Leeds man to film sharks in the wild

Bored with his office job, David Diley's swapping it for a career with more bite... swimming with sharks. He tells Grant Woodward why he's doing it

Ever fancied sharing the water with dozens of killer sharks, circling you as they work out whether you and your wetsuit would pass muster as a tasty hors d'oeuvre?

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No, funnily enough me neither.

But David Diley does, has and even lived to tell the tale.

In fact, the 31-year-old loves sharks so much he's jacked in his well-paid job as a recruitment consultant to spend his life getting up close and personal with them.

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The first question is, is he completely and utterly stark raving bonkers?

"I want to inspire people," he says. "I think my story resonates with everyone who has always wanted to do something.

"If you look at what I'm trying to do it might seem ridiculous, but I want to prove you can do it.

"We're always told we can't achieve our childhood dreams. I want to show that if you've got a passion and are willing to go for it, you can."

In the process, David is about to make himself homeless and reliant on the goodwill and sofas of friends as he pieces together the 23,000 he needs to get his dream off the ground.

"I did quite enjoy being a recruitment consultant, the people I worked with were brilliant. But I wasn't doing something I was passionate

about, it didn't get my blood pumping.

"As you get older you realise you've only got one chance, this isn't a dress rehearsal. There's always been one thing I've wanted to do and it was a case of waking up one Monday morning and thinking 'I can't do this anymore'.

He went into work that very morning and handed in his notice.

"I left on the Wednesday and the next day I was up at eight o'clock thinking, 'Right, I've got to do this now'."

The idea first took root in 2008 when he went to the Bahamas, the shark-diving capital of the world.

The year before he had been at Egyptian resort Sharm el-Sheikh, which recently witnessed shark attacks on five tourists, one of them fatal.

"Ever since I was 10 I'd wanted to travel the world writing books and making films about sharks," says David, wearing a T-shirt bearing the shark-emblazoned logo of a project he has branded From The Office to The Ocean as he sits on a couch in his soon-to-be-vacated city centre flat.

"The documentaries you get now are often dumbed-down recreations of shark attacks, followed by a tiny bit about the conservation side of things."

Instead he wants to explore the relationship between sharks and humans, diving with the predators in far-flung destinations around the world.

He has won backing from camera giant Canon and hopes to sign a sponsorship deal with the Fiji Tourist Board. A Facebook group has helped raise nearly 1,000 from the public.

If all goes well, his first stop will be Fiji next February, followed by trips to Guadeloupe, the Bahamas and South Africa, encountering different species of shark including the feared Great Whites made infamous by Jaws. Joining him on his travels will be award-winning underwater cameraman Hugh Fairs.

"Sharks have been here a lot longer than us and will probably still be here after we've gone," says David. "But there's a symbiosis there – human beings are drawn to sharks.

"A shark fin and a sunset are the only things in nature that I believe will always get a reaction from people."

Despite the obvious dangers, David insists on getting as close to his subject as possible.

"I will always try to avoid being in a cage when I dive, I haven't been in one yet.

"I've been on a baited dive (where the sharks are fed) with 40 or 50 sharks there. They're stronger and faster than you, if there's a straight fight you will never win. If a shark wants to hurt you, it will.

"They want to assert their position but at the same they're quite wary. So I had nine-foot-long sharks swimming up and bumping into my chest to sound me out.

"When they see you're not going to be competing for their food they have no interest in you. Sharks love an easy meal, luckily there's no nutritional value in humans and we're a bit too bony for their liking.

They far prefer to snack on a seal."

His series of films will contain a strong conservation message too.

"There's a good chance that the ocean's environment will collapse in 50 years if we keep fishing as we are. And the sharks will be the first to go.

"Shark populations around the world are already being decimated. The shark is at the top of the food chain and regulates everything below it.

"Sharks get rid of the sick and vulnerable and keep the gene pool strong. If you remove sharks there will be a huge imbalance.

"Most of the oxygen we breathe comes from the oceans and if they're not healthy then that is going to have a major impact on us.

"I realise you can't make sharks cuddly, there's no point propagating a myth. What I'm trying to do through these films is to show that they can offer a lot of positives.

"The reef I'm visiting in Fiji was dead before the reintroduction of sharks and now it's a real boom to the local economy."

Speaking to David it's clear he's a dreamer – but you also get the sense that he's confident of pulling this off.

"For most people seeing a shark fin in the water is their idea of hell," he reflects. "For me, it's the best sight in the world."

* For more information on David's project visit: www.officetoocean.com

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