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  • Swimming with sharks

    A couple months ago Samantha and John Hook invited me to go diving with sharks...sans cage. I immediately accepted without thinking that it was a day and a half away and I didn't have a mask or snorkel or fins - necessary tools for seeing and fleeing. I was more excited than scared, probably because I didn't have time to psych myself out.

    Juan Oliphant and Ocean Ramsey of One Ocean Diving took us 3 miles off the coast where they regularly visit a large group of sharks. They have names for most of the sharks, but right now I only remember "Bully." He had scars on his head. During the ride out, Juan told us about the work he and Ocean do to raise awareness about sharks and help to end the shark cull. I remember them saying, sharks are like puppies. They're curious and playful so they will come right up to you and check you out. But like puppies, they can get riled up, so just remain calm. This was great advice, because I LOVE puppies. Who doesn't love puppies? As strange as it sounds, hearing this actually altered my perception of sharks. (Yes, I am easily swayed once puppies enter the equation.)

    I refuse to watch shark films because I love surfing and playing in the ocean, and I'm afraid those films will keep me out of the water. If you want me to leave a room, play Jaws. It's disappointing that sharks are regularly portrayed as aggressive man-eating monsters. Being in the water with these beautiful creatures - lots of them - made me feel much more at ease. I learned that sharks don't like eye contact, so if they get closer than you like, look them in the eye and they will swim away. Although I'm sure I will still be nervous if I'm alone in the water with a large shark, I have a better understanding and appreciation of them now.

    John generously let me borrow his camera and water housing for this adventure. Thank you, John! And thanks to Ocean Ramsey for capturing a few of these shots, including the ones of me/my legs.

    This lone fish was hilarious. I think he was trying to find protection from the sharks. He was probably the most frightening thing out there because he kept popping up right next to our faces.

    I tried to take an underwater shot of Sam and John. We didn't specify the depth. It turned out...funny.

    Today is the Hooks' anniversary! Happy love day to you two awesome people. Thanks for inviting me on this adventure! And thanks for letting me crash your anniversary surf this morning. :)