05 July 2005

Experienced diver says sharks are 'misunderstood'

After hearing about the recent shark attacks, any fear you had of sharks probably jumped about tenfold. But there's one guy in Central Florida who has a different theory. He thinks sharks are misunderstood.

He believes that encounters between sharks and people are completely accidental. He isn't afraid of them, and in fact, he seeks them out.

"I absolutely love them," said David Badali, the owner of the Orlando Scuba Center in Casselberry.

It's not the reaction you'd expect from a diver who comes into contact with sharks, but Badali has been doing it for years. He insists sharks are the most misunderstood creatures of the sea.

"Once you observe them the first time as a scuba diver, you realize there is not a threat against you like the public perceives. They'll come over like a big catfish, rub up against you, show curiosity," he said.

Sharks have had plenty of chances to attack him. Badali makes 350 dives a year. Most are with student divers, looking to experience the unknown world right off of Central Florida's coast.

"For years we'd ... take squid and other fish down and they'd come right up and take it out of our hand like it was nothing," Badali said.

He says that when it comes to sharks, you're safer in scuba than you are in the surf.

Experienced diver David Badali seeks out encounters with sharks while diving and claims that they are just misunderstood.

"The shark really doesn't want to bite the swimmer or surfer in my opinion. I truly believe if that person was submerged under water and the shark was to physically see that person, he'd have no interest at all," he said.

He said what happens is that a shark with a huge mouth takes a bite out of someone and it instantly becomes news.

"The truth is, once they bite, they instantly realize it's something they don't want and they let go and move on. But the damage has been done," Badali said.

He said not only does it cause damage to the victim but also to the public's perception of sharks.

Badali said he knows he'll have a drop-off in business from the recent attacks, but he strongly feels the small risk with diving is well worth the reward of exploring the sea.

Source: www.wesh.com


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