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Richard John-Theron - Shark-loving surfer

As a true child of the ocean, Richard John Theron’s happiest place is in the middle of the water with no land in sight. The 25-year-old crew member of White Shark Africa recounts how his temporary pit stop in Mossel Bay inevitably extended into a three-year (and counting) labour of love, educating others about his beloved great white sharks and the coastal community he has come to call home.

“I actually ended up falling in love with great whites to the point that my girlfriend comes second and my sharks come first. She knows that very, very well. My happiest days are when I’m out there and I can see a shark. I’ve got a little piece of my heart left to get married, the rest go to these great whites that I work with in Mossel Bay. A day like this where we didn’t see anything, it truly destroys me. I’ll go back home now and be bored out of my skin because I haven’t seen my babies.

“I have a massive phobia of inland. I love the ocean so if I can be in the middle of it without any land around me, that’s where my happiest spot is. I held a travel and expedition post for about 5 years around Africa. As a kid, my folks wanted one direction and I wanted another. So at 17, I dropped out of school to get onto a yacht. I actually passed Mossel Bay with a skipper named Norman, he’s a proper pirate.

“Elton, the skipper of our vessel, was actually the first person I met when I got into the town. From there, I met everyone else and I realised this town wasn’t just a town of separate people. It’s a very tight community, to the point where you can’t even snap your fingers without someone else knowing about it. When I had the opportunity to go out on the White Shark Africa boat, it blew my mind. I was only meant to be here in Mossel Bay on a break for 3 months. I’ve been here now for 3 years.

Richard John-Theron, chumming for sharks with White Shark Africa in Mossel Bay, the Garden Route
Great white sharks are Richard John-Theron in the Garden Route's great love.

“I actually ended up falling in love with great whites to the point that my girlfriend comes second and my sharks come first."

“The reason why I fell in love with this place was the camaraderie that everyone has with each other. I’m a surfer. When I first arrived here, everyone shunned me out the water because I work with great whites. I got pissed off. Eventually, I walked up to them really angry one day and spilled about the respect of the ocean and the responsibility that they, individually, have to take. They understood it better. Now when I surf, they’re all next to me. And when it gets too crowded, I sing my great white song and it gets un-crowded. But a few will stick with me, the ones that better understand.

“Being able to work with great whites has really opened my mind to a whole new perspective. Everyone has their goal and mine ended up not having to do with me. I always felt selfish when I made my own goals. And now my goal is education – educate myself as much as I possibly can about this animal for when a person asks me, so they can walk off that boat and go to their family and tell them the same information I just gave them.

“At the end of the day, we truly need a massive perspective change with great whites and sharks as a whole for people to better understand the reason for them being in the water, not as a ravishing monster, but as the biggest conservationist of our ocean.”

Richard John-Theron at work on White Shark Africa's boat in Mossel Bay, the Garden Route

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  • Fiona Ayerst April 20 2019

    incredible writing and very interesting- amazing that he loves sharks with such passion. thanks Anisa

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