the boat, and three blue sharks. Towards the end of the dive, one of the makos ended up biting the mako magnet and puncturing it, destroying all the electronics inside. So I am screwed for one next week. I have decided to bring my chum churn with me. It is a bitch to travel with, but I have no choice, I need some extra chumming ammunition for the trip, so I will pay the extra shipping costs to bring it with me.
I will be meeting Andy up in Canada, it will be just me and him for this adventure. If the sharks come in and we get the opportunity to film them, the world will hear a primal scream of joy on the boat ride in. We will be coming back in with a first descent, one of the first divers to film porbeagles in the wild, and another species on our must see it list of sharks.
So sleepless nights are coming, as I wait till I finally board that plane and make my 13 hour plane ride to Canada's, Bay of Fundy. Once I arrive around 10 PM, then I need to clear customs, then meet up with Andy at the airport, where we will drive to the port town, unload and prep camera gear. Then try and get a couple hours of sleep, as we need to be on the boat and loaded up by 3 AM. It should take a couple of hours to get out to the area where we will begin chumming up the sharks. The rid eout will be a chance to sneak in a few more zz's. Because it will get busy once the chumming starts. Hopefully as the sun is rising, the sharks will begin to investigate the chum slick by the boat. Thats when we drop into the 52 degree water and start recording the event
As I am writing this, I am getting fired up about it. Even if the sharks don't show (ugh!), it is still a cool way to spend a week. I remember a conversation I had with one of our readers on a tiger shark expedition last year. He asked me why would I would go out and try to chum up my own sharks, when I could go to almost all of the top shark diving destinations for free? Why would I choose to do that? Without skipping a beat, I answered, because it is so much fun. For no other reason, I love new adventures, I love going places where no one else has gone before. I love not knowing what is going to show up.
Like on our South Padre Island Dives, I love spending my day chumming up the sharks, hoping something is going to show up. These are all spots that have never seen divers before, so if we are successful, they are all first descents. And what we are going on is some fisherman's reports of sharks stealing fish off their lines. That is it! But it's enough. There is a huge chance we may get skunked, but we say screw it and go anyway, just to see what happens. Maybe nothing, but then again, maybe something.
I admit, it is nerve racking; waiting, hoping, praying sharks show up. The hours click by and you sit there, watching water, waiting. Always waiting. But when that dorsal fin breaks the surface, and you see the hang baits get slammed, your adrenaline just explodes. You can never move fast enough as your gearing up, fearing whatever it is, will leave before you have a chance to see it. You drop in, not knowing what kind of shark just hit the bait, it could be anything; a tiger, a bull shark, a blacktip. Then you see it, it's an eight foot scalloped hammerhead chewing on the bait.
Your heart stops because you know it's on! This adventure is for real, and this moment is forever a part of your soul. So there it is... That's why I chum up my own days, and that's why I am taking a 13 hour flight to Canada next week, for nothing more than one more chance to say... screw it, let's go and see what happens!
AUGUST 27, 2007
I interviewed Rob Stewart by phone on Friday. It was a cool interview. I had never met him before, so being able to talk to him about his movie SharkWater, was pretty cool. He is on this major Hollywood roller coaster ride right now. Everyone wants to interview him and talk about his movie, so it is sometimes overwhelming for him. But of course this is all good. He is doing what he loves, and he telling the sharks story, and his project is going to do so much for sharks and the state of the World's oceans. An article about Rob and Shark Water will be in our upcoming issue, and some of the interview will soon be online for you all to listen to as well.
I purchased my plane ticket to Canada on Friday. Me and Andy will be seeking out porbeagle sharks in the Bay of Fundy, next week. If we are successful, it will a first. Right now there are no underwater images or video of porbeagle sharks, (that I know of). The only people to successfully document these sharks is the shark fishermen. So to be able to drop in and swim with these sharks will be amazing. This kind of adventure is the stuff I dream about and live for.
Let me paint you the picture of what next week will be like on the boat. The air temp will be around 74 degrees. Kind of cool, but nice. The water temp is around 54 degrees at the surface. Cold but with a seven mil, we should be ok. The vis will be bad, 10 feet, maybe-hopefully 15-20. And we will be in the water with one of the most agressive sharks in the world. Well I believe they will be aggressive, I am not really sure because no one has really spent any time with these sharks. Porbeagles are close kin to the mako sharks, and they look just like makos, can grow up to 12 feet long, they have a much bigger dorsal fin than makos, which has a white spot right at the back base of the fin. They are beautiful sharks, and I hope I get the opportunity to spend some time in the water with one.
I can't think of a better way to spend a week. Hanging out with good friends, meeting new ones, and chasing sharks in a new area, putting a new spot on the map for others Shark Divers to follow; experimenting with a shark that no has interacted with, in cold 54 degree murky ass water. And we do not know what these sharks are going to do when we jump in, or how they are going to act. This is scary ass, gnarly cool shit.
porbeagle shark. Catch and release.
Of course we could come home from the trip with nothing to show for it, other than a hang over. These sharks may not want anything to do with us, and take off the second we get in the water. Or worse, we might get skunked... but then again we might not! This is what it must of felt like in the old days when everything was new. Where nothing was mapped, and no one really knew what was going to happen. All they knew was that they wanted to go, and explore a new location, and see what was going to happen, and if they made it back, they had a grand tale to tell.
AUGUST 23, 2007
We were scheduled for a radio interview today, but got cut from the show due to some in-house guests. We will see if they reschedule us for another day. Sorry to anyone who was listening to the show, but if you did you learned a lot about the town of Kahnawake.
On Friday I have a phone interview with Rob Stewart. Rob is the director/producer and the star of the hit documentary film SharkWater.
This movie broke all Canadian box office reocrds for a Documentary film this year, has won 17 film festival awards and is going to be released in US theaters on September 28, 2007. What is so amazing about this film is the fact that it is about shark finning and the wars conservationists are fighting to help save sharks. It stars Rob Stewart and Captain Paul Watson of SeaSheperd. .
Normally the media does not care about such things, conservation and finned sharks, so it is such a great thing that this movie is so accepted. We are moving closer to our goal of saving sharks. The interview will be for issue 16 of Shark Diver Magazine, which will go hand in hand with the release of the new movie.
I was working on issue 16 last night and I am stoked again, as this mag will again be morphed into a new feeling magazine. The idea is to keep improving it and changing the way people read and use our mag. The next issue will be very interactive with our website. Not going to give away too much, but you will see, it is going to be cool.
AUGUST 22, 2007
I have created a new area on our home page dedicated to press releases,
shark news, events, and so forth. This is so I can help promote new products for our sponsors and update everyone about what's going on in the shark world. It is so hard to do that on our blog page because I talk too damn much and I am always left winded after a long blurb that I don't make room for all that. So I decided to give them their own space for that.
I really do have so much to say today, but we are at the tail end of mailing out the new magazines that I just don't have time to say much this morning. I need to run back to the store for envelopes for the mag. So I will write up a long blog tonite and upload it in the morning. It's about the upcoming movie SharkWater. I have an interview lined up with the Rob Stewart. I will keep you posted...
AUGUST 21, 2007
I got a call from a radio station in Canada yesterday. They want to interview me about shark diving, asking typical questions. What is it like? How does one get started? As well as some of my most interesting moments in the water. We do the interview on Thursday so I will keep you posted on that. This part of my job is fun. I get to tell the truth about diving with sharks, which is great.
Spreading the word about shark diving is important. Because here is the dark, dark reality of our sport. Shark diving is the only thing that is going to save our sharks... period. Nothing else is going to do it, nothing. Unless someone dies from eating shark meat, or shark fins, and it makes international news, and no one wants that to happen. So the only salvation sharks have is Eco-tourism.
Don't believe me, I'll prove it. There are only 2 things that politicians care about, money and votes (votes equal power). If you do not have a lot of money (and finners do), you better have thousands of votes to back you. Conservationists do not have money, and they sure as hell do not have votes.
The finning business is a billion dollar a year industry. That is right, a billion dollar business. How do you battle that, the answer, you can't. Look at the Galapagos, this place is an International treasure, and it is still open to long liners. Why? Because the politicians are getting major kick backs from the finners. A politicians lifespan is short lived, especially in third world countries. So a politician has to take and steal as much as he can before he is either kicked off, voted off, or killed. So the only answer to this huge global problem is eco-tourism. It is money in the bank today, which means the govenrment can get their grubby hands on it right away.
Mexico, Bahamas and Fiji are doing good things with this and we are seeing the results of it. Hopefully, it will not be too late...
sorry you all, a soap box rant today!
AUGUST 20, 2007
I have already begun working on issue 16. I have decided to try and get way ahead of the game on this one. A total surprise for my crew, I am sure. All the articles have been picked out already. But as always if I get the surprise article I will publish it.
The cover for the next issue has been chosen already. It is a great image taken by SDM shooter, Andy Murch. I am not going to show you all the cover, you will have to wait till it comes out. I gave a teaser on issue 15, but looking back, I wish I had waited. So I will not give away too much info on our upcoming issues anymore. So ya-gonna have to wait. It is slated for an early November release, which will close out our year for mags as well. Again, I am stepping it up, and this issue will again feel different from the rest.
The issue (15) I am mailing out now is really going to feel different, and the few people that have already seen it have given me positive feed back, no comments on what they say about it, because I want to hear what you all have to say. I am always trying to find new ways to keep the mag exciting, and I love to hear when people tell me that they are stoked to see that brown envelope hit their mail box. Of course it is always a fast read, because we are only 48 pages thick. I am hoping someday to be able to put a mag together that has 100 pages- that's my goal. I am hoping to accomplish that within the next few years. I have to keep this blog short today because I am mailing out mags, and I have to get back to work...
AUGUST 17, 2007
So I continue mailing out issue 15. Another mag is in the books for us. 15 mags man, I can't believe it. It feels like yesterday that we were trying to figure out how to lay out our first issue. I remember staying everyday at the office till midnight with Ed, the guy who used to do the layouts for the mag. I had zero experience in the publishing field. Ed did not know what he was doing either. He had some photoshop experience, but that was it. We just winged it till it looked and felt like a magazine.
I made so many mistakes early on, but that is the only way I learn. Make mistakes, fall flat on my ass, dust myself off, pull out the stickers, then keep charging forward. It is also the funnest way to learn. I didn't spend years in school, learning theories, and magazine success rates, and the formal way to create a magazine. or the do's and don'ts of magazine layouts. If I had, I probably would not have not done it. But through the years we have learned so much, and we do put together a damn cool magazine, and I am very proud to show people our magazine...
Sneak peek of a couple of pages from issue 15 - I did not want to spoil the whole mag for you.
So here we are 5 years later, with 15 magazines to our name, and all I can say is, what a
f-ing ride. I can't wait till we have 30 magazines under our belt. How salty and sharky will we be then. So anyway, just a brief history about how it all began for you all. I hope you like the new issue.
Me and Andy have been talking about possibly putting together an Australian shark seafari. We are planning to rent a van and travel along the Australian coastline for a week, seeking out; wobbegongs, zebra sharks, blind sharks, grey nurse sharks, port jacksons, cat sharks and whatever other sharks we can find. It will be fast paced, long roads, good conversation, and cold ass beer. I am fired up just thinking about. I have never been to Australia, Andy has spent months up there so he knows where all the hot spots are. So if this interests any of you, let me know.
AUGUST 16, 2007
I got a package from Stephanie Brendl, the legendary Jimmy Hall's business partner and girlfriend. In it was a video she had put together for a local Hawaiian TV station. It was a tribute to Jimmy Hall, filled with some of his most exciting moments in the water, the sky, and the mountains. It was amazing to watch. I think I watched it 4 times that first day. Jimmy was such an amazing person, he truly sucked the marrow out of life. I showed the video to Rusty our show editor, he looked at me and told me that I needed to step it up. I looked at him and said "to what?" There is no stepping up to Jimmy Hall, in fact I can't think of anyone who could ever step up to that guy. Not even Andy Murch, our staff photographer. Andy is probably the most travelled adventurer I know, visiting over 70 countries; he has been struck by lightning, fell 300 feet while climbing a mountain, he has been through and done some incredible things, yet after watching Jimmy, he is not even a close second.
The legendary Jimmy Hall
After watching that video, I felt like my feet were nailed to the floor, like I was sleep walking through life. And I know I have done some pretty exciting things, but nothing like Jimmy. I don't do much hero worship, but damn, I do need to step it up. Not to try and be like Jimmy, that would be impossible, but to do more with my own life. Many of you may think I am already living a pretty interesting life, and yea I am, most of the time. For me personally, this shark adventure that I am on is possibly the most EPIC thing I will ever do with my life, and it has only just begun. But I know I can get more out of my time here on earth, and I want to do more exciting shit before it is over! So much to do, so much to see... never enough money or time.
THE DOWN SIDE
The hard part is how my gypsy ways affects my family. I have written about this before. How everything I have done has changed me; some good, most of it bad. The bad is; I am not as social as I used to be. I don't hang out with the people I used to hang out with anymore, because it's hard to relate. I don't care about material things anymore, not that I ever did. But I don't care about the latest clothing trends, or I-Phones, or who Jessica Alba is dating (well that still interests me, I'm waiting Jess!). I don't give a shit about hearing local gossip and all that pettyness. I also used to be heavily involved with our City. I would sit as VP, on our EDC board, helping to make economic decisions for our city; streets, businesses, revolving loans, parks for our kids, blah, blah, blah. I quit, stopped caring. Hated all the red tape, and the bullshit backstabbing. Long winded meetings, and nothing was ever accomplished.
THE GOOD STUFF
When I am home, I spend every free minute I have with my family. And I am travelling more! I am meeting some very exciting people, experiencing some very EPIC diving, doing my part to help evolve and grow the sport of shark diving, and I am having the time of my life.
I was talking to Andy Murch last week in Cali. We were on the boat, waiting for makos to show up, and we were chatting about one of his potential new adventures that's in the near future (can't really say what it is). He is not sure if he wants to do it yet. I told him he needs to, it is such an EPIC adventure, possibly the greatest adventure of his life. Without skipping a beat, he said no, the one he is on right now, chasing sharks on his own, and with SDM, has been the most incredible adventure of his life.
I am not easily surprised but that did blow me away, I never expected that. I know the adventures we are on are really cool, some will be historic. To me that is the best part, finding and developing new spots for shark dives, stepping up our sport, dropping in uncharted waters and finding out what's down there. But I am so busy, moving through it all, that I have not stopped and really took a look at what we are doing, or what we have done. I guess that part does not matter; what matters is that we are out there, and that we continue to stay out there... chasing sharks, hanging out with our readers, finding new shooters and story tellers for the mag. Always seeking out that unphotographed shark, while visiting new places, drinking cold beer in strange new bars, toasting my favorite toast;
"To great adventures, and new friends!"
August 15, 2007
I had a meeting with Rusty over episode 4 of our series. I saw the rough cut of the show. 60 minute show so far that needs to be cut down to 23 minutes; but where to cut? This is our darkest episode yet. The other episodes dealt more with dealing with each other, but this one has to do with the grim reality of our sport. The dangers of what we face when we are out in the water with large predatory sharks and what could possibly happen to any of us if we have a really bad day out there.
It is a subject no Shark Diver really ever talks about or even thinks about. Well no Shark Diver ever talks about it to other Shark Divers, because we know the truth about sharks, they do not want to bite us or hurt us, they just want to eat fish... period. If on the very rare occasion that an accident does happen; a filming expedition the legendary Valorie Taylor was on, comes to mind. We know it was our fault and no one elses. Especially not the sharks fault. But this episode is going to deal with this part of our sport and how we handle it.
And it won't be Hollywood drama, it will be real world experiences with people who have had bad encounters with sharks, and how they reacted to it. It should be fun.
The mailing continues...
August 14, 2007
A dark reality has sunk in. My mako magnet is busted. A mako shark bit and killed it on our first day in the water. I was laughing about it at first but now that I am prepping for my next adventure, I am stuck without one. I may have to break down and buy another one damn it. I did not want to; first because I am not really sure if it works or not, and second they are real expensive, and they are not sponsoring us (wish they were). But I need another, because everytime I have used one, I have brought in the sharks. It could be a combination of things, chumming, luck, hang baits, the moon alignment, the color of venus, or it could be the magnet. I just don't think it is worth risking not having it.
Showing the camera the close up battle scars my magnet suffered.
Today is shipping day. I am playing catch up with all the mag and merch orders that came in while I was gone. Plus my caps came in and I had a bunch on back order that need to go out. So it is going to be busy. I need some new stamping equipment for the envelopes for the new mag. I pick them up today. Not looking forward to the hustle, but it will be worth it when I read all the emails about the new mag. So many damn problems trying to get this one out... So damn many.
On another note, we cut a new video to promote our tiger shark trips, Rusty and Steve really out did themselves. They are really good at what they do. The music is original score from one of our episodes... enjoy!
August 13, 2007
I am back in the office again. Trying to slow myself down and get back into the groove. It is hard to do this. For 10 days I have been going hard, traveling around Southern California, hanging out with some of my best friends, meeting new ones, and diving with one of the most exciting sharks in the world. It is hard to put down on paper (or computer) what happened on this adventures or how I feel, but I'll try and give my highlights of this trip;
-We met up with Hollywood's best kept secret, Eddie Paul and got to tour his Shark Shop. Eddie has worked on many Hollywood projects, including the movies; Grease, Fast and the Furious, Triple X, T2, ET, Cobra, as well as I-max movies and Air Jaws 2. To walk through the place and see all this history was so amazing.
-We hooked up with my good friend Walter 'the Mako Man' Heim, for a fun day of makos and blues, a couple of days before our reader trip started. Trying to find the best spot for the sharks, as well as letting my guys get all sharked out before we went to work on the reader trip. The upcoming trip was about the readers, not my crew, I wanted them to help out and not be sitting on the boat wishing they were in the water shooting. So after 4 hours in the water with 7 makos, and 3 blue sharks, my plan worked... well, not really, they still were not satisfied, they wanted more shark action. But at least they were more focused with the job at hand for the readers and they did an awesome job.
(l-r) back ground, shark photog's, Paul Spielvogel and Andy Murch. Walter talking to camerman, Raf Flores
-First day of the reader trip was nerve racking for me. This was the first trip where we were fully responsible for chumming up the sharks. Normally when I organize our reader trips, I hire the local shark charter expert and use their skill and experience to bring in the sharks. Unfortunately no one is offering mako shark trips, at least not the way I want to run one, so I decided to charter a boat and run the trip myself. So hence the nervousness. I was confident in my chumming skills, but I could not relax until that first shark showed up. It took over three hours before the shark showed up to our boat. After that it was on, 4 players, back to back. 3 hours of fun before the last shark of the day took off. We had 2 blues and 2 makos show up that first day. Awesome.
Blue shark hits our bait line
-We head out to dinner one night with some of the readers as well as some friends of shark photog, Andy Murch. One of Andy's submarine pilot buddies was in town, Scott Cassell. Scott runs humbolt squid dives in Baja. Anyway, Scott asks if he can bring a friend, we say sure. It turns out his buddy is Jeremiah Sullivan, the creator of the chain mail shark suit. Talk about small world. So we get to talking about sharks and the history of the sport, it was a memorable night. Total old school meets the new, it was awesome. Jeremiah thought I was out of my mind for offering a mako shark dive without cages or chainmail suits. Maybe he was right, but we were doing it anyway.
SDM editor Eli Martinez, Neptunic shark suit inventor, Jeremiah Sullivan, shark photog Andy Murch
-Last day of the trip. We had 3 makos and 2 blues visit the boat. Unfortunately none of the sharks wanted anything to do with the divers, so we were forced to just view them from the boat. As we motored back to port I could not help but smile, I was totally stoked that we had sharks everyday on this trip and everyone was going home happy. Most important was that no one got hurt, and everyone got plenty of water time with the sharks. Of course my wish was that we had been able to spend more time in the water with the sharks, but it was enough time to change everyones lives. Everyone did something on this trip that very few people on this earth will ever do, swim in the open ocean with pelagic mako sharks. I was just happy to be part of it, and to witness it all... Thanks again to everyone who joined us for this adventure.
August 8, 2007
It's over- we made history! The first official open water mako shark trip, offered for the public is in the books. Every one came back with all their fingers and toes, everyone got some shots to take home, and we had sharks everyday of the trip. Today we did not get any players, but we had 3 makos, and 2 blues visit the boat. They just did not want to hang around. It was a beautiful day but the sharks just did not want to play. We wrangled them in ok, but when we introduced the swimmers, the sharks took off. It was just one of theose days.
I learned some things on this trip. I learned more about pelagic shark behavior, and some things that I want to change for a better shark season next year. I am happy with this trip, and I feel our chumming techniques are solid. Props to my team for helping me make this trip memorable for everyone. Raf, Andy, Paul... thank you.
You know it is funny, I got plenty of shit for wanting to do this trip, that I was crazy for even trying to do it, but I felt that we were ready to offer a trip like this. Not only are these sharks agressive, chumming for blues and makos is not an easy thing to offer, because the sharks just are not there anymore, they have been hunted so bad that the numbers are really dropping to pathetic numbers. It is a sad, sad state. I feel so helpless when it comes to doing something about it. I am trying but I don't think I am doing enough, or I am helping enough. And even if I am I don't think I can help them fast enough. Our sharks are disappearing fast.
So the total shark tally for our 4 day reader trip was;
Day 1; 2 makos, 2 blues (3 hours in the water with the sharks)
Day 2; 1 mako (2 hours in the water)
Day 3; 3 blues (45 minutes in the water)
Day 4; 3 makos, 2 blues (no players - only 5 minutes in the water)
I know it does not sound like a lot of water time, but it really is. When you think about how long it takes to bring in these sharks, some days it took us over 3 hours of chumming before the first shark would show up. And once the sharks come in, you need to determine if it is a player, most sharks are very skiddish, they would fly in, grab some bait and run. They have to be this way in order to survive in their very dangerous and unpredictable world. Pelagic sharks are different from reef sharks, they make their home in the open ocean and often travel thousands of miles. One shark that was tagged by our friend Walter 'The Mako Man' Heim in California, was recovered in Japan. So these sharks do travel far.
Photos for this trip are coming on Monday!
August 7, 2007
Sorry I am behind with my blog. I am tired, sunburned and happy that our trip has been going well. Playing catch up here...
Day 2 in the water
Yesterday we had one mako show up to play. Only one, but he was a solid player. The shark hung around for over 2 hours, giving us plenty of close up opportunities. This trip is historic. This is the first (at least that I know of) trip offered to the public to open water dive with mako sharks. No chain mail, no cages, no dive certification necessary, just a snorkel and mask, and a desire to swim with mako sharks. One of the gnarliest sharks in the world. And so far it has been amazing!
The sharks were within touching distance of the divers and everyone felt comfortable, no one felt threatened at any time. A few scary moments, but it is normal when your dealing with makos. It was awesome. For the people who had very little experience with these sharks, we had Andy in the water as a safety diver for them. I spent most of the time wrangling the bait and tossing snacks out to the shark to help keep him with us. The shark was a true player, well behaved, giving everyone a show.
Mako shark chewing and thrashing on the hang baits, with swimmers near by... I love it!
We wrangled a mako. Trying to snap the classic white shark pose
We ended the day with everyone pretty happy about our mako. Even though it was one shark, we all had plenty of water time with the shark. All of us looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.
Day 3 in the water
Today was the day I feared. A long, long wait for the sharks to show up, and when they finally did, they did not want to play. Well the first two blue sharks that showed up did not. They were just fly byes. Today we changed the plan, we decided to head out about 10-11 miles to see if we could find some blue sharks to play with in the clear blue water. The offshore wind has been pretty blowy everyday here, and it has pushed us into the dirty water that is close to shore, way too fast. We were drifting in around one knot a mile, which was pushing us into the dirty water. But that was fine because all the makos are inshore feeding on the bait fish, but the pro photographers were not happy about it, because the dirty water makes for crappy pictures. And the diving is much more intense. Imagine diving with a fast gnarly mako in low vis water. Scary but cool. So today it was all about the blue sharks. We had 3 different sharks show up, the first was a very tiny shark. It was less than a year old. It came in bold, chewing on the hang baits.
5 foot Blue shark chewing on hang bait.
So the little blue came in, chewed on the hang bait and left. It left because a larger blue was coming in. The larger blue did come in, but it was not a player, it was a fly-bye. Finally as we approached the dirty water, a 3rd blue showed up. This guy was a player and he hung around giving everyone a show. Our last day is coming up, I hope it is a good one for us.
August 6, 2007
Hi, this is staff photographer, Andy Murch, filling in for Eli today. Officially, Eli is exhausted from a busy day of chumming for Makos so I am writing his blog for him. Actually, the bar in our hotel was about to close so he rushed down there to get a beer.
Staff shooter- Andy Murch, Eli in background shot
Today was our first day on the water with our guests. The day started with us manically racing around San Diego hunting for chum because someone bought up every scrap of chum from the marina store where we expected to buy it. We eventually found what we needed and headed out to sea with a boat full of eager shark divers.
I think we were both nervous (me and Eli), because we were trying to copy our friend Walter Heim's methods to bring in Makos but we were not exactly sure where to go, what the sharks would think of our chum (Walter grinds his own secret recipe), and how the sharks would react to the big boat that we had chartered.
When we hit the continental shelf we dropped in the chum bucket and hang baits and plugged in our secret weapon - the Mako Magnet. It vibrated weakly and then died. Upon close inspection it turned out that on the previous day a Mako had bitten through the membrane so it had filled with water. Without the magnet our job would be even more challenging and we set to work on the chum slick.
It took three scary hours but finally a 4.5ft Blue shark nailed the hang bait and the boat sprang to life. Another blue soon appeared and these two sharks remained with us for a couple of hours.
Pro photographer, Brandon Cole was in the water shooting away and suddenly shouted "Mako!" As soon as I heard this word I stopped worrying about satisfying the guests and started worrying about how the Mako would interact with them. It was a small Mako but judging by its scars it was a scrapper. After taking the bait it circled the divers and ran right into one person's face mask. I think the diver (Randy) was thrilled that this happened!
Pro shooter Brandon Cole
We returned happy in the knowledge that everyone got Blue Sharks and a Mako. Tomorrow we'll be fine tuning our techniques to see how many more we can bring in.
Ok, thats enough for now. Maybe the bar is still open!
August 4, 2007
Our day began at 8 AM. We met up with my good friend Walter 'The Mako Man' Heim for a day of fun, chumming up sharks. There is nothing better in the world than to go out with some really good friends doing what you love.
Walter 'The Mako Man' Heim. Walter is really a great guy, and very good at finding these sharks
We met up at the Dana Landing launch pad, where Walter dropped his boat and took us 10 miles out seeking out mako sharks. It is so risky when your out there seeking pelagic sharks, you just never know what to expect. You can easily get skunked, because the sharks may not be there, or if your in the wrong spot, no sharks show up, whatever. But Walter is really good at what he does, and he knows where to go. Of course this is after years of trial and error, he has perfected his craft. So today he took us right to the sweet spot.
Heading out for makos on Walter's Bayrunner Baja. I love that boat.
Todays trip was not part of our reader trips. This was a scouting trip to see where the sharks were, how much chum we would need to bring them in, how the sharks would behave with two or three people in the water. If they would stick around with more than three people in the water, and also to have some fun with our buddy Walter.
Along the way we ran into a school of Risso Dolphins. I am not a dolphin guy, in fact I will admit this dark truth, I would prefer seeing a dolphin getting chewed on by a big tiger shark, naturally of course- (sorry you all, a dark truth is never pretty). But these rissos were really cool mammals, I enjoyed seeing them. I even hoped to get in the water with them. Andy was trying to jump in the water with them, but they wanted nothing to do with him. Every time he jumped in, they would either drop out of sight, or turn sharply in the other direction. He never even glimpsed them underwater.
Risso dolphin spy hoping checking us out on the boat.
I shot a breaching risso. loving my job. No trainer with a whistle , just a free dolphin, doing its thing!
So we finally manage to move away from the rissos and hit our 10 mile mark. Once we were there Walter set out the chum, and we began our wait. Bets were taken as to how long before the first mako would show up. I said an hour, Walter said 2. Raf said an 1 1/2, Andy said 45 minutes, but Paul said 39 minutes. I was hoping Paul was right, and we would not have to wait long. Makos and blues are hard to get. They are pelagic species and hard to get in, but exciting for us, Paul ended up being right, or close to right. The first mako showed in less than 30 minutes. I jumped in with the shark, but our interaction ended quick. This mako was a very aggressive 4 foot shark. I was the only one in the water with the shark, and it kept circling me, over and over again, getting more agressive as time went on. It got too close, so I tapped it with my camera, and it took off and never came back.
Image of a mako shark. Murky water today, makes it hard to shoot these sharks
All in all it was an amazing day. We ended up seeing 7 different mako sharks, and 3 blue sharks. Walter has been out 10 times this year, and it was his best day yet. I can't wait for what our reader trip on Monday is going to bring... More details about our day in the water later. I am just tired.
August 3, 2007
Last night we hooked up with Eddie Paul for dinner. He was kind enough to give me one of the props from the sharks he was making it was the top of a tail fin. When a sharks dorsal fin breaks the surface so does the caudal fin, or tail fin. So he gave me a tail fin. Which was cool. He is going to send me a dorsal fin as well.
It was cool, I called him at 7 PM, and he told me to come by the shop and see the finished shark props that were about to be shipped off to the movie set. We rushed over and got to see them before they were trucked off to the movie set.
The dead sharks ready to hit the movie set of 'Shark Swarm'
Chatting with Eddie Paul before we headed out for dinner
It was such a thrill to be able to witness all this. The sharks were driven away and we were walking back to the truck, when Paul Spielvogel, our staff photog asked Eddie what kind of car was hidden beneath the car cover. Eddie said, "oh that's one of the cars we created for the movie Triple X, for Vin Diesel." We had to see it. Eddie was commissioned to create several of these cars, and he liked it so much that he decided to make an extra one for himself.
Car created for the movie Triple X
While we were at dinner, we asked them to change it to Discovery Channel. The show Air Jaws II was playing on the tube. And of course, who ends up popping on screen, Eddie Paul. He created the seals they used for the show. We jokingly asked him if he planned it? He swears he did not. We were just teasing him, I know he did not. Eddie is a first class guy, I hope we can work together in the future.
A piece of history. A seasl created for the very famous 'Air Jaws II' doco. Its covered in dust.
Paul did a good job of photo documenting our time with Eddie, I was happy with the shots. His office manager Megaly, and his staff back at home, hate when he leaves for these long work adventures, so I have to do a quick shout out to them, thanking them, for letting him leave for this assignment on behalf of the mag.
So we are currently in San Diego. Tomorrow is our first day in the water. We meet up with Walter 'The Mako Man' Heim tomorrow for a fun day with my crew chumming up makos. Andy Murch, staff photog, just showed up a little while ago. So it will be me, Raf, our underwater camerman, Paul, and Andy (2 cameras in the water) heading out. We were originally going to go out to try and chum up soupfin 'tope' sharks, but that would be too hit or miss, and I really want to see if we could get an extra day with mako sharks. We will try for soupfin on Sunday...
August 2, 2007
I am in California. I got here yesterday with shark photographer Paul 'Chum'
Spielvogel, and underwater cameraman Raf Flores. We arrived in LA yesterday and hooked up with one of my best friends from high school Tommy Jordan. Tom picked us up from the airport and took us down to his place. We are staying here for a couple of days before we head up to San Diego for the mako shark dive. It was great catching up, I only get to see him a couple of times a year, when I visit Cali.
Today was a great morning. I spent it at Eddie Paul's Shark Shop. Eddie Paul is a Hollywood magic man. He created the cars for the Fast and the Furious, stuff for T2, E.T. and so on, and so on. Now more important and impressive to us is his shark work. He has created shark props for the Cousteau's. He built the shark sub for Fabian Cousteau, and is working on all the shark props, for a shark scare movie. It was a thrill to hang out with him and see all the different projects he has worked on through the years. What was wild was I was familiar with many of the things he has done, through books and Imax movies and such. Of course I had no idea who was creating all this stuff when I saw it, or read it. Now I know.
The man, Eddie Paul- holding the greatest mag in the world!
Walking through Eddie's office checking out all the different projects he has worked on.
Interviewing Eddie, picking his brain, he was very cool, and so down to earth
One of the sharks Eddie created for an upcoming film called, shark swarm
It was so interesting talking to him. We talked for over 2 hours. He was telling us fun stories. One being when he was shooting with Rodney Fox in Australia for I-Max. They were waiting for sharks to show up, so they were on stand by. They were up late drinking the night away when they got the call at 2 AM that the sharks showed up. Now these are great whites they are looking for. So they get on the boat, all trashed and head out to Dangerous Reef. Eddie and one of his guys, gets in the water to fix the bouyancy on the fake shark. They are doing this in the dead of night. They set the shark up, come up and ask how long before thy get to Dangerous Reef? They then inform them that they are there. Not long after, a fin breaks the surface.
We had to leave, something I did not want to do, I was having too much fun. This was another one of those moments where I stop and look at my life and need to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming. We left because Eddie has a deadline to meet. But we are having dinner tonite with Eddie and his wife Renee so that is cool, I am looking forward to that.
So Shark Week has begun. I am getting the emails and the calls. It is always a mixed crowd. Shark Week has become a blood bath, and gore fest. It is really no longer about education, it is about Hollywood drama. I have mixed emotions. Shark Week is both good and bad. When Jaws came out in 75, many people were scared out of the water, but it also had a reverse effect or many. Lots of people became marine biologists as well. I think if shark eco-tourim was around back then, there would of been a huge surge of new shark divers, but all that was available during that time was marine biology. I think the same holds true today. Many people will watch shark week, and some will not go diving, but chances are, they never wanted to go diving. And they shouldn't. But others will be inspired and want to see sharks in the wild. Naturally I wish that the programs were all pro sharks, and less blood fest, but the people who get excited by sharks will begin the research and want to go shark diving.
But everyone is jumping on the band wagon. Gary Adkison called me this morning. A UK production company called him wanting to interview someone who has been bitten by a shark. Gary thought of Kent Bonde. Kent was bitten by a bull shark years ago, and is pro shark advocate. Gary wanted someone who would not villify sharks. So he called me and asked me if I had Kent's number. I called my office and got it for him. So I hope the interview went well, Kent is a good guy.