Sharks…some of us love them and most of us hate them. Whatever your views, you can’t deny that they’re amazing and fascinating creatures. When it comes to filming sharks, no one does it better than Andy Brandy Casagrande IV. Andy is a 2x Emmy award winning wildlife cinematographer and producer. His specialty is documenting the world’s most dangerous creatures and Great White sharks are his bread and butter. Andy has filmed over 100 wildlife documentaries, and most relevant to us, over 40 Shark Week features for Discovery.
This month, Andy has teamed up with Mark Healey’s company, Waterman’s Pack, to curate a special, shark inspired package. Andy’s Waterman’s Pack features multiple waterman essentials from ScubaPro, a limited edition item from Andy, as well as a hook-up from Just Chill. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Shark Angels. It ships this week, so don’t miss out and order at www.watermanspack.com.
We sat down with Andy to discuss his crazy life, job, shark stories and more.
DeeperBlue.com: Andy, how did you get into sharks and how did this lead you to your career?
Andy Brandy Casagrande IV: When I was a little kid. The first time I ever saw a shark was on television. I thought “holy cow this is incredible”, and since it was on TV, I thought sharks were made up. Once I learned that sharks were actually real, they were all I could think about. I became fascinated with sharks and wanted to dedicate my life to learning about sharks and getting in the water with them. This path has also led me to film orcas, polar bears, crocodiles…pretty much every apex predator.
So, I specialize in filming predators. I love to use the coolest technology in the world, and I spend a lot of time underwater. That’s why I’m stoked to be teaming up with Waterman’s Pack. When it comes to being in the ocean, you have to be prepared for everything.
DB: When was the first time you got in the water with a shark?
ABC: The first time I saw a shark in person was actually quite underwhelming. It was a White Tip Reef Shark at the Great Barrier Reef and it was about a 18 inches long. I was like “Hey! Look it’s a shark”, but it was about the smallest, least scary shark I could’ve seen. They’re cool, but I love BIG Great White Sharks because they are the quintessential shark. From there, I sought out bigger species – Great Whites, Tigers, Hammerheads and other species.
DB: What drew you to Great Whites?
ABC: I specialize in Great Whites. I’ve filmed them in practically every hot spot in the world. If you watch Shark Week this year, you’ll see a new hot-spot for Great Whites that we discovered which is unreal. New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, California, Mexico, Cape Cod – wherever Great Whites are, I’ve filmed them there. I’m super lucky and honored to do that. As far as what drew me to them, it’s pretty simple, just look at them. They’re incredible! Great Whites have this attitude. They’re all unique, just like people. There are some Great Whites that are pretty aggressive. They aren’t malicious, but I won’t lie, they might eat you if they get the chance. Then there are other Great Whites which are totally shy. You can’t get them to come anywhere near you. And there are some that seem like they just smoked something because they just seen to be swimming around in rasta-land or something. They just never cease to amaze me. They can jump 20 feet in the air while trying to catch a seal or dive 5,000 feet deep in the ocean. You can find them in tropical environments like Hawaii or the exact opposite, like Alaska. They’re pretty versatile creatures.
DB: For those that aren’t as accustomed to sharks as you are, what do you suggest they do if they see one at their local beach, surf spot, etc.?
ABC: People always tell me that they’ve been told to punch a shark. If you’re in the water and a shark is coming at you, your view is magnified from being underwater. If you go to punch it’s nose, you’ll likely end up with your hand right in it’s jaws. I don’t suggest doing that. Their gills are really sensitive, so keep that in mind. If you’re in the jaws of a shark or are having a close encounter, always maintain eye contact.. Sharks aren’t malicious, but if they’re actively in the surf zone, you have to question their motives. Their motive isn’t to stalk surfers, but they do hunt to eat and to survive.
If the shark stays in the area, my suggestion would be to get out of the water. Try to be as chill as possible. Paddle or swim slowly to shore. If you panic, they may pick up on it. Don’t act like prey or they will think you’re prey. Everything in the ocean is essentially afraid of Great Whites except for Orcas. They’re used to other creatures swimming away from them. Then they hunt and prey on it. When I’m underwater and out of the cage with a Great White and it gets aggressive with me, I swim directly at it with my camera. The shark is like “wait a second, this thing is supposed to be afraid of me, but it’s coming right at me. Maybe I shouldn’t eat it”.
DB: Tell me about the first time you met Mark Healey
ABC: The first time I met Mark Healey I was at Guadalupe Island underwater filming this huge Great White named Bruce. I was out of the cage getting a killer shot when I see this crazy dude in a camouflage wetsuit swim down into my frame, grab the dorsal fin of the shark and just swim by. When he got to the surface, I swam up and said “hey, you’re f-ing up my shot. What are you doing?!” and he was like “oh man, I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself”. Now, we’re good buddies and have done some crazy stuff together.
DB: Do you have a scariest shark experience or encounter?
ABC: Funny enough, Mark Healey was part of this experience as well. After it the incident occurred, Healey actually popped up out of the water and said “that was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life”. If Mark Healey says it was scary, you know it was scary.
We were filming tiger sharks out in the Bahamas. One of the sharks got really frisky and swam towards my wife. It’s kind of my fault because it was my wife’s first time filming or even seeing tiger sharks. Before we dove, I gave her the camera and told her “if the shark comes at you, hold your ground and get a good shot”, since we’re a filming making couple and all. Safety first, but get the shot too.
She’s holding the camera and a shark is swimming overhead. She’s getting the shot and waiting for the shark to exit the frame. Instead of continuing on, this shark opens up it’s entire mouth, and before I know it, her entire head is between its open jaws. We were too far away to really do anything, so all I did was scream “what the f—!” underwater. She somehow heard me, and that jolted her to push the camera up and get her head out of the shark’s jaws. That little split second move saved her life. I immediately swam to my wife. Healey dives down and of course, double fists the shark’s dorsal fin and rides into the sunset to get the shark out of there. Miraculously, my wife was unscathed. She didn’t even realize how scary the situation was. Luckily, she’s still alive and we still go shark diving together. Now she knows, to hold the shot, but never take your eyes off of the business end of the shark.
DB: Why did you select Shark Angels to be the beneficiary of your Waterman’s Pack?
ABC: Sharks are very misunderstood creatures, and people are finally starting to recognize that they’re actually polite predators. Shark Angels is great at getting the message out and creating a movement without preaching. They’re an organization comprised of young and hip people which approach shark conservation from a unique angle. Instead of focusing on “doom and gloom”, they highlight how great and amazing sharks are. This proves to be much more effective and positive. They’re an organization that I love to work with and support.
Andy’s Shark Inspired Waterman’s Pack ships June 23rd. Order at www.watermanspack.com.