Planes, Trains, Ball and Chains: Great White Hype
So apparently, we went viral. Like, just right under our noses. No idea. The Internet happened THAT fast. A couple of days after your typical run of the mill South African cage dive with Great Whites off Gansbaai in Shark Alley (as seen on Discovery’s “Shark Week!”) — the texts and emails started flooding in.
“Have you guys seen this?!” dominated most of the subject lines. An American couple on their honeymoon that was on one of the dives was nearly chomped when one of the G-Whites wedged its 5-rows of razor-sharp-death into the cage’s horizontal viewing space. Don’t ask me why that space seems to be stock issue on all the cages. Just is.
Anyway, friends and family sent us the links. 30-second “Get a load of this close-call”-style news-filler brought to you by MSNBC, Good Morning America, The Telegraph and more, detailing how traumatizing the experience was. Like here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=po4WFxkOS3s
Thing is, we were on that same boat. On that same tour. IN that same cage at that exact same moment that Great White peeked its gnashing, pointy head into our collective personal horizontal viewing space. Check out one of those two angles on the vids that went viral. The one smiling, giving a thumbs up? That’s Rachel. With no idea how “close” the call was. And not that we’re staunch shark-cage-diving advocates, but that American couple who sold the clip to whatever content pusher you sell clips like this (or of pandas sneezing)….kinda blew the whole thing out of proportion. Hell, we even snuck in a couple wine tastings in the region’s vineyards on the way home to really maximize the day. South African pinots are fiyah! Meanwhile, a bidding war for 20-seconds of danger was ensuing…
Ironically, the proximity of Great Whites and/or apex predators with sharp-ass teeth became a bit of a running theme. We’d decided to road trip the Rainbow Nation, thus rented the most high performance vehicle kayak.com could provide for such an excursion: The formidable Hyundai 5-speed hatchback i10. Not long before going viral we’d embarked from Cape Town to Jo’Burg.
So we trekked down the Cape of Good Hope to where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans grope each other like long-lost lovers. We fed overweight alpha male seals, with the help of a local guide (meth head), fish parts from our mouths; our newest party trick! We watched the sun set at the bottom of the world from the Hout Bay dunes with champagne-filled flutes. And I braved the icy waters of Llandudno for a surf with a friend of a friend that I’m hoping accepts my offer as a best friend. Fingers crossed.
We continued on to Jeffery’s Bay, home of the world’s best righthander for a freak out-of-season swell that was to arrive…on my f—king birthday!
Earlier this year, however, at this same perfect right pointbreak, 3X surfing world champion Mick Fanning was bucked off his surfboard in the final heat of a major surf contest. The situation actually aired via webcast to millions of viewers. Then of course went viral and is probably the scariest thing to have witnessed in surf competition history. Mick was OK, he actually punched the shark on the snout, but the odds of something like that happening is like a quarterback getting struck by lightening at the Super Bowl.
But it was gonna be my birthday and Great Whites can’t stop ageing, plus every American knows you can’t let the terrorists win by being terrified, so we got to J-Bay and I surfed for a few days unscathed with no shark-sightings...that I was aware of. A pod of a few dozen dolphins did swim right past me and I swear one winked and blew me a kiss. Jeffery’s Bay is a special place like that.
We continued on in our high-octane Korean vehicle and safari’d through Addo National Park, getting within an unregulated and probably unsafe distance of three lions and many, many elephants. We stayed in Hobbit-style shire-cabins in JRR Tolkein’s boyhood village. We repelled down a waterfall and kissed a rainbow on the way down. Bucket list shit.
And eventually, after nearly being flipped by a freak storm on the final stretch to Jo’Burg, we arrived safe and sound and then left this beautiful country to spend the holidays with the fam. Hopefully next time we’ll realized we’re viral as it happens…but I could also see it going right over our heads again.
*Tune in for the next Planes, Trains, Ball and Chains blog where things get spicy and illegal in CUBA!