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- Jupiter, Florida, United States
Respect Your Elders
JUPITER, FL – June 29, 2017 – “Swimming with sharks” – as an idiom the term can be construed as taking a huge risk and getting involved with some untrustworthy folks. As a verb, it can be equally dangerous, but that can depend on where you do it and of particular importance, whom you do it with.
Picture this: You load up the boat with bait and diving equipment. The sky is clear and its blueness contrasts the turquoise ocean water to a nearly perfect degree. You take the Jupiter Inlet channel out to open sea, suit up, and dive right in. While underwater, there is a beautiful silence that is only disrupted by your breathing, the motion of your body charged by fins, your steady, rhythmic heartbeat, and the million thoughts that permeate your mind when some of the flora and fauna that encompass a unique world within this one comes into view.
Sooner or later, you see it: Its tail fin sweeping back and forth; rows of razor sharp teeth; two-retina-eyes that look like small pathways into another dimension—sharks are constantly abound our Florida coast, and with Jupiter’s proximity to the Gulfstream current, they are prevalent and can be seen in all shapes and sizes. Face-to-face shark encounters might be fearful to some, but for three local guys known as “The Shark Addicts,” these encounters are just another day at the office. In short, these are the guys you want to be with if you’re going swimming with the sharks—in the literal sense.
THE SHARK ADDICTS
They are Cameron Nimmo, Mickey Smith, and Chris Cameron. Three Jupiter-based adventurists with one common denominator: An affinity for the world’s oldest predator. What started off as a hobby that rapidly began making waves in social media (their combined Instagram accounts span well over 358k followers) became a weekend charter free-diving venture catering to explorers hailing from all walks of life and all four corners of the planet. But this is strictly a weekend offering; all three members have their respective day jobs throughout the week—and yes, for the most part, these positions are on land. Notwithstanding, save for rough seas or unsafe situations, the weekends are always for shark swimming and underwater filming for these three, and for the past two years they have been bringing along those who dare join them for—quite possibly—the ride of their lives.
“It’s a very humbling experience to drive three miles offshore and drop into deep blue water and see nothing but an apex predator in front of you. It’s a life-changing experience that we hope provides a greater appreciation for the ocean. I think it puts some people into check about just how small they are,” Smith notes.
There wasn’t a concrete plan for managing their own charter boat at first, but nevertheless the direct messages from external parties requesting to join in on the next dive poured in by the thousands.
“It started off as dives that we filmed, then we began taking our friends, and little by little, the inquiries began—and they didn’t stop,” Nimmo points out.
The ask about their process and the appeal of others to the Shark Addicts’ collective respect for sharks became too big to ignore, so the trio thereafter decided that it was time to share their unique eco-tourism experience with others.
Nimmo is the handler and feeder, which means he is responsible for luring in the sharks in a responsible and safe manner using bait; Smith is responsible for all of the filming throughout the trips; and Cameron takes on the “behind the scenes” role, which includes driving the boat, handling the bookings, as well as all aspects pertaining to the back-end of the business, providing safety briefings to customers, and he’ll even jump in the water from time to time to spearfish and acquire more bait if the situation calls for it.
“As much as this is a business, it is first and foremost, our passion,” Cameron says. “We’re not trying to fill the boat to pay bills and we certainly don’t put a time limit to when we are going to come back every time we take a charter out. These are our weekend therapy sessions. We go out, we have fun, we do what we love, the customers are with us, and we will only call it quits when everybody is satisfied and feels like they got the experience that they were looking for.”
Their respective roles are integral for the Shark Addicts’ successful operation, but their understanding of each other stemming from years of friendship on top of significant free-diving experience, allows them to always be a step ahead while out at sea.
“On the boat, in the water, or underwater, we are always on the same page —period,” Smith says. “We’ve been through so many dives and encountered so many different types of sharks together that it’s almost like we know what the other one is thinking, and most of the time we know what to do just by looking at each other or observing the other’s body language when we are underwater. It’s because we are in sync with each other that we’re able to capture some very special moments.”
BALANCE & PERSPECTIVE
While going out diving with the Shark Addicts can result in a “rush,” the experience itself is not devoid of what is at the heart of the Shark Addicts, and that is advocating a well-rounded education about sharks and their positive impact beneath the surface and to provide said education to those who join them on their underwater outings. They emphatically posit attention to the shark’s ability to bring balance to underwater reefs and ecosystems; they want to dispel the “Jaws-derived” myths; they want to create an environment where others see sharks through their eyes and with their same appreciation before any interaction takes place.
“From the moment someone steps onto our boat, he or she is learning about Jupiter and its underwater topography, why they might see certain species of sharks based on the time of year, and why sharks are so important for maintaining balance to the underwater ecosystems,” Cameron contends. “It’s our job to ensure that the folks that come out with us on the boat leave us with a little more than just an adrenaline rush; we want them to have a deeper appreciation for the sharks and their effect on the environment.”
But what is the precise role of the shark as an apex predator? To maintain the species below them in the food chain and to serve as an indicator for the ocean’s health. In other words, sharks remove the weak and the sick fish from the ocean, and that helps keep a balance with competitors, which, in turn, helps to secure species diversity and a healthy fish population. They provide a necessary balance – and the Shark Addicts undertake the responsibility of making that balance known.
The Shark Addicts do not use cages in any of their dives. Their offering is simplified; it is a purely natural encounter without barriers. They look to eliminate more barriers—those that build up in the mind out of fear of sharks. When it comes to human’s natural fear of sharks and the overwhelming sense of vulnerability that comes into play for their customers when they are swimming in 100 feet of water and sharks are surrounding them, the Shark Addicts assert them with an exercise in psychology: Understanding the shark’s behavior.
Cameron sheds light on the matter, “Once they understand what the sharks are doing out there on the ledge in open water; that they are gliding by them because they smell chum in the water that we put there, and the sharks are simply on the trail to their food source; it completely changes people’s perspectives.”
“They’ve been here for 400 million years – they know what they like to eat,” Nimmo adds, with a grin.
Another point that the Shark Addicts find crucial to highlight is that sharks are keen on eye contact, and if you’re in their line of sight whilst in their domain, all the better.
“When you look at them, they look right back at you,” Nimmo says. “When you’re free diving with us, you’re underwater on a level-playing field with them and they know you’re there —and as long as you respect them, they’ll respect you back.”
The Shark Addicts’ charter consists of six people—no more—on the boat. The reason for this cap-off number revolves around safety and comfort. All six participants get an e-mail prior to the trip that includes weather conditions, sea reports, and a few tips of what to expect out there. On the day of the dive, before anyone in the group touches the water, they get a breakdown of the day followed by a briefing that includes underwater safety considerations. According to Cameron, safety is his team’s number one concern, and part of their duty is to inspire trust in others, so that they feel comfortable getting out of their comfort zone and—as calmly as humanly possible—jump into the water.
“This is something that we love and that we chose to share with others,” says Smith. “We don’t take a single risk with anyone and will cancel the whole trip if conditions aren’t ideal. In the end, we want them to have the experience that we know and have grown addicted to— pun intended.”
If conditions are good; however, those who board the Shark Addicts vessel have an opportunity to see the various types of sharks that the current brings to these waters—particularly during the summertime. These types include bull sharks, tiger sharks, lemon sharks, dusky sharks, reef sharks, scalloped hammerhead sharks, greater hammerheads, silky sharks, sandbar sharks, blacktip sharks, spinner sharks, and mako sharks. Once the crate of bait hits the water, there’s no telling which one of these marvelous specimens might pay you a visit.
Aside from sharks, the free-diving adventure with the Shark Addicts can also entail getting up-close and personal with leatherback or loggerhead turtles, dolphins, schools of fish, and other marine species.
THE TOWN ON THE SHORE
Although centered in their excursions offshore, the Shark Addicts also utilize their skill set to give back to that little town onshore and the people in it who celebrate Nimmo, Smith, and Cameron’s local and global contribution.
“Jupiter means everything to us,” Cameron proclaims. “Anytime that we can give back to the town and its incredible community, we certainly rise to the occasion.”
And that, they have. Last June, Shark Addicts sponsored and directly partook in “Crossing for the Cure,” a 50-mile paddle adventure from Bimini in the Bahamas to the Florida mainland that raised money for those ailed with cystic fibrosis. The Shark trio was out there with their boat through the entire journey to provide safety for the paddlers when needed—from shining a light at night to guide the way to providing water and beverages for the paddlers to hydrate during their trek. On July 4, Nimmo and Cameron will join several army veterans for the “Dive for Freedom” event, which—very much in line with a fabled dare—entails jumping from a helicopter into shark-infested waters; all for the incredible cause of raising money for Renewal Coalition, a charitable organization that assists service members and their families. Learn more about the Renewal Coalition in their full feature article on page 54.
Even though their day jobs take up the majority of their time, The Shark Addicts continue to preach education and eco-tourism while on land as much as they can. In hopes of fulfilling one of their most vigorous motions to date, The Shark Addicts teamed up with the American Shark Conservancy to power the publishing of “The Shark Addicts Big Game Initiative,” which is essentially a list of scientific data that, amongst other things, addresses the issues surrounding the decimation of shark populations around the world, as well as the need to muster great effort to protect the shark population that travels and roams throughout this area of the Atlantic Ocean. They continue to spread their message of balance in the ocean with fortitude to reach the eyes and ears of captains, fishermen, and oceanographers from near and far, and hope that for some, it’ll be a resounding wake-up call.
“If the shark population decreases, then the reefs and ecosystems can fail, and that can cause entire oceans to fail,” Nimmo says. “It would be a shame if that’s what it took for people to appreciate and value sharks like we do.”
For more information on the Shark Addicts and how to book a dive:
Name: Chris Cameron
Email: Email Us