Saturday, May 31, 2008

Why dive with sharks?

I am still a little amazed by the reaction I get from people when I tell them what I do.

I am working to save sharks – a species facing a seemingly inevitable and closely looming extinction. As a Shark Angel and a director of Shark Savers, I raise public awareness about the issue, I educate people on the truth about sharks, and I tirelessly fight for their protection and against those that are destroying them.

But what seems to be of most interest - though completely happenstance to me - and what I love most… I dive with sharks.

Yes. I dive with sharks. Quite often. All over the world with all types of sharks including those most feared – great whites, tigers, bulls and hammerheads. And I do this up close and personal - outside of the “safety” of cages.

The responses I get range from disbelief, shock and awe, instant respect, or an immediate proclamation that I am insane.

But I don’t do it to surprise or impress people. I am not crazy nor am I seeking an amped-up adrenaline rush. And I don’t have some sort of death wish…

Why do I dive with sharks? I dive with sharks to save them.

The "fiercest" predator on the planet desperately needs our help. Desired for their fins, over 100,000,000 sharks are killed each year, and 90% of many shark species are almost extinct. Recent studies indicate that the great sharks, the tigers, the greater hammerheads, and the bull sharks, are 98% extinct from the North Atlantic waters.

Sadly, the public’s interest in sharks seems inexhaustible. An interest in the macabre – not the grim reality the sharks’ now face. The media feeds on our fears and provides us with embellished stories of vicious attacks by mindless man-eating monsters. The reality is quite different. There are very few shark attacks worldwide. Last year only one person died from a shark attack. In contrast, and what we don’t hear, is that sharks are the most hunted animal on the planet.

Even if you don’t have a passion for sharks like I do, they are still critically important to the planet, and we should all care very much about their conservation. As an apex predator, they are vital to the health oceans, the most important ecosystem on the planet – providing a major source of our oxygen and food. The oceans are kept in balance by sharks, who at the top of the food chain, regulate this ecosystem. The oceans - our very life support systems - are being destroyed.

Why are we brutally killing so many sharks? Primarily for sharkfin soup. A status symbol in many Asian countries. And soup consumption is on the rise.

So I dive with sharks to shift people’s perspectives on a mal-aligned and often despised species. To challenge our collective misconceptions. To bring awareness to an issue few know much about. To help ensure the sharks’ survival.

I have logged hundreds of dives and have spent countless hours underwater with sharks. But before you are impressed, know it is not as glamorously dangerous as it seems.

While there is inherent risk in all that we do, the risk of injury - let alone death - while diving with sharks is incredibly low. This year marks the first reported death from a shark bite on record during an organized shark dive. In comparison, many common leisure activities such as biking, swimming, and boating are statistically far more dangerous than diving with sharks.

In my own personal experiences diving with sharks, both with and without bait in the water, the sharks have gone out of their way to avoid contact with humans. Sharks clearly do not see people as prey, and even with bait in the water, I have never seen a shark exhibit aggressive behavior towards me. We are simply not on their menu.

As a responsible shark conservationist, I do realize these are wild animals and that there is some risk involved when I step into their habitat. With proper safety protocols, experience, and training, this infinitesimal risk is small when compared to the reward: the chance to experience an intimate encounter with one of the greatest species on our earth. And more importantly, share these encounters with others.

These interactions are captured on film, as part of the Shark Angels project, to enable others to develop a healthy respect and even compassion for this seriously misunderstood animal. So those people who do not dive with sharks can get a new perspective – counter to Jaws, counter to Shark Week.

And, as we continue to deplete populations and chase sharks to the brink of extinction, it is more important than ever to encourage people to care about sharks and gain an appreciation for their true character.

We tend to protect the things we understand, and sharks are largely out of sight, out of mind for us. Allowing others to live vicariously through the Shark Angels' experiences, I hope will be a powerful conservation tool to protect them. When you come virtually face to fin with the “world’s most dangerous sharks”, I believe you will realize as I have, that sharks aren’t the enemies - the only thing we have to fear is ourselves.

Our collective irrational fear of sharks entirely based upon myths and misconceptions, I think, explains our lack of desire to conserve them. Through awareness and understanding, I am on a personal mission to change all that. And of course spend as much time as I can in the water surrounded by the creatures for whom I have an incredible respect, interest and passion.

I hope that what the Angels (and I) do will shift your perspective – and you will want to save sharks too. But act quickly, because sadly, they are almost gone from this planet and soon, no one will be able to experience their magnificence.

(Photos by Jim Abernethy, Roger Horrocks, Jeff Rotman and Eric Cheng.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I barely escaped alive...

(Photo by Jim Abernethy.)

I had a terrifying experience today. I was stalked, terrorized and even had to fight off a vicious attack. My heart raced as I narrowly escaped the predator – barely making it away unscathed. Others, I knew, hadn’t been so lucky.

I spent the day diving with sharks. Caribbean Reef Sharks to be exact.

But it wasn’t while I found myself surrounded a dozen sharks quickly darting around me from all directions coming close enough to brush my fins. Hardly. Sharks are not viciously cunning, nor do they prey on humans.

No, after being in the water with what are considered “man-eaters”, I found myself scared of a bird.

Not just any bird – a parrot named Zoe Bird. A mean parrot who has a chip on her shoulders – and just plain doesn’t like anyone other than her Dad. Upon entering the empty house of my host, Jim’s voice rung out in my ears “If Zoe Bird let herself out of the cage, DO NOT go in. She will attack you.” Much to my dismay, not only had she slyly let herself out of the cage (and barely left the door open, tricking me into believing she was still in the cage), she was quietly awaiting my arrival in the guest bedroom.

Squaking, feathers flying and lunging at me with a very, very sharp beak, I was driven from the house in a panic, happy to have gotten outside without Zoe Bird drawing any blood.

Funny. Most people would think diving with sharks is the dangerous situation. In fact, house pets are far more threatening.

(Photo by Jim Abernethy.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Three Charlies and an Angel

(Eric, Raquel, Julie, Jim, Matt's Brother, Matt, Cannon)

If you can't actually be in the water with sharks, then the next best thing is to share shark stories all night long with others who have as much of a passion for sharks as much as you do!

Today, I headed to West Palm Beach for an amazing opportunity: I got to hang out with three of my favorite people – and three hot shark studs. A photographer, a shark diver (and photographer), and a scientist…

Eric Cheng is one of the most talented underwater photographers I know. Just check out Wet Pixel and quite certainly you will agree. And he is humble, kind and the type of guy you just want to be around. I met him during the Shark Angels project and we have been friends ever since.

Matt Potenski is a whale shark researcher who spends half his year in Tanzania satellite tagging whale sharks. He is working with Ecocean to ID the sharks and also creating a program for the locals to get involved in the identification of the sharks. The other half of the year he works with Doc Gruber… well, that was until he retired.

And Jim Abernethy is a dear friend and someone I have a deep, deep admiration for. I have gone on the record many, many times ranting about Jimmy, so you can just google it instead of me going on and on. But, suffice it to say he is one of the most passionate sharkies I know…

We spent an evening catching each other up and sharing shark tales… And this angel got to spend a night with three of her “charlies”.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Go Big

It is a phrase I love. If you do anything… do it big. Don’t hold back. My friend Roger always uses it, and I think it has become my new mantra. I thought of it today when I got a note from him asking if I wanted to be in a piece (on shark conservation) for German Playboy. But he, and that, are stories for another day.

Fearless is often a word used to describe me. Which actually surprised me in the beginning, because I am afraid of a lot. But, I have come to realize that it is not used to describe me because I dive with sharks, am not terrified of bugs (well ok, maybe those ones with pinchers on their butts just a little), or love snakes. I think it is used because I go big. I approach just about everything in life with enthusiasm and what may be considered by some to be irrational exuberance. But, I prefer to call it a passion for life. I don’t let anything stop me… I crazily will do and try just about anything. I am totally obsessed and try to become great at everything I do, throwing myself completely into whatever the task at hand is. I am irreverent. I love excitement and a little bit of dare.

And, so I guess that is fearless.

Today, after spending three days with my father in Sarasota, watching this 62 year old man whipping around, weaving in and out of the wake on his slalom waterski like a 20 year old, drag-racing cigarette boats with our supercharged waverunner and leaving them in the dust as I clung on for dear life, and laughing hysterically as he almost sank the jetski jumping eight foot waves in Sarasota Bay, I realized where I get it from. (I must admit, I was laughing too… there is nothing better than that moment of “Oh Sh*t. When the heck are we going to land?!?” followed by the rewarding plunge and wall of water once you hit.) And, my heart smiled as I was reminded once again how crazy I am for my dad.

So the Andersen gene is a fearless one. My brother Bruce is a race car driver who is also an instructor for Lotus. My father, well, he is a race car driver, sailor, diver, world-traveler, you name it. Now he wants to windsurf too. My poor mom. Fortunately, what I do is statistically the least dangerous, so I am the focus of the least amount of attention. You should see her friends' eyes widen when she talks about her kids… then they share their condolences.

My dad is the one who taught me how to dive. After he got certified, within a year’s time, my whole family got certified (first me, then my brother, then my mom.) It became a way for an adult family to share something special, and we traveled the world together – Belize, Thailand, Burma, Hawaii, Tahiti – exploring the ocean. I still try to go on at least one trip a year with my dad - it has become a special way for us to spend time together. The last time we went on a trip together, it was to Cocos Island. Magical.

I am in Sarasota to spend some serious quality time with Dad, who I never get to see. He works in Florida so it isn’t often that we get this kind of luxury. We spent the weekend playing on the water, with me completely obsessed on conquering something I have had at the top of my list of things I am desperate to accomplish - since I was eight years old and saw my cousins excel at it… Yes, I have always wanted to slalom waterski. So, I spent the weekend tirelessly smacking the living daylights out of myself smashing into the water time and time again until I FINALLY DID IT. And, now, I am totally rocking it outside the wake, cutting in and out, jumping waves, GOING BIG. Though I feel like I have been put thru a meat grinder, I am riding high as I add Slalom Waterskier proudly to my resume. Take that cousin Beth and Jeannie!

And when Dad got the skiing rope sucked up into the waverunner (note HE did it, not ME), I had the chance to conquer my biggest fear IN THE WORLD. I had to touch a muddy, slimy seaweed-y bottom with my bare feet. Yes, this Shark Angel is terrified of murky, oozy mud and creepy crawly grass on bottoms you just can't see as they wrap sinisterly around your ankles. I have NEVER been able to touch that stuff - it is the stuff my nightmares are made of. Dad had absolutely no patience for my girl-y squeals and what bordered on a panic attack, snarling "This from a girl who dives with sharks."

After a large piece of seaweed entwined itself all the way up to my knee like some sort of evil creature pulling me deep into the mud probably to tear me limb from limb as I suffocate in the slime, I scrambled back onto the Waverunner and told Dad to call Sea Tow. There is NO WAY I am going that big.

Well, I guess this Shark Girl isn't completely fearless.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Feeding a Predator... Does it Turn Us Into Prey?

This cute little guy is a Black-Crowned Night Heron. He is a predator that eats fish, hunting all day long.

This particular heron is my buddy. He spends his days waiting for a hand-out at the boat launch near Mote Marine, frequented by fisherman who will give him a bit of their catch. (I must say his cute little eyes are hard to say no to.) I constantly see people feed him – in fact I saw someone throw him a fish half his size today.

He has definitely become accustomed to people in that he is not afraid to be near them, as he sits on the docks evaluating each boat to determine if they may be his next meal ticket. He is very smart, and knows exactly who has fish for him. He never gets too close nor does he view the fisherman for anything other than what they are: easy suppliers of food.

Oddly, though, no one is afraid that feeding this Heron is going to make him more likely to senselessly attack them, voraciously addicted to the food that they give to him. It is unfathomable that this bird, who is being fed fish on a daily basis by fisherman, could or would possibly put the same fisherman on his menu. Or attack them confusing the fishermen for his real food source – fish.

So why on earth do we think sharks, who are far more intelligent than this heron and, like this heron, do not have us on their menu, would?

It makes absolutely no sense.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Hero is a Pirate

When I went to Starbucks today, the cashier looked at me like he couldn’t understand what I was ordering. I said it four times. Turns out, he was just entranced by my baseball hat…. which had the Sea Shepherd Jolly Roger (pirate) logo on it. “Sea Shepherd!!!” He exclaimed and thrust out his hand to vigorously shake mine. “Thank you. Thank you so much for what you do. You guys are amazing.”

And they are. And, I am lucky enough to work with and be good friends with both Kim McCoy, a fellow Shark Angel and Executive Director of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and also, Captain Paul Watson – the iconic leader of the organization.

Paul is one of the strongest and most heroic people I know. His passion for all living creatures on this planet is endless, as is his intellect, his strength and his undying commitment to his cause. To protect the oceans and all that live within it. To enforce the laws that no one enforces. Dolphins, Whales, Sharks – they are all almost extinct. And Sea Shepherd combats those that threaten the lives of the few that remain. They are all about action. They ARE good, instead of working at looking good. It isn’t about egos or positioning, it is about making a difference on this planet. About fighting the good fight – that everyone else just turns a blind eye too. These are MY kind of people.

In fact, I hope to join them in the Galapagos in August to fight the sharkfinning issues and the Antarctic Whale Campaign (if one is necessary this year) in December.

Paul was just in town for a week again – he left Monday. I was able to spend quite a good deal of time with him this trip (as well as with his girlfriend Claudette) plotting about how to save the planet, listening to his stories and deep insights, hanging out in NYC, and just enjoying his company. It always amazes me that my hero – the man who is on the frontline of the battles to save the creatures I hold so dear – is also a real person. One I can giggle like a school girl with about some piece of gossip or plot on how to end the madness of drumlines in South Africa.

I love that when I am out with him, he is often recognized. People whisper around him “Is it? No… couldn’t be.” Then, they predictably meet my eyes as if to ask if it truly is – and plea for an invitation. They always get it, because Paul is incredibly humble. And I love it, not because I am star struck or get off on a silly notion that I am hanging out with someone meaninglessly famous, but that Paul, who has sacrificed everything and dedicated his whole life to doing something that is truly making a difference for all of us, is adored and revered like a celebrity. The only difference is, he truly is – and is doing something that is worth worshiping – instead of a silly basketball player, b-list actor, rich socialite or rap star. He deserves every moment of positive attention showered on him.

And even more, I love that even though he has been doing this for decades and has a team of thousands of volunteers behind him, he still walks around with a pocket full of stickers, pasting his latest campaign wherever he goes. He isn’t above anything – and he is endlessly and tirelessly the protector of the sea – speaking out for the whales, the dolphins, the seals and the sharks, who don’t have voices of their own.

Some say Paul is a pirate. I say thank god he is - we need someone who isn't afraid to do what we all should be - if only we weren't so busy eating our tuna sushi, driving our hummers, and um, breathing oxygen. Oh wait? You mean, if we kill off all those creatures and don't start conserving our planet we won't have any of that?!?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Shameful Statistic...

According to the most recent WWF study, the US wins the extinction contest. Yes, the US has killed off more species than any other country in the planet. Seriously.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Shark vs. Man

I think the next time someone asks me why sharks, I am going to say “because I am hopelessly attracted to dangerous men, you know, the real bad boys – men who are absolutely awful for me. If a man is unavailable, far too confident for his own good, or a total player, rest assured this is the guy I want. So getting into the water with sharks is a much better option – keeping me away from the real predators…”

Wait, would that make me sound a little bitter?

In the last two days, I have received random SMS messages/calls from two different ex-boyfriends between the hours of 3 am and 4 am. I didn’t answer either, btw. Yes, I would chose sharks any day of the week. Way, way safer - and more considerate.

(Photo below by my friend Wolfgang Leander.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Shark Girls Go Wild in NYC!

(Persia White, me, Ashley Lou Smith, and Claudette Cassanovas at Karen Dawn's book party.)

Another fantastic evening at the launch party for Karen Dawn’s book, Thanking the Monkey, and new friendships are born.

Out again with Paul Watson and his girlfriend Claudette. This time, it was to attend our friend, Karen Dawn’s, book launch for her book dedicated to protecting those creatures on this planet that have no voice.

An incredible party filled with incredible people. A real a-list who's who of the animal rights world. Even cooler, there is nothing more invigorating than being around like-minded people who are fabulously – and wonderfully committed to saving our planet and all its inhabitants.

I was Shark Girl all night long. In a room filled with animal rights activists, being a Shark Girl is something captivatingly interesting – and compelling. It was such a wonderfully affirming evening. I walked away really feeling like the crazy decision I had made with my life wasn't so crazy.

At some point, a new plan was hatched. Persia White, Ashley Lou Smith, Rory Freedman, (three girls I am absolutely crazy about) and I would join Paul on his boat in Galapagos. All of them are desperate to dive with sharks. Well, that is after I convinced them they could do it with me leading the charge. I simply cannot help myself – I want everyone to experience sharks the way I have.

And, I think they would make absolutely incredible angels. So do they! Think Girls Gone Wild and Sea Hunter combined. No really. Sex sells… and so do sharks. And these girls are wiiild... I just saw a picture of Ashley showering in Times Square. Wow. So, let’s shock the world a bit by putting some wonderfully inspiring, intelligent and captivating (oh and also, did I mention hot) chicks in the water with the world’s most feared sharks… This Shark Angel will induct a whole new graduating class. Guaranteed to draw an audience, and once we have hooked them in, well then, we can open them up to the real message.

Stay tuned for this one. It promises to be hot! (Channeling Paris. Ok, so I am not above using a little shameless media to our benefit and cause instead of theirs. And, it is about time it was something other than shark porn.)(Persia, Claudette and I after dinner. Photo by Paul Watson.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Shark Swarm

An amazing coincidence, and one I have taken to interpret as an affirmation of my decision.

I try not to be, but I am always the crazy girl at the party who talks about sharks all night long, whipping out my iPhone to show proof that we simply aren’t on their menu. Though I do have other interests... it always comes up. And even when I am not the one bringing it up into the conversation, these days, I tend to get introduced by friends that way. Instead of “This is Julie, she just moved here from Chicago” or “This is Julie, she is in Advertising and works in Soho” or “This is Julie, she is that naughty Rat Terrier Maggie’s mom” I am now ALWAYS “This is Julie, and she dives with sharks”.

Yes, sharks are now my sound byte and I guess the most interesting thing about me. And not that I try to save them, but that I get into the water with them - especially the tigers and whites - outside of cages. But of course, it always gets to conservation.

The reaction is always the same… wide eyed looks of disbelief and a thousand questions. Which is great. Because at the end, typically the person walks away with a new perspective of sharks - and the realization that they are almost extinct. That happens in five minutes. Give me consistent exposure to someone, and they too, can’t help but be caught up in the passion. I think sharks were mentioned at least ten times a day at my office (with me only bringing them up two, I swear.) I would always smile when a Sr VP at Citibank would tell another Sr VP about sharks during a strategy meeting - without even realizing it had creeped into their consciousness.

Tonight, I found myself out at a Farm Sanctuary after-party with Paul Watson and his girlfriend Claudette. I was perched on a couch when I was introduced to a handsome guy named John who looked slightly familiar. He sat down next to me and got the usual story, but was still incredibly interested. ALL the pictures came out. We talked for hours about sharks, their role in the ecosystem, shark fin soup, their pending extinction… each time I tried to change the subject, he brought it back. His genuine level of interest, combined with my having consumed at least five cocktails, had me on a serious roll! I was abuzz with passion and excitement.

That’s when someone came over and said something about the Dukes of Hazard. Suddenly I realized I had been sitting next to the guy whose poster I had on my wall when I was 8 years old! Bo Duke defined an entire generation… mine! I guess talking his ear off about sharks probably should have been a bit humiliating… Most would dream of kissing the boy of their childhood dreams. Me, the shark nerd I am, I love that I had the opportunity to educate him on the creatures of my dreams... sharks!

Of course, I would get more excited about some obscure shark scientist that I idolize because they are studying white shark behavior, but I am not above geeking out on Bo… (who by the way, was way hotter and cooler than Luke.)

And far, far more pertinent and of more meaning to me, John Schneider just starred in “Shark Swarm” which is premiering on the Hallmark channel of all places next Sunday. Yes, the Shark Angel (though he refers to me as Shark Girl like so many other people do) spent hours with the “enemy” - the Shark Swarm Guy. Talking about SHARKS!

But, that was a good thing. He had no idea as to what was going on with sharks… by the time I was done with him, he could have given a presentation to a room of Harvard scholars. He is now well-prepared – and motivated - to talk to the media and anyone else who will listen - not just about the movie – but the truth about sharks.

He swears that “Shark Swarm” has an environmental message that people will focus on (sharks go mad due to toxins dumped in the water), but sadly, I have a feeling it will leave everyone with a “Jaws” dread. I promised to watch before I pass judgement and he promised to represent sharks accurately from now on. And drop the Swarm from his nickname. So now, he is just plain Shark Guy.

Some people would criticize me (and already have) for spending time with someone who represents the type of media we fight so hard against. I personally think it is amazing that Shark (previously Sw@*m) Guy now constantly says, "We aren't on their menu." That is well worth the risk of me being accused of traitor to a cause I believe so strongly in...

Even more importantly, we have a newly converted, highly visible Shark Saver - someone else to support the cause in a big way. THAT, I couldn’t be more excited about.

And, the fact he charming, intelligent, and just as hot as he was when I was 8, well, that wasn’t lost on this Shark Girl either! Even if he *was*, at one point, the "enemy"...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Becomming a Shark Angel

So, everyone always wants to know... why sharks?

I grew up in the water… I was the kid who was al
ways swimming in a lake, river or stream, eagerly peering to the bottom to have a chance encounter with some sort of marine life! I would catch guppies and put them in jars as my pets, obsessed with all things aquatic. I come from a long line of "mermaids" – some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around my grandfather and father spending an afternoon swimming in the lake near our house.

And, I have been obsessed with sharks since I was a kid. They have alwa
ys held a sense of magic for me. When I started diving, I remember the thrill of my first Black Tip Reef shark sighting. A dive wasn't a success unless I saw at least one shark! I have such an amazing appreciation and admiration for sharks, and I learned very, very early on that they were far more afraid of me than I was of them. Shark sightings were something to be cherished – not dreaded.

I have been diving with the Hammerheads in
Cocos, the Black Tips in Fiji, the Leopards in Thailand, the Tigers in the Bahamas, the Whites in South Africa and the Silver Tips in Tahiti. And in that time, I have sadly witnessed my cherished creatures disappear.

When I think about what is going on with sharks, I want to scream and run through the streets shaking everyone and telling them that we are letting one of our most precious resources slip through our fingertips. Such majestic, beautiful creatures don't deserve to be slaughtered –
especially for a pathetic, social climbing soup. And, their role in our most important ecosystem is of the utmost importance. The oceans' supply much of the food we eat and air we breathe. Sharks sit atop of that food chain and keep our oceans, our very life support systems, healthy. What would our world be like without sharks? I for one do not want to find out.

I have been a passionate and long time shark activist - and about a year and a half ago, realized that I had to d
o more. I came together with a group of five other people after organizing a campaign to Ban Sharkfin Soup in New York City. As divers, lovers of the environment, and admirers of the ocean, we had personally witnessed the devastation of everything we hold sacred – including our precious sharks. And, when we wanted to do something, we realized that it wasn't as easy as it should be. Learning about sharks, educating others, developing tools to build awareness and choosing the right things to focus on in order to make a difference were all cumbersome and challenging. And, there was no clear, globalized movement to join. We thought there should be. And thus, Shark Savers was born. I am now the Director of Strategy & Outreach for Shark Savers. Much of what I do involves using my marketing and PR skills towards a positive image campaign for sharks while speaking on their behalf at events, schools, and even charitable events. I also do a considerable amount of education and of course, development.

Realizing the importance media plays in influencing our collective mindset, I have also become heavily involved in productions that involve sharks - in a positive light. A year ago, I began spearheading marketing and PR initiatives for the movie, Sharkwater. I worked closely with Rob Stewart to roll the movie out here in the states, build awareness and garner support – as Sharkwater is one of the best conservation tools we have. I now work in marketing & development in a broader role for the production company as well.

And, six months ago, I still wanted to do more. After meeting Kim McCoy from Sea Shepherd and Alison Kock from Save Our Seas, Shark Angels was born. Shark Angels is a movement that is being kicked off by a documentary about three female shark conservationist
s, a scientist, an activist, and an enforcer, partnering together to show people the truth about sharks – that they are not ruthless maneaters, but instead magnificent creatures to be protected – and cherished. In the production, I played the role of writer, co-producer, and of course, Shark Angel. The documentary is in post-production and is set to launch in the Summer of 2008. More than anything else, we want to unite the public around a new view of sharks – and bring attention to their plight.

I am motivated at the core by a passion to save sharks - and try to stay away from the drama and politics that sometimes surrounds that. I truly believe that there is so much strength in working together - and if we can't come together, strengthen our approach, and work together to combat this madness, we could lose our sharks, and soon after that, our oceans. I desperately want everyone to be aware of this situation – to join the fight. I have now essentially committed my every waking moment of passion to efforts that fuel that goal… I have no idea how this will manifest itself, but I have finally decided to follow my passion, in the hopes that great things will happen and I may save a few sharks...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Follow your passion... The journey begins

I have finally taken the big step. Always dreaming of it - but never really thinking it could possibly ever become a reality. Caught up, I guess, in what most of us believe defines success - and the socially acceptable way to act. Achieve success at all costs. Climb the corporate ladder. Buy a great house and a fabulous car. Build a huge bank account. Yes, I have done all of that. I owned my own successful multi-million dollar business, I had the Porsche and the house in the city I designed with an architect, I had amazing titles and incredibly successful clients, I traveled the world. But now I have finally done something I am truly proud of. Something that despite all I have been taught, that surprisingly, gives me an amazing sense of achievement and hope. I QUIT MY JOB TO FOLLOW MY PASSION.

And, not just any passion. A passion for sharks. Sharks - the world's most mi
sunderstood creature, and probably one of the most threatened - have stolen my heart, my mind, my soul...

Yes, at this point, you are probably saying I am crazy... Most do. Even me sometimes. But, somehow, I found the strength to let go and do what I am absolutely, insanely passionate about. To let the universe take care of me, because I am doing what I feel I was meant to do. Not a crystal-worshiping, granola-munching, yoga-practicing "hippie", this is COMPLETELY counter-intuitive to anything I know or believe. But, for the first time, I am happy to the core.

(Amazing photo from Aliwal Shoals, South Africa. Taken by my friend and photographer extraordinaire Roger Horrocks.)