We had the good fortune of connecting with Martin Graf and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Martin, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I’ve always been a risk-taker, but that doesn’t mean that I’m taking foolish risks. Growing up in Switzerland I always wanted to explore and see what’s behind the horizon. Since we didn’t have a car, I rode my bike everywhere. When I was about 9 years old, I started racing bikes which led me all the way to a career as a professional cyclist that lasted 18 years. It was a huge risk to forego a corporate career and pursue the life of a professional athlete instead. My thinking was that I only live once and that I can always go back to a 9-5 job. Bike racing is what brought me to the US and when I retired from that, I was looking for a sport that was a bit more laid back and less intense. SCUBA diving fit that bill and I became a dive instructor. While I was working as an Instructor on a San Diego Dive boat, we discovered the Great White Sharks at Guadalupe which led to the operation of cage dives at that location. I was responsible for the diver’s safety and customer service for 12 years when the owner of the Shark Diving company offered to sell me the business. I had just saved enough money to buy a house, but took the risk and bought the company instead. Today, 8 years later I’m happy to say that I have the best job in the world and taking that risk has definitely paid off.
What should our readers know about your business?
We are one of a handful of companies that offer Great White Shark dives at Guadalupe Island. What sets us apart is the fact that I’m personally on all our excursions and know the history of the Sharks. Some of the individual sharks I’ve known for 20 years. Nicole Lucas from the Marine Conservation Science Institute keeps a photo ID database of all the sharks we have encountered at Guadalupe. All our divers receive a copy of that database and we teach them how to identify the sharks. Our divers also participate in the database by donating their photos to Nicole, so she can maintain it. To date, we have over 360 individual sharks identified. I am crazy about these sharks and my goal is to get our divers to care about them. Helping them identify individuals gives them a much more personal connection with these animals. Can you imagine how they feel the next time they watch shark week and recognize the exact shark that they came face to face with? We also care a great deal about conservation. My company started “Shark Free Marinas”, an initiative that asks marinas to ban caught sharks being offloaded there. We have over 800 marinas worldwide that are part of it so far.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Of course, I would want them to come on one of our 5 day Great White Shark excursions to Guadalupe Island. In the City itself, I highly recommend the Point Loma lighthouse. That location offers the best view of downtown San Diego! The Children’s Pool in La Jolla is another awesome place to visit. There you can encounter lots of sea lions and harbor seals!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Like most of us, I would not be here without the support of my parents. They have always supported my “crazy” dreams, even when they were skeptical about it. I also owe a huge thanks to Mark Azierski, a friend who organized a big bike race on the east coast. He let me stay with him when I first came to the US to race and I would have never made it if not for him.
Martin Graf, DaShark