Nov 2, 2017

Ocean Ramsey has many remarkable titles to her name—marine biologist, conservationist, professional freediver, professional scuba instructor, surfer, swimmer, yogi, professional model—but perhaps she is best known as the woman who swims with sharks. Don’t believe us? Check out the GoPro Award recipient’s widely circulated videos where she swims with a great white shark and whale shark. Ocean has made it her goal to demonstrate that sharks and humans can peacefully coexist through her photos, film and social media.

In Ocean’s latest adventure, “Freediving with Sharks in 4k,” Ocean is joined by Camila Jaber and Ashleigh Baird. As the trio descends into the deep waters of Tiger Beach in the Bahamas, they are joined by lemon sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and the often-misunderstood tiger shark. The dazzling display shows the peace with which humans and sharks can interact, challenging the stigma many have of the apex predator, and invites us all to trust nature and ourselves.

Much of Ocean’s love of the ocean stems from her childhood growing up on Oahu. Spending time outdoors and at the beach was a way of life, and a choice encounter with a shark at around 7 years old inspired a lifetime of fascination. We caught up with Ocean to learn a little more about herself and her shark-related passions. 

GoPro: How would you describe your relationship with nature and the sea?

Ocean Ramsey: I consider myself extremely fortunate to have a lifetime of absolutely breathtaking surreal experiences interacting with wildlife. I see myself as a representative for sharks, the ocean and nature. By giving a voice to the voiceless, I can encourage others to reconnect with nature and inspire compassion and care. The ocean is my escape and where I feel most at home, but I am thrilled and joyful to be outside surrounded by the natural world as much as possible.

Was there specific moment when you realized your passion and purpose?

I was out one day with the sharks collecting population trend data for my research and studies, and I realized the average number of sharks I was counting was dramatically dropping. That’s when I realized there wasn’t much of a point to study sharks if I wasn’t going to take a more active role in saving them. Sharks have honestly given me some of the best moments of my life, which makes me extremely passionate about speaking up for. Knowing how incredible they are, and how forgiving and patient they are with humans 99.99 percent of time, astounds me given what they are capable of.

What did you decide to do?

I started by taking divers and friends with me when I was collecting data or just for fun. I felt like I could talk people blue in the face, but until they encountered a shark themselves and got to see what they were really like, they wouldn’t believe me. It took a lot to get even my close friends in the water inside of a cage. 

Why do you think sharks are so misunderstood?

Sharks are intelligent, curious, graceful and very misunderstood animals. Most people believe that sharks act like the movie “Jaws” and are human-eating animals. This is not true. Humans are not naturally a prey item. The truth is 99 percent of the time, in a natural situation, sharks actually tend to be more scared of us than we are of them. On the extremely rare occasion a shark does bite a human, it is most likely due to mistaken identity or out of competitive aggression while trying to defend its territory.

It takes a lot of trust in the sharks and yourself to swim with them. Are you ever afraid?

I am not afraid of sharks; I am afraid for them. Maybe my fear of losing them drives me to speak up for them. It’s my inspiration because watching them disappear is the reality we are facing, especially when considering the current rate at which they are being killed. 

What made this most recent dive unique?

One of the most unique aspects of this dive was the fact that we got to utilize some of the latest technology with the GoPro HERO6, along with the fin camera developed by cinema-scientist Andy Brandy Casagrande. This allows us to see things from the shark’s perspective while minimizing our impact—it falls off after a few hours and doesn’t require metal clips or pins that cause pain or discomfort to the shark.

What do you hope people learn through your work and seeing this video?

I hope this piece and information inspires people to question their perceptions and give sharks a chance before it’s too late. With approximately 70 to 100 million sharks killed per year (which averages out to 2-3 per second), many incredible species will go extinct within our lifetime if more is not done to stop it. 

How can people help, get involved with shark conservation?

Humans are very much interconnected to the ocean, and we depend heavily on it for our survival. One of the most impactful things you can do for sharks is become a conscious consumer. Sharks are used in a variety of different products, like pet food and cosmetics. Look for the product “squalene” or “white fish” in all your cosmetics and don't support companies that use it. Shark meat is often sold under misleading names like “rock salmon,” “flake,” and generic “white fish.” If you choose to eat fish, know what it really is. If there is a restaurant or store serving shark or any product derived from shark, we have a pre-drafted letter on HelpSaveSharks.Org that anyone can fill out. You can also clean up marine debris and reduce use of single-use plastics like bags and straws, as they are the common culprits that lead to the death of many marine animals. Be creative and use your voice. You can even do a social media post and spread awareness to as many people as you can reach. You can make an impact and while it may seem small, it all adds up and every effort counts.