This is something we do not recommend to all and sundry, but Michael Rutzen from South Africa, otherwise known as ‘Sharkman’, seems to get away with it. He has turned the art of scuba diving and snorkeling into a seriously extreme sport.
Rutzen eats, sleeps, breathes and dreams of sharks and is on a one-man crusade to prove that rather than being the crazed man-eater from “Jaws”, they are in fact sociable and approachable creatures – to anyone who understands their body language. brettlock screened this video for us.
He loves sharks. He has an empathy with them, an appreciation of the magnificent beast that they are, and he is keen to show everyone the other side to one of the world’s most fearsome creatures.
He started out as a fisherman, but as tourism grew in his coastal region he became a boat skipper taking tourists out into the ocean to see Great White’s. It was at this point that he learned to love the fish.
He learned how to freedive with sharks from Andre Hartman and then learned how to adopt his posture and interpret the sharks behaviour to avoid being attacked.
Mike eventually opened up his own shark boat for cage diving. His company Shark Diving Unlimited has since become the world’s first to offer a PADI specialisation qualification on white sharks.
When asked exactly what it was he was trying to prove with his research and his shark cage diving business, Mike said: “I would like to get people out there and teach them a little bit about this animal if possible. Try to let them go away with a little bit of positive knowledge and respect for the sharks. If we can achieve that little thing, these animals will be here for a long time. Because all the animals on earth that died out, nobody knew about until they got into a book that says ‘extinct’, and these Sharks that have survived all these millions of years, they deserve to be here.”
He has appeared in his own television show for the Discovery Channel – called Sharkman. In the program he toured the world diving with different species of sharks and demonstrated their tonic immobility reflex (DiscoveryNetworks ).
He has dedicated his life to the study of sharks and the Great White in particular. The Great White is unanimously considered the most dangerous and fierce shark on the planet. Although there is proof that the Great White is dangerous and capable of deadly attacks on humans there isn’t a lot of evidence that they are man eaters as shown in the movie “Jaws”.
Michael has been working to dispel this ideology about the Great White.
He is, however, under no illusions that it is a dangerous and unpredictable creature and he takes no unneccessary risks. “There is only one proven fact about White Sharks, most probably all sharks but White Sharks in particular, and that is that they are highly unpredictable. You can get methods of doing something that usually works one way and then you get Sharks that prove you totally wrong, and that’s in every interaction you do with the animals. That’s the odds you take. Sometimes it works to your advantage and sometimes it’s very much to your disadvantage, like I have found out a few times when I was cut,” he says.
He is quick to caution anyone who thinks they can hop into the ocean to have a closer look at this great fish. He is a highly trained professional and doesn’t want anyone to get hurt trying to do what he does unless they have been trained and educated for years and know how to free dive properly with sharks. He does NOT recommend freediving with sharks for tourists or thrill seekers as “we cannot train our tourists fast enough to learn all there is to know.”
Please bear that in mind!