Addicted to Adventure: Sharkdiving

XTRATUF | May 6, 22

IG: @tannerunderwater

Sharkdiving isn’t for the faint of heart. For Tanner Mansell, the ocean and life around sharks is a lifestyle that he couldn’t ignore.

A giant shark swimming near the water surface.

I've always been addicted to adventure. I am uneasy, mentally, and physically when I am not pushing boundaries. Life gets dull, and boring when there isn’t some kind of edge to walk on. And at some point in my life I realized it really doesn’t matter what others think about you. Our society tries to suck us into a system, a turning of predictable events and it seems to me people seek to understand by categorizing, and labeling, and all I've ever wanted was to be different.

Tanner on the deck of a small boat

I earned a degree in physics, starting working for a Fortune 500 company, as a manufacturing engineer. I always knew this wasn't the way, but every single day I woke up and tried to climb the corporate ladder, I lost a bit of myself. I lost my creativity, I lost a bit of my passion to explore. I became more unmotivated to follow my dreams in life and be somebody I could truly be proud of. Until one day I had had enough, and I decided to dedicate my life to the ocean. The only place I knew I would never get tired of. Where I could be free, creative, a place I could continue to explore and appreciate for the rest of my life. I went to Florida and got offered part time work as a deckhand on a shark diving boat. I called Intel and quit that day. I haven’t looked back, I haven’t had a single day that has gone by where I have regretted or second guessed my decision. I was determined to live my life doing the things I love no matter how much money I made or how much security I had. I needed to live my life in the ocean and around sharks.

Tanner, swimming in a school of sharks

I received a lot of backlash. I had friends, and family calling me crazy. But they didn’t see the vision. Do you blame them? I had everything you could want. My first real job for a massive tech company, health benefits, a great salary, bonuses, stability, and yet I knew something wasn’t right. What is the point of making a lot of money when I was just going to spend it doing things I loved? I realized the most important thing in life is to work on things you're passionate about. Life is so short and your energy is so valuable. I couldn’t stand to waste it on anything that I didn’t absolutely love to do.

Tanner on a deck where a shark is swimming close to the surface

The ocean is the place I feel most at peace. I do crave highs, but they’re natural highs. Everybody seems to think shark diving is some kind of huge adrenaline rush. And don't get me wrong, there are times where it is absolutely that. However, shark diving in general is a peaceful experience. It is a space I enter where time disappears. All the problems in the universe disappear and it is just me, and raw nature. And sharks are so extremely misunderstood. They allow us to enter their space daily, but they aren't scary by any means. They are mesmerizing, they are humbling, and they are gracious. Very rarely do they bother with us, as we are just another predator in the water to them. They are cautious of us, as they should be in a dangerous and unpredictable ocean. I have now spent thousands of hours amongst sharks in pretty much every condition imaginable and I still learn things from them each and every time I get in the water.

Tanner underwater with sharks

The reality is, sharks are not the danger they are portrayed to be. As a matter of fact, we are the danger to them. Hundreds of millions of sharks are killed every year from overfishing, shark fin soup, and they are at risk of extinction. The ocean's ecosystems will collapse if sharks disappear and we will be wiped off this planet. This is one of the biggest threats humanity faces today and being an advocate for their survival is my duty.

Closeup of a giant shark showing it's teeth

I will continue to push boundaries and seek extraordinary experiences in the ocean and amongst sharks. I feel as though the things I've seen, the moments I've experienced are things that very few individuals have ever, or will ever be able to relate to. Shark diving is more than a career, it is an obsession. It is my life. And I have found my purpose in life showcasing their beauty and importance in our oceans.

Tanner swimming away from a school of sharks

“Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.” (Kahlil Gibran)