Shark Week

How To Conquer Fear From A Man Who Swims With Sharks

William Winram is a record-holding free diver (no cage, no breathing apparatus) and a chance encounter with a shark over 25 years ago changed his life for the better. He was spearfishing for his dinner 800 meters offshore when he felt something to his right. That something was a tiger shark, and he was petrified with fear — tiger sharks are notoriously aggressive and known to take bites out of divers. However, the shark he met that day didn’t behave at all like a shark in horror movies. Winram recalls the meeting in an Australian newspaper: "My experience was to the contrary. I got a shy and curious predator who was scared off when I lunged to pick up my spear. When I was swimming back to shore I could see the shark swimming beside me but at a set distance. If I swam towards her she would swim away, if I swam away she would come closer again but she would always maintain the safe distance between us." The experience made him re-think everything he thought he knew about sharks.  Since then he has been working as a conservationist and educator, committed to rehabilitating the shark’s image. He regularly free dives with Great White sharks and has learned a number of lessons along the way that translate into human life lessons:

1. Replace Fear with Knowledge

By closely observing and watching sharks, Winram has learned to literally swim with sharks. Rather than panicking and swimming away or being paralyzed with fear, he faces the shark head on. “If you don’t act like prey, they won’t treat you like prey.” He recommends a counter-intuitive approach if a shark is coming toward you – swimming right at the shark. The shark, like all things we are afraid of, is de-fanged when approached with greater knowledge and less fear.

2. Make Eye Contact

Winram recommends keeping eye contact with the shark at all times. "Once we make eye contact, the shark knows we have seen them and therefore taken their advantage away. This generally gives us the advantage and keeps them from slipping into an instinctual mode.”

3. (Mental) Preparation

Contrary to what people think, the most important breath is not the last breath free divers takes before diving. According to Winram, the most important breathing is the breathing he does "in the six to eight minutes leading up to the dive that’s oxygenating your blood and your tissues … You need to be able to go into that kind of Zen place where you’re completely relaxed, but with a wide open focus.” Controlled breathing promotes calmness and enhances focus (thereby keeping fear at bay). Being aware of one’s mind and body — and taking good care of them — are priorities, in free-diving and in life.

4. Pay Attention

"When we’re around sharks we need to be 100 percent focused.  As soon as you’re less than 100 percent focused, that’s when they begin sneaking in and seizing the advantage.” Free divers are never on autopilot because a moment of inattention could have disastrous consequences. A vigilant focus when swimming with sharks is essential for survival. Paying attention to what matters in life is essential too — part of this is recognizing that first impressions aren’t always correct.

5. Never Swim Alone

Winram always free dives with at least two others, and they all watch each other’s back. In addition to constantly being on the lookout for sharks, diving with others is essential because a risk of diving is blacking out. Survival depends on his connection to his team. There’s no more literal metaphor for life.

6. Enjoy the Beauty

Winram thinks of swimming with sharks as a privilege. He is in awe of their majestic beauty and grace and has tremendous respect for the creature he has learned so much about and that has taught him so much about himself. Through knowledge and experience, it is possible to reframe perceptions. What was initially scary to Winram became a positive, life-altering calling.

Heat Makes You Cheat: The Link Between Summer and Infidelity

Beach balls and betrayal. A steamy romance with the tennis instructor. They sound like cheesy romance novel titles and bad late night tv movies. And yet, in a 20-year survey about health, relationships and sex, 21.5% of the participants admitted to cheating. While gender, class, salary and education had no bearing on infidelity, the most influential factor was the time of year. June, July and August are infidelity’s high season, a fact the researchers attribute to more travel in the warmer months. And perhaps rising temperatures and revealing clothing contribute to temptation. While there is no magic formula to prevent cheating, there are strategies for what experts call, “relationship maintenance” — a mixture of common sense and science:

Openness

Talk. Share your feelings and encourage your partner to the same. Communication and honesty are vital.

Assurances

Let your partner know you’re right there with him or her, committed and engaged. Put down your phone, carve out time for just the two of you and be present.

Shared tasks

Cook dinner, find a creative house project, get outside for some yard work, or walk the dog together. This is a partnership, after all.

Kindness

Being kind, giving compliments, doing something nice — making a cup of coffee, sending a random love note or text, or giving a foot rub — telegraphs emotion powerfully.

Shared social network

A friend of yours is a friend of mine. Being in a relationship means being part of each other’s lives and that includes friends and family.

  Treat everyday as an opportunity to show your partner you are still in love. It takes kindness, optimism, generosity and effort. That tennis instructor won't seem so intriguing anymore. 

Skip This Combo At The BBQ To Avoid Packing On The Pounds

If you were planning on eating a steak tonight and washing it down with a soda, think again. I am not a fan of soda—even diet—and this new study only fuels my lifelong dislike. Researchers have found that having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal causes the body to store more fat. The combination decreases metabolic efficiency and can lead to weight gain. 

Worse, the sugar-and-protein combination sparks cravings for other unhealthy food. Lead researcher Dr. Shanon Casperson noted: 

"This combination also increased study subjects' desire to eat savory and salty foods for four hours after eating."

This may explain why you inhaled four S’mores and two bags of potato chips after dinner at the bonfire last week. For those who love grilled steak and barbecued chicken, skip the soda.

John-Paul Sukkar

Meet John-Paul Sukkar: Senior Director, People at Rent The Runway, traveler, foodie, adventurer, and an all-around affable man living his best expat life in New York City.

You’re More Likely to Die by Selfie Than by Shark Attack

If you are anything like me, the theme song Jaws plays in your head every time you go in the ocean. Thanks to the movie, it is a fear made manifest. We know what it looks like to get bitten and how tasty we look to any shark from below. And while I am aware that mathematically speaking, it is highly unlikely that I will ever be shark bait, it’s a powerful fear. Logic doesn’t hold a candle when fear is involved.

That said, I cannot resist sharing the following statistic. There is a greater danger lurking, not in the sea, but in the palm of your hand. Duh dun! Your smartphone.

Over the past three years, more people have died taking selfies than by shark attack. The first selfie death was reported in March 2014, and there have been dozens since.  In 2014, 15 people died; in 2015 the number rose to 39, and in 2016, there were over 73 selfie deaths.

A group of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University is tracking selfie deaths in order to come up with a program to alert selfie-takers that they may be in a high-risk area and in a dangerous situation. The majority of deaths occur from a height, in a vehicle, on a train or in the water.

Please don’t let the lure of a gazillion likes on an “epic” picture dupe you into doing something reckless. It’s safer to take a swim in the Atlantic…without your phone, of course.

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John-Paul Sukkar


Meet John-Paul Sukkar: Senior Director, People at Rent The Runway, traveler, foodie, adventurer, and an all-around affable man living his best expat life in New York City.

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