For some extreme adventure-type people, swimming with Great Whites is a no-brainer. For the rest of us — the citified, the neurotic, the rational – it’s utter insanity. Great Whites are evil monsters whose only objective is to treat you like you treat yellowtail sashimi or a ham sandwich. They’re evil. You could die in a cage while they glide around you, beady eyes dead set on your flesh. Which is pretty much exactly why I decided to plunk my flesh into a cage for three days and face these man-eating psycho fish.
Since I survived the trip and even came away a wee bit addicted to the experience, I’d like to share a few tips to maybe nudge into the cage any of you who say, “That’s so crazy I could NEVER do that.” I think you could. And should.
Raise the money. If you can’t afford it, find a way. We find ways to pay for martinis and overpriced Pinot Noir week after week, so surely saving some cash each month until next fall when the best dives happen isn’t such a pipe dream. No one on my trip was a gazillionaire; they were just passionate people making their dreams happen. Sounds super cliché, but it’s true.
Commit. Let’s not go the easy route and switch to an afternoon with nurse sharks or Makos, cool as I’m sure they are. Go balls out with Great Whites. And a day trip won’t do – what if none show up? The whole hog is basically four nights on a boat in the middle of the ocean in a Great White infested area. You may have thoughts like, “What if the boat sinks?” or “”What if someone gets drunk and falls overboard – like me?” but elbow that neuroticism away. It’s your enemy.
Don’t wimp out. The day of departure just put one foot in front of the other, pop some Bonine like it’s Quaaludes and you’re starring in Valley of the Dolls, and get on the boat. Panic and paranoia will burgle your brain but beat them up, push them out, screw ‘em.
Move in a forward motion. When it’s time to suit up and get into the water, make it your mission to move forward in the direction of the cage, even if you see three or four 15-foot Great White sharks circling around. The cages will bob around and you’ll have to scoot into them and pray you don’t topple into the water, but you’ll be fine. Breathe. Don’t freak. Focus. Climb down. Don’t have a panic attack. Embrace the moment and all that. Really – embrace the moment. Even if you die, you DID IT.
You’re in the cage! Your adrenaline will probably be performing a gymnastics routine beneath your wetsuit, and that’s OK. It’ll turn from an adrenaline rush to an adrenaline drip eventually. Again, breathe. And soon enough it’ll happen, and sure you’ll be scared as all hell, but it’ll be worth it. Any other worry you’ve experienced in life will suddenly and magically VANISH. This happens when your eyeballs land on your very first Great White Shark.
It’ll change you. Not in an obvious, Hollywood coming-of-age “I was never the same after that summer in the country” kind of way, but in subtle ways. You’ll also realize that Great Whites aren’t man-eating psycho fish. They’re pretty peaceful (not peaceful like a lapdog or a sloth but still). They’re just creatures who happen to have rows of razor sharp teeth – they can’t help it. But really the main reason I’m urging you to not say, “I could never do that” and instead climb into the cage is it might just help you remember that all our little neurotic city worries about love and jobs and late trains and cancelled flights and traffic jams and jury duty really don’t matter at all. And then? You can just breathe.