Great white shark expert gets up close and personal to prove a point

An understandable reaction for those who may find themselves in the company of a great white shark, without the protection of a boat, would be fear, perhaps followed by panic.

But Chris Fallows, who runs Apex Shark Expeditions in South Africa, uses extreme measures in an attempt to prove that the world’s most fearsome-looking marine predator may investigate but will not attack a human except in rare cases when a human is mistaken for natural prey.

Most recently, Fallows paddled a stand-up surfboard alongside a 14-foot great white inside a clear-water bay (see photo and video). Footage of that session will be featured in an episode called “Great White Invasion,” which focuses on white sharks that frequent coastal waters. It will air during the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” which begins Sunday.

Fallows, a well-known photographer and an expert in white shark behavior, described the experience as “fantastic and exhilarating.”

Great White Invasion will attempt to explain why large white sharks come close to shore and Fallows will try to illustrate “that they actually have far more to fear from us than we do from them.”

Great white sharks are responsible for the deaths of 26 people worldwide since 1990, according to the Florida-based International Shark Attack File. That’s a tiny number considering that millions of people swim or surf in the oceans every year.

Said Fallows: “To prove this point I have free-dived, paddle-boarded, body-boarded and kayaked with them, as well as being dragged on a sled less than 15 feet from a breaching great white. In essence, I have done pretty much everything that a shark is likely to encounter in the form of a human. In virtually all instances the sharks chose to ignore me and it was often a battle to get them to come close.”

Of course, for ordinary folks, it’s probably best to steer clear of all large sharks whenever possible.

— Images showing Chris Fallows paddling near a great white shark and filming a shark while free-diving are courtesy of Discovery Channel