Swimming alongside great white sharks without cage protection is not for everyone, and the practice has been criticized by experts who believe it’s an accident waiting to happen. But a small number of freedivers have recently begun to plunge in with the world’s most notorious predators, hoping to dispel misconceptions that they’re ruthless killers. In the accompanying video, Fred Buyle and William Winram can be seen swimming elegantly with and even touching large great whites–see the 1:50 mark–at an undisclosed Pacific Ocean location.
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Freediving, also called breath-hold diving, does not involve scuba gear or the clutter and bubbles associated with scuba diving. Buyle and Winram of Ocean Encounters obtained their footage on single breaths of air during a series of dives between the surface and about 75 feet. Up to four white sharks were in their midst and Buyle explained that a certain attitude is adopted to prevent the predators from regarding them as prey or enemies.
“When we dive with them we adopt a proactive behavior, which means we don’t act as prey, and if a shark comes too close we stand our ground and even move towards them,” Buyle said. “By doing that, there is mutual respect relationship between the divers and the sharks.”
To date there have been no known attacks on freedivers whose sole purpose is to swim with the apex predators. White sharks prey mostly on large marine mammals and are cautious, tactful hunters who patrol their realm with grace and only kill out of hunger, yet because of the 1975 thriller, “Jaws,” they remain largely misunderstood.
Buyle said he hopes people won’t consider this video to be part of “a stunt, or something crazy,” but because of long-ingrained perceptions, and because white sharks are very powerful wild animals, many people will find it hard to believe otherwise.
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