It’s been said that fear is more powerful than any performance-enhancing drug. I’m not sure if German slackliner Alexander Schulz was peeing himself this week when he slack lined (a form of tightrope walking) between two limestone mountains in Yangshuo, China, but he was able to channel some form of mojo. He just walked 375 meters at a very uncomfortable height – a full 70 meters longer than the previous record.
That’s good enough to seal the deal with a new world record for the slacklining world to digest. Did you get that Dean Potter? No worries dude – you’re more of a general all-round aerial bad-ass.
Schulz didn’t really intend to go the distance with something this extreme when he arrived in China with his team earlier in the week for a slacklining event. At the time, his goal was to find a spot roughly 350 meters across. That would have allowed him to beat the previous record of 305 meters set by Jerry Miszewski in 2013 near Sacramento. And when they found their spot, laser measurements confirmed it was 375 meters between the two mountains. Far too long, thought Schulz. But what the hell. The old college try, right?
Yup, a college try and then some. After a few practice walks before the big day, Schulz put boot to inch-wide cable and made slacklining history. The crossing took about 45 minutes, during which he focussed on his breathing. He found it hard to concentrate as the minutes ticked by too, and sure enough, the wind kicked up about two-thirds into his walk. Those with a general aversion to heights might get a little jittery when they see how much the cable was shaking.
Still, he trod through. Schulz persevered and pushed onward. There’s a good lesson here: the fear of failure – and of not trying to finish what you started when you’re so close to a goal – is enough to light a fire under most 23-year old slacklining Germans. And you know what? He made the crossing, set a new slacklining record, and raised the bar (er, cable) just a little higher for the rest of us.
That was how the diving scene operated at Guadalupe for the first ten years of operations at the island. Operators knew a good thing. They rolled up their sleeves and put in the elbow grease to establish a safe and sustainable cage-diving operation at Guadalupe. Shark Diver, the Islander and a few others practiced safety first and made great white shark diving both safe, practical and very rewarding for folks like you and me.
That’s been at risk for the past several years thanks to a few individuals who showed up once the scene had been established and decided to one-up the operators who set up Guadalupe. For a few extra dollars you could…guess what…go cageless shark diving with the great whites at Guadalupe. Some are even ‘man-handling’ these great white sharks, like they’re puppies playfully doing tricks for a Milk Bone.
That’s beyond dangerous – it’s downright stupid.
Ethics aside, this is an accident waiting to happen. Only the consequences will go far beyond the little island of Guadalupe off Baja California. A few things we can look forward to:
1) Sharks will be demonized – We’re in the YouTube age, folks. What’s going to happen when a great white gets a little too frisky with a cageless diver? It will go viral faster than you can say “Jack Robinson” and a lot of good work by conservationists and guys like Rob Stewart gets undone.
2) Guadalupe will get shut down – All because a few operators – who DIDN’T put their time in at Guadalupe – wanted to offer cageless diving. It’s notable too that these cageless dives often cost twice as traditional shark cage diving, which brings to question why they’re doing it in the first place.
3) Great Whites will again be hunted – Sharks will be ‘dangerous’ after all. And with no international diving presence at Guadalupe, and with less demand for shark diving, a pair of jaws is an easy way to make a few bucks.
We’re on dangerous ground with cageless diving at Guadalupe, or any other great white site. Great white sharks are not man-eaters, but they’re still predators. So let’s respect them as such. Book a shark diving trip at Guadalupe with an operator with at least 10 years of experience – curiously none of the ‘cageless’ operations have more than four, which is when this dangerous practice first showed up here in the first place. See these beautiful creatures from the safety of a cage, and respect their dominance in a world we’re privileged to visit.
Google is truly taking over the world. It’s taking over the stratosphere too, as evident with news last month that Google’s search czar, 59 year old Alan Eustace, eclipsed Felix Baumgartner’s record with an even higher jump from space.
Yup, fearless Felix is no longer the record holder for highest jump, though he’ll always be the first man to jump from the stratosphere, and the first to break the sound barrier with nothing other than gravity.
More about the jump. Unlike Baumgartner’s skydiving masterpiece two years ago (which was admittedly a little hyped courtesy of Red Bull), Eustace trained in relative secrecy. He jumped on October 24, aided by a small group of engineers, beginning just before dawn, near Roswell, New Mexico, and ascended in a helium-filled balloon for two hours.
Then at peak altitude, he jumped, with a little less fanfare and a little more cubic inches. That would be 136,000 feet above terra firm – a full 7,000 feet (almost a mile and a half) higher than our favorite Austrian. No hype, no live streaming. Just a man three years’ shy of senior status, who leaped, and hit speeds beyond 800 miles an hour.
Good enough for him to break the speed barrier, though Eustace says he didn’t know when that happened.
Cojones to Alan Eustace. The guy’s almost 60, and holds down an office job – not your prototype skydiving guru like Felix when you look at him. Yet there he is, quietly – ultra secretly even – as he punctures the sky with a skydiving record that should stand for at least a few months…right?
I can’t help but feel a little bad for Felix. Still, he’s a legend, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulls off another crazy stunt to reclaim his skydiving crown in one form or another.
The buddy system worked out pretty well for Kent Bretzlaff on his recent kayaking trip along the Upper Jalacingo river in Mexico last month. The British kayaker had his GoPro strapped as he shot down the rapids trying to pick up enough speed to, ideally, blow past the dangerous whirlpool at the second drop in the river.
Now about that whirlpool…turns out it’s a rather dangerous hazard for any kayaker who’s unlucky enough to get sucked in (whirlpools do that). And that’s exactly the situation Bretzlaff found himself in for a good two minutes, during which he struggled against the river’s unmerciless pounding and goes under – with his kayak briefly upside down.
Not the best situation for a kayaker to get sucked in to – excuse the pun.
But the buddy system works. He was lucky enough to get a helping hand in the form of a rope thrown to him by a few friends on shore who saw his situation, and after a few tries pulled him out of the whirlpool and on to terra firm with little more than tummy bug from swallowing a little too much of the Jalacingo river.
And where would a kayaker in distress be without is trusty GoPro camera? Bretzlaff had one strapped to his head for a little post-carnage analysis of how best to avoid river whirlpools in the future – and for our viewing pleasure of course! – along with a helmet, rash guard and a cool head during chaos that could have saved his life.
I’m not a kayaker, so not my place to say whether he was at risk of drowning, like the folks at Epic TV claim, but it’s pretty easy to judge this situation from the comfort of an office chair. I’d say it was pretty darn serious for a few moments, but friends and a cool head prevailed. And kayaking the Upper Jalacingo River is probably best left to the pros.
OK, I’ve done a lot of great white shark related posts on this blog. But this one’s just too good to pass up. A cliff and a GoPro camera. A winning combination right? You bet – unless there’s a great white shark swimming below.
Let’s just say this video gives new meaning to the term ‘shark-diving’.
The story: Australian cliffjumper Terry Tufferson was in an area of Sydney Harbor, the aptly named Jump Rock at Collins Beach. No points awarded to figure out what happens there – the place is famous for cliff-jumping. So our good buddy Tufferson suited up this week for a jump with his trusty GoPro camera strapped to forehead to bear witness for what he thinks will be a typical afternoon of cliffjumper mojo.
Thing is, what happens next ain’t so typical. Tufferson lands in the water and quickly hears his mate yelling something about a shark. And waddaya know? At 0:41 seconds, sure enough, a great white shark happens to swim by, followed by a more ‘up-close and personal’ encounter with our trepid cliffjumper, who’s feeling a little creeped out right now, as he comes within about two feet of a great white.
I like it!
Of course, as a regular to this blog you know that great white sharks don’t actually eat people right? But I’m sure that was of little consolation to Tufferson as he sat there wondering just WTF was going on and, like, why can’t a cliffjumper just go about cliff jumping without landing on a great white shark?!
The video is a little controversial because some are saying it’s too perfect. What is the chance a cliff jumper will just coincidentally land on a great white shark in Sydney Harbor Australia. Some say it’s fake, but it looks pretty darn real to me, and I gotta say, if it’s real, Terry Tufferson ain’t gonna forget that anytime soon.
Skydiver Anders Helstrup almost gets hit by a meteor
Where is Michael Bay when you need him? I’m sure Hollywood’s king of meteors and flashy things that fall from the sky would love this video, which surfaced this week, of Norwegian skydiver Anders Helstrup who comes within metres of a meteor after he pulls his chute.
Yes, a meteor. Watch the first 30 seconds of the video (all in Norwegian), and at 0:29 you’re in for a serious WTF moment.
Helstrup took the video during a jump in 2012. He only brought it to the media this month, when he watched it again and realized that, wait, maybe that wasn’t a pebble stuck in his chute!
Helstrup took the video to Norway’s NRK TV network, who consulted several geologists. Yup, it was a meteor, they said, and reiterated that our fav Norwegian skydiver of the moment was a very lucky dude. The meteor was at least 5kg and moving at roughly 300km/hr. Had he jumped a second earlier, well, let”s just say the video would be of a skydiver fail the likes of what no one could have ever forseen.
A collision between a skydiver and a meteor…SPLAT!!
Fortunately, it all worked out. He was a lucky dude – REAL lucky it turns out. Not only did he not get split in half by a meteorite, he’s the first known skydiver to ever dodge a meteor (I don’t think they list ‘meteors’ as an occupational hazard in Skydiving For Dummies). And the video is more than just an epic skydiving video. Geologists note that it’s the first picture of a ‘dark’ meteor, as opposed to the flashy Michael Bay-type streaks we usually see when a meteor comes through Earth’s atmosphere.
The likely scenario we’re told, is that the meteor was part of an asteroid belt around Jupiter, which somehow got sucked in by the Sun’s gravity and eventually made its way to Earth…and right past skydiver Anders Helstrup and on YouTube.
Enjoy the video, cause I doubt another narrow miss between a meteor and skydiver will be filmed any time soon!
This is why you should dive with great white sharks at Guadalupe!
Seven years after diving with great white sharks at Guadalupe, it remains one of the top 3 experiences of my life. Things change when you come within two feet of a great white and experience the thrill of making eye contact with the ocean’s top predator. You look at a great white, it looks at you, and you’re not the same person. That’s a good thing, believe me, because it puts things in perspective. You’ve got new eyes now, mental clarity, and most people would say, a good set of cojones.
So I want to reflect now that it’s been seven years since I made acquaintance with Bruce, Shredder, and the other great white sharks at Guadalupe in October 2007. I want to share with you my thoughts on WHY you should do it, how it works, who to do it with, and who to avoid.
Why You Should Cage Dive With Great White Sharks at Guadalupe
This is a book in itself. For me, the great white shark was the single most beautiful, enigmatic, foreboding and misunderstood creature on the planet. I saw JAWS when I was 11 and wouldn’t go in the bathtub for a year after that (yes, that’s true – I showered instead). But as I grew older, my fear turned into awe. I dreamt about the white shark as I grew older, in sleep and during the day. They came to me when I slept, during difficult times and even just when I had questions about life in general. Looking back, I am convinced now that the great white shark is my spirit animal. In times of need, it comes to me. I need to see the great white shark. And judging my the popularity of great whites on this blog, many people do too.
You should dive with great white sharks at Guadalupe because they are the single most amazing creatures on Earth. I think back to a quote I heard from St. Augustine: “the Key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering”. What do your friends do for kicks? Have any of them seen a lion outside of a zoo? Have they ever BASE jumped or did something that, looking back, they think of with adrenaline and exhilaration?
Dive with great white sharks because you’re your own person. Not because none of your friends have done it (which, they probably haven’t), but because, to borrow a cliche, life comes down to a few moments. You pick the ones you take when you leave this life. Take the plunge, put the money down, book the time off and see what it’s like to look into the eyes of a great white shark.
OK, So HOW Do I Cage Dive With Great White Sharks?
You book a spot on a boat that specializes in cage diving with great white sharks. The hot spots are southern Australia, South Africa and Guadalupe Island. The latter is about 220 miles south of San Diego, off Baja California – an easy plane ride and a 24 hour boat journey for most people in the U.S. and Canada.
I dived with great white sharks at Guadalupe, and I suspect most folks in North America will find this option the most convenient. You’ll generally pay between $3000-$4000 for the experience, which typically lasts five days (one day from San Diego to Guadalupe, three full days diving, one day back).
There are one day great white shark experiences at the Farallon Islands off San Francisco. I don’t know much about them, though I have heard the visibility is not great. That’s another benefit of diving at Guadalupe – on a good day, visibility can be close to a hundred feet. The water is warm, and the area is really beautiful.
Cages are suspended off the stern of the boat. You don’t need to be scuba-certified because you’re breathing surface-supplied air. You dive in shifts, which generally last about an hour, before the dive master taps on the cage and you climb up and wait for your next dive.
Diving with great white sharks is not dangerous. I probably saw about 30 different sharks, and maybe two of them were semi-aggressive. Many of the sharks were quite mellow, and were almost shy – a far cry from JAWS (thanks for that, Steven Spielberg).
Who You Should Dive With
You’ve got many choices for diving at Guadalupe. My experience is with Shark Diver and The MV Islander. I recommend both, though I’m probably a bit more loyal to the Islander simply because I was on their boat. They were friendly, safe, and always up for a chat about great whites and the area in general. We saw a shark breach completely out of the water, and got a picture no less! We saw sharks on each dive and the food was amazing. I’d say Islander first and Shark Diver second. Shark Diver is a good second though, believe me. You won’t be disappointed if you head down with them.
Finally, I’ll conclude by saying that I DO NOT recommend diving without a cage with great white sharks. This is common sense (um, DUH). Great white sharks are not man-eaters, we know this, but they’re still apex predators. There is one operator who does this practice, and I will not name him for liability reasons, but he’s flirting with disaster. Go with an experienced operator who puts safety first. The great whites will come, and delight. And you will be a more complete person for it.
I would so not base jump. But adrenaline freaks like myself who get their kicks living vicariously through guys like Russian BASE Jumper Oleg ParaMon will no doubt approve of this, one of the most eerie BASE jumps I’ve seen on camera.
The setting: Mercury City Tower, a 75 storey skyscraper in Moscow and Europe’s new tallest building, some 350 metres above the streets of Moscow. The video tells the rest of the story, believe me, with an eerie ascent to the top of the tower, punctuated by about ten seconds, starting around 1:47, when he’s at the top, at the corner of the tower. The camera then puts things in perspective. He’s high – real high – off the streets of Moscow. Then he steps off and gracefully glides through the chilling Moscow morning and back to terra firma.
Oleg ParaMon is a f&*$ing ninja.
I can’t which part is creepier: his ascent to the top or that moment when the camera puts things in perspective. Probably the latter.
This is ParaMon’s second jump off Mercury Tower, and it’s made more impressive when you consider the security around the place. Mercury Tower is like Fort freakin’ Knox – heavily guarded and highly illegal to scale for purposes of, you know, jumping off of it.
But then again, that’s what BASE jumping is all about, yes?
The video brings some recollections of another epic moment in BASE bragging rights. That other jump, you know, the one that took place last June, when four jumpers devirginized Trump Tower in Chicago. If you build a skyscraper, someone’s gonna find a way to add it to the BASE jumping hall of fame. Assuming no one gets hurt, I think that’s pretty awesome.
Anyway, watch the video and you’ll see what I mean. The climb, the music, and the fact that this dude has the cojones to jump off the tallest building in Europe. Your pace-maker might act up when he gets to the top.
The world didn’t end in 2012, but adventure travellers looking to get apocalyptic might see the end of the Earth in 2014. No, we’re not talking about another Mayan Doomsday. The end of the Earth is at the southern-most end of South America, a jagged archipelago that’s seen much bloodshed and more than a few sunken ships.
The end of the Earth is Tierra Del Fuego, at the tip of Argentina and Chile, and guarded by the equally notorious Cape Horn. After that…it’s Antarctica.
Depending who you ask, the final stop for civilization is at Ushuaia, in Argentina, or Puerto Williams, Chile. By my count Puerto Williams is just slightly further south (sorry Argentina – it was really close), yet they both jockey for cruise ships, ecotourism and folks who want to ski, hike and otherwise take in arguably the most dramatic landmass on the planet. Ushuaia gets the last laugh, however, with more traffic and tourism for folks looking south.
The best way to see Tierra Del Fuego depends on your pocketbook. Ecotourism has taken off in recent years, with cruises from Ushuaia to Antarctica. These can get bumpy though – Cape Horn, remember? – so bring your Gravol.
A more practical way to see Tierra Del Fuego for many people might be to do it by rail. The Southern Fuegian Railway, more aptly called ‘The Train of the End of the World’, which departs 8 km out of Ushuaia, at The End of the World Station (nice touch) and travels through the Pico Valley, stopping about midway at a crazy awesome view point for pictures. The ride ends at El Parque station in beautiful Tierra Del Fuego national park, from where travellers can return by train or coach at their leisure.
You’ll need to get to Ushuaia to pursue this option; the easiest way to do that is to fly from Buenos Aires or Santiago. You can also get there by sea, with some of the big cruise lines, including Holland America Line and Celebrity Cruises. Or if you’re a real keener, and do things the old-fashioned way, you can drive to Tierra Del Fuego – from Alaska no less! – via the Pan American Highway. My hat goes off to you if you commit to that journey.
However you get there, make a point to see Tierra Del Fuego. The cool factor is high when you can say you’ve seen the End of the Earth.
Some hobbies are more forgiving than others. A bad day’s fishing ain’t gonna kill ya, for example…but a rough day slack-lining will put some hair on your chest. And if you really want to push things a notch short of insane, try to slack-line over a deep canyon with no safety harness.
That’s how Michael Kemeter seems to get his kicks, as you’ll see in this video, in which the Austrian daredevil takes a zen-like approach to slack-lining sans safety net or anything other than his balance and an ‘in the moment’ attitude. In fact, maybe daredevil is too strong a word: zen master would be more accurate, I think, because he’s seriously mellow and tuned in to the universe. Whatever mojo he’s channeling, it works something’ crazy – note the moment in the video near the end of his crossing when the camera pans straight down.
I don’t think I’ll be slack-lining any time soon.
Still, it’s pretty awesome. Check out his website too – apparently he’s a “mental coach”. I think we could all use some of that.
Oh yeah, and scroll down on his site for what appears to be a naked group slack-lining, complete with a naked girl with a huge grin on her face. Guess slack-lining has a few perks ;).