The big-wave surfer Mark Healey is causing a buzz online with videos of his close encounters with sharks, apex marine predators. Healey recently went swimming with bull sharks that have a reputation for attacking humans "purely out of meanness."
Peter Thomas Outdoors reports this is not Healey's first free-diving close encounter with sharks. He has been swimming with great white sharks at Guadalupe Island west of Baja, California. He rode great white sharks by grabbing on their dorsal fins.
To those who say he's a nutter with a "screw loose," Healey says: "I have a super busy mind, and the only way for me to really have a moment where I'm just being — I'm not thinking, I'm not turning my wheels — is holding my breath, surrounded by water."
He says that when he rides sharks he is not really acting crazy, but taking well calculated risks. He says: “What I learn from sharks is don’t judge a book by its cover. Sharks can’t change their facial expression. They tell you what they want you to know with their bodies. They always look mean to most people.”
In a recent interview, Healey claims he knows when it is relatively safe to approach sharks by watching their body language. He said: "I have a really good idea of how to read sharks and their body language, just because I’m always around them."
Surfermag.com quotes Healey describing an encounter with white sharks: "Within the first 10 minutes there was a big one off the back and just showing me everything I wanted to see out of a shark and it’s like ok, time to put my money where my mouth is. I just jumped in and did it. But that first time when it tuned in on me, I’ve never been so intimidated in my life. I shrank to about 6 inches...I was always trying to really approach them well and get away from them seamlessly without spooking them or freaking them out, and a couple of times, I realized I was a little rough or my approach was shitty and I could see him following me with his eye. But then he’d come right back around and offer his dorsal fin to me. It was weird...I rode three different sharks 12 or 15 times. But the thing is, they don’t like everybody. That’s the weird thing..."
For those who are willing to believe it, Healey would appear to have dispelled the notion that bull sharks attack "purely out of meanness" after surviving a close encounters with them. The name "bull shark" comes from the shark's burly shape, aggressive, and seemingly unpredictable behaviour.
Healey sums up his pro-shark philosophy with the maxim: "People have ulterior motives. I think people are way more dangerous than sharks."