I Stared A Great White Shark In The Eye

posted by / Blogs / August 14, 2014

This is a Great White shark. Photo: DJ StruntzYeah, that’s a Great White shark. Photo: DJ Struntz

Some call ‘em windows to the soul. In love and in folklore, eyes are said to tell a story. And not the story of genes and how they’re expressed, but a story about life. The story of what an individual has seen and how they’ve felt. They’re supposed sing the songs of a spirit. And I’m listening closely but not hearing a damn thing. I’m locked in a cage underwater in South Africa, staring a Great white shark in the eye. I was hoping to see compassion. I came to see a story! I begged to hear the song. But I see nothing I can relate to. Just death’s rainy stare.

Great whites are all function and no fashion. They’re hideous-looking creatures, Darwin’s pale-bellied stepchild, built to kill and not to be a romantic. The only aesthetically pleasing thing about them is the way they swim. They drift through the sea without much fuss, like the way Tom Curren bottom turns or the way a Cabernet floods the palette. It’s effortless; sure is beautiful. The catch is that they glide so gracefully like that and then they turn, chomp, thrash and kill. Sometimes people.

Historically, I’ve been pro-shark through fat and thin. I’ve stood naked atop the internet’s milk crate and scolded the whole of Western Australia for culling the big fish after a string of attacks. They can’t be the man-hungry savages they’re made out to be, I reasoned. They aren’t inherently bad. They’re just wild animals with instincts and urges sometimes that leads to big, human-ending mistaken meals. The shark takes another lap and I no longer believe any of that. They are predators. Bastards. They will swallow your flesh, feel no remorse and come back for more. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

When you enter the ocean — unless you’re shoved in — you voluntarily enter a world in which you’re no longer king of the food chain. You are tossing your limbs and your life into the winds of fate. You might be eaten by a shark, because that’s what happens in the ocean. Sharks eat things. Maybe they’ll eat you. If you don’t like it, pick up a golf club and start swinging — ain’t no dorsal fins on the fairway.

So after staring at a shark’s face, I no longer believe that they are wise, peaceful creatures with a bad reputation courtesy of the brains behind Jaws. Sharks are devilish. They are satan’s swimmers, but I’m in the mood for a dance. —Brendan Buckley


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  • isdhoishdfg

    I would venture to guess more people have died on golf courses than surfers from shark attacks. the chances of seeing, much less being attacked by, a shark are infinitesimally small.

  • froggy

    If you surf every day the odds of seeing a shark are very good.

  • Tuesday Howarth

    Ex-fricken-scuse you. Thats ridiculous. I swam with sharks and nothing about anything they did was any less beautiful, natural, or completely nonchalant about the humans in their midst. Its absolutely cowardly and close-minded to be afraid of sharks. We pose a hundred times more of a threat to them.

  • elcorreolas

    its interesting that someone that believes in evolution also mentions the devil. great whites were created by God and serve a very important function in the perfection of one of God¨s greatest creations – the ocean and all its creatures. therefore all sharks, including the great white, need to be protected and respected.