Pacific San Diego MagazinePosted on: August 12th, 2013
By Kyle Hall / Photos by Donald Miralle (unless noted)
In February, a video of a graceful woman free-diving with, and holding on to, a 15-foot great white shark went viral. But even after the clip was picked up by Transworld Surf, CBS news and other media outlets, next to nothing was revealed regarding the woman herself… and what had caused her to lose her mind.
To get to the bottom of the story, or even deeper, PacificSD sent local photographer Donald Miralle, who has some serious chops in the water-photography department (read his story here) to photograph the fearless former San Diegan, Ocean Ramsey, at play in her now-natural habitat of Oahu, Hawaii.Ocean Ramsey
Meet Ocean Ramsey
Ocean Ramsey has modeled in ad campaigns for Xcel Wetsuits, Maui Jim and Hawaiian Airlines, but those are probably the least interesting entries in her bio. She’s also a professional dive instructor who’s on the water every day. She can hold her breath underwater for 5 minutes and 45 seconds. She’s upset that she can dive only to a depth of 150 feet with a single breath, but is currently training to reach 200. And, for casual exercise, she does yoga, jiu jitsu and muay thai. When she gets serious, she competes in sprint triathlons.
Also, she SWIMS WITH SHARKS. Seriously, Ramsey freedives with massive predators and holds on to their dorsal fins, but let’s get back to that in a minute.
Ramsey grew up between San Diego and Hawaii; her father was born here and owns property in both areas. Her passion for sharks was sparked when she was five, during a family visit to La Jolla to see leopard sharks.
She went on to train at SeaWorld San Diego with the dive-safety instructor, and worked at the now-defunct Diving Locker in Pacific Beach. She recalls night-diving during San Diego’s mystical red tides with an air of longing, and says she’d love to move back here, if only there were a way to raise the water temp for year-round diving.
Ramsey greets Spinner dolphins at Kahe Point.Over the years, Ramsey’s passion for sharks eventually led her to Water Inspired (waterinspired.com), what she describes as “a platform to change the initial perspective people have of sharks.” To drum up awareness for its cause, Water Inspired captures breathtaking images of Ramsey swimming with, and often touching, sharks.
The shock-value created by juxtaposing a beautiful woman with one of the world’s most dangerous predators is not unintentional. Through mind-bending photos of Ramsey holding on to sharks with mouths big enough to swallow her whole, the crew is drawing attention to what is likely the worst thing ever to happen to the nearly 400-million year-old fish: a brutal form of fishing called “finning.”
Finning is an inarguably cruel form of shark fishing that involves harvesting (read: cutting off ) only the dorsal fin, and then tossing the rest of the still-living shark overboard to sink until discovered by other predators and eaten alive. This horrible end is shared by between 23 million and 200 million sharks each year, depending on which study you choose to believe. Despite the wide range in study results, scientists agree that even the low estimates represent
unsustainable fishing practices that will lead to extinction.
The only real use for harvested shark fins is as a flavorless addition to a traditional Chinese soup that was once reserved for special occasions and affordable to only a rich few. However, the recent economic surge in China, and the associated increase in disposable income among the middle class who has never been able to afford shark fin soup, has caused an unprecedented explosion in demand in what is now estimated to be a billion-dollar industry.
Read the full story here: