Learn how to minimize chances of an adverse shark encounter as well as critical information about shark behavior, shark personalities, shark language, what to do in the unlikely event a shark bites you, and more in 20-plus video lessons in Ocean Ramsey’s Guide to Sharks and Safety. Early access pricing expires soon, so enroll now.
“Take seasick pills tonight and one more tomorrow at minimum one hour before we leave just in case, cause there’s still a lot of swell.”
I had committed to joining world-renowned shark researcher and conservationist Ocean Ramsey and her husband, esteemed photographer and fellow shark advocate, Juan Oliphant on a shark dive earlier in the week, and Ocean was kind enough to shoot me a warning text the night before the dive. It was pouring on the North Shore on a warm November night, and the swell hadn’t quite dissipated. Far from it. The seas were still rough. So aside from a fear of sharks reinforced by a lifetime of scary narratives and media coverage, I had another concern: seasickness.
I took Ocean’s advice and picked up a generic brand of Dramamine at Foodland. I took one before going to sleep under the slosh of rain on the roof and another at sunrise.
I’m highly sensitive to drugs of any type, and the Dramamine lulled me into something of a meditative trance as I climbed into One Ocean Diving’s boat with Ocean and Juan that morning at the Haleiwa Harbor. Ocean shared an educational presentation that clearly illustrated the unthinkable damage humans inflict upon sharks each year (shocking stat: 100,000,000 sharks are killed each year by humans while sharks kill barely 10 people). We made our way to our final destination: an orange buoy where she guaranteed that we would encounter sharks. They’d seen tiger sharks that week, too, so they said we might see that breed as well.
“If we were lucky.”
I fancy myself something of an environmentalist and advocate for the protection of our precious, natural species. But, man, was I terrified by the prospect of encountering a tiger shark. I decided that it was an excellent decision to take the Dramamine, because not only did I feel no signs of dizzying nausea, I slid into the blue Pacific as cool as a cucumber. My heart rate felt low. My dial was turned way down. I’m certain it was on account of the Dramamine. I’d also started freediving for lobsters a few months prior, and I was getting more comfortable keeping my calm and exerting as little energy as possible underwater. But without that Dramamine, I’d have been an anxious wreck.
Once in the water, I looked above and below, as Ocean instructed. She says that looking around mimics predatory behavior. That’s a good thing. It would keep me much safer than locking my gaze on any single target. “Look around,” she repeated before jumping in the ocean.
The ocean wrapped me in a blue I’d never seen. It felt like a mint jelly soup – otherworldly when compared to my comfort zone of seeking out waves in the impact zone. Suddenly, I looked beneath my fins, and about 30 shark silhouettes had appeared. The silhouettes danced closer and closer to me. Ocean glided down towards them. She turned and pointed at me, inviting me to join her.
I tried to swim calmly, as if this were normal. Just an average swim in the Pacific with my 32 shark buddies. If I were surfing alone in California, I’d be on fire with my heart in my throat. I would have freaked out. I’m not sure what I would have done beyond feel terror and attempt to get to shore as quickly as possible. Instead, I looked at the shark figures, and I approached them as calmly as I could.
I thought, “I’m just going to stay calm and appreciate this experience and the fear I feel right now. Look at Ocean. She seems relaxed. She does this…with tourists…every day. This will be okay. …I hope.”
My breathhold isn’t impressive, and I’m sure my heart rate quickened, so I didn’t make it down very far. But I swam toward the 32 Galapagos and sand bark sharks multiple times, and suspended in that deep blue ocean, I began to see sharks in a completely different light.
It was an objectively positive encounter. It was peaceful and educational, and for the first time, I had a powerful, personal interaction with sharks. That experience was a direct result of Ocean Ramsey and Juan Oliphant’s lifelong dedication to shark conservation. And through their unique and sometimes controversial approach to conservation: inspiration.
“I hope to inspire a shift from fear to fascination,” says Ocean Ramsey. “And so I’m grateful to be a part of that, to start to create those conversations around sharks: What are they really like? And what’s going on with them? And all of a sudden, it’s fear to fascination, replacing fear with scientific facts and allowing people to see another side, and actually, the reality.”
Ramsey understands that sensationalism and fear sell. She also grew up surfing, and she understands surfers’ fear of sharks.
“I get it,” she says. “The perception and concern about sharks from a surfer’s perspective. I still try to sneak out for an hour here and there to surf in the winter.”
“I specifically study agnostic, territorial body movements, threat displays, and specifics on swim patterns,” says Ramsey. “The reason again that I study this is that I want to share this to help people to avoid adverse interactions. Sharks utilize this language to establish their social hierarchy and to avoid physical confrontations.”
After that dive and a few conversations with Ocean and Juan, we decided to make something akin to this experience accessible to everyone through her new digital course, Ocean Ramsey’s Guide to Shark Behavior and Safety. After all, it’s essentially impossible to get to Oahu right now, and she’ll be the first to admit that many people don’t have the nerves to actually dive with sharks. After a lifetime of hearing a disproportionate number of gory murder stories, people are scared.
Now, they have much less to fear.
In her course, Ramsey shares her lifetime of insights and expertise on shark behavior, shark personalities, shark bites, how to avoid adverse encounters with sharks, what to do if you encounter a shark while swimming, snorkeling, diving, spearfishing, shark conservation, and more. She and Juan have collected mind-blowing footage over the years that’s never been seen of their personal interactions with sharks, and they’ve made it available in this 20-chapter class.
“I really wanted to address what I feel everyone in the world should know about sharks,” says Ocean. “Not only for their own personal safety, so that they can have healthier, more respectful interactions with sharks and the ocean. But also, I hope people are inspired to help save the lives of sharks. With this information, I hope people will learn to appreciate sharks for their role as apex predators.”
“That’s why I do what I do every day, seven days a week, studying them, sharing that with people,” she says. “I hope that you’re inspired by this course, and I hope that you take something away with it, enough that you’ll be able to speak up for those without a voice as well.”
The best thing about it? No Dramamine required.
Learn how to minimize chances of an adverse shark encounter as well as essential information about shark behavior, shark personalities, shark language, what to do if a shark bites you, and more in 20+ video lessons in Ocean Ramsey’s Guide to Sharks and Safety. Early access pricing expires soon, so enroll now. Special thanks to Juan Oliphant for providing so many gorgeous and nearly-impossible-to-acquire visuals for this project. View more of Juan’s work here and on Instagram at @juansharks.