Oahu’s Juan Oliphant and Ocean Ramsey dive with sharks almost every day. Yes, it’s their job. And, yes, they have all their limbs. Dedicated researchers, Ramsey and Oliphant operate One Ocean Diving on the island’s North Shore. Through their business, they offer visitors a chance to swim—cage free—with large pelagic animals. This occupation requires a special skill set and a few indispensable pieces of gear.
As part of their daily trips offshore, Oliphant and Ramsey monitor the number of sharks they see, which species, and the sharks’ behavior. They collect photographs of each individual and record all the data. They hope to use the information to identify trends in shark behavior and help change some of the many misperceptions about these predators.
One Ocean Diving’s research site is a mooring about three miles offshore. The location is a natural gathering spot for sandbar, Galapagos, and tiger sharks. Whales and more rare shark species, like great white and scalloped hammerhead, occasionally visit the area. On some days, Oliphant and Ramsey spend up to six hours in the water.
Sharks are curious and ultrasensitive. They can feel the small electrical charge that a GoPro emits. When they come in for a closer inspection, you’ll want to have the camera on a pole of decent length. “If a shark bites your GoPro, just let them have it,” Ramsey says. More than likely, the shark will let it go. Good thing the GoPole floats.
Cressi Gara Modular Carbon Fins
A swift current near One Ocean’s research site can easily pull divers away from the boat. Quality fins make it effortless to move through the water in any direction. When shooting images of sharks, Ramsey occasionally needs to dive deep. She prefers the carbon models for their light weight and quick response.
Xcel Thermoflex Free Diver TDC 2-Piece Wetsuit
Hawaii’s water is not exactly chilly, but when you’re swimming for hours on end, your body temperature can drop. For long days, Oliphant likes to use Xcel’s new freediving suit. “A lot of freediving suits, you have to lube up to get on,” he says. “Not this one. It’s really comfortable.”
Aquatech Elite Housing
One Ocean Diving has cataloged dozens of sharks. Once they have photos of both the left and right side of an individual that show a few identifiable markings, they give the shark a name. “Riley,” “Pizza,” “Bully,” and “The General” are just a few of their finned buddies. To shoot photos in the water, they use Canon cameras, Aquatech housings, and GoPros.
Freestyle Shark Tooth Watch
With multiple two-hour tours in a single day, One Ocean Diving keeps a tight schedule. Each tour typically contains six guests, a water safety person, and a boat captain. To maintain safety and avoid intimidating the sharks, groups of three guests rotate in and out of the water. Ramsey keeps time on her Freestyle watch. The Shark Tooth also provides real-time tide and surf forecasts via built-in Bluetooth.
Cressi Matrix Mask and Snorkel
A good mask and snorkel are likely the most crucial items on a shark dive. Maintaining eye contact with the sharks lets them know you’re aware of them. As Ramsey likes to say, “Predators look around. Prey looks down.” Guests on One Ocean Diving’s Pelagic Animal Interaction tours aren’t allowed to get in the water until their masks, snorkels, and fins are on.