The man who swims with the world's most dangerous sharks

Shark Man Riley Elliott. Photo / Greg Bowker
Shark Man Riley Elliott. Photo / Greg Bowker

While many are terrified of sharks, the Kiwi man dubbed "shark man" regularly swims with the marine animals, and has never been attacked.

Riley Elliot, a marine biologist and keen surfer, has swum with some of the world's most dangerous sharks, including the great white, tiger and mako.

For the past eight years, he has swum with 29 species of the predators in waters all around the world, including New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, Fiji, Indonesia and Europe.

The 30-year-old will be sharing his experiences at the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show starting today.

His close encounters with sharks include a time in South Africa where a 5m great white jumped on the back of a boat he was in.

Riley Elliot has swum with some of the world's most dangerous sharks, including the great white, tiger and mako.
Riley Elliot has swum with some of the world's most dangerous sharks, including the great white, tiger and mako.

"All of a sudden it was a fish out of the water. The experiences I had learnt before gave me the skills to put it back into the water."

While he didn't want to divulge more as it would be discussed in the show, he said he "resuscitated it in a way that will blow your mind".

Despite his close encounters, Mr Elliot said, had never been attacked by a shark.

"I have never ever had a dangerous encounter with them because I respect them.

"I don't put myself in a position where they can make a mistake," he said.

While many would be terrified of being anywhere near sharks, Mr Elliot said he wanted to educate people, especially boaties, on respecting the marine animal when out in the sea.

"You don't question your surgeon or dentist or any professional who knows their trade.

"My trade is shark behaviour therefore I know my dos and don'ts of sharks and it enables me to address the shark's character, its mannerisms and its personality and then decide whether it is a shark I can swim with or not."

He said 95 per cent of the time, he jumped in.

"No matter how much fear you have, you just become amazed and entrapped looking at this thing, it's perfect evolution."

While he'd been doing this for several years, he still got a buzz each time, Mr Elliot said.

"It is an absolute privilege to be able to get into the water with the oldest living animal and to be very specific with your tactics to get closer.

"You forget you're holding your breath, you end up in a zen-like state," he said.

Throughout the four-day boat show, Mr Elliot wants to educate boaties.

"Some boaties think, 'a good shark is a dead shark', because when you catch a shark, you don't catch the fish you want," he said.

"What I'm trying to do is use my experience, my skill and knowledge to communicate to people who are on the water, what sharks really are, how we should perceive and respect them."

Riley Elliot's tips on swimming safely with sharks

• Maintain eye contact - "I see you, there are no surprises."

• Keep a low heart rate - so you don't look like a prey. Look confident.

• Swim in clear water

- NZ Herald

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