“We never know who the client is until the last possible second. Their front men contact us.”
On the phone is Patric Douglas, 42, CEO of Shark Diver, a commercial shark-cage diving outfit offering five-day excursions to Isla Guadalupe, a volcanic island off the Pacific coast of Baja, 210 miles — about a 20-hour boat ride — from San Diego. For $3100 you get five days onboard an 88-foot vessel, fancy food, adult beverages, plus the opportunity to hang out in a 100-square-foot aluminum shark cage. Said cage is dropped four feet below the water’s surface, where you suck air, hookah style, from a tube that runs up to an air compressor on the ship’s deck, while waiting for 1800-pound white sharks, who will, if things go right, come nose to nose and scare the bejesus out of you.
There’s no room here to go into cage diving for tiger sharks in the Bahamas or deep-water submarine trips out of Roatan, Honduras, or the Guadalupe Island Conservation Fund or Shark Divers, a production-consulting firm (CEO Patric Douglas) for film and television, and more, more, more. Many interlocking balls in the air.
The preceding business résumé matches Douglas’s published bio. You can fill in the blanks. Exotic. Tour guide. Virgin Islands. Vietnam. China. Bali. Peru. New Zealand. Saltwater crocodiles. CBS outdoor reporter. Fly fishing. Skeet and trap shooting. Discovery Channel.
Douglas has said he works with two PR companies (“If you’re not spending at least $50,000 a year on PR, you’re not getting the word out”), so it’s not surprising to see his tracks all over the Internet. But, what you find are the same stories, copied, pasted, and reused. I did see one item, one time, that was different. It was a 2008 interview with Entrepreneurship Interviews. He was asked about his Corporate Yacht package, priced at $100,000-plus.
Douglas answered, “It’s a high price tag for sure, but when your personal expedition yacht is worth $60 million and carries more than $15 million in rare art work and has a $400,000 wine cellar on board...these are not clients you advertise for.”
That’s what I want to talk about.
Douglas tells me, “I’ll give you one of the classic stories. I got a call out of the blue. Some guy says, ‘You build shark cages?’ I say, ‘Yeah, of course we do.’ So, we built a [custom] cage, had it shipped out to Kansas. There aren’t any sharks in Kansas, but that’s where they wanted it shipped because they didn’t want us to know where it was going to be transshipped.
“I got a call from him six months later. He says, ‘You know about salmon sharks in Alaska?’ I said, ‘Nobody knows a lot about them. They’re there. They’re cousins to white sharks.’ He goes, ‘How about you show us these salmon sharks?’
“So, I spent the next week talking to every researcher on the planet about salmon sharks. Found myself up in Gravina Bay [Alaska] after jumping on a private aircraft, flying to Port Gravina, then jumping on a helicopter and landing on a 200-foot yacht. That’s when I met the owner,” Douglas laughs.
“He’s got this helicopter, it’s an Aérospatiale helicopter, a gorgeous helicopter, looks like a dragonfly. They’re made in France, all the rich guys have them. He wanted to have lunch on a remote beach.
“They flew the helicopter and all the crew to this remote beach. They set up a lawn table for a first-class lunch, kids are playing... Now, these helicopter flights are exceptionally expensive, about $4000 an hour. One of his kids likes Heinz ketchup. They didn’t have any, so the owner said, ‘Fly back to Homer, pick up some ketchup — ’” Douglas explodes in laughter “— this $10,000 bottle of ketchup....
“We get these random calls from around the world: ‘We’re in Fiji, what do you know?’ One of my guys —” Douglas laughs “— we built him a cage, we call them the Mark I, the Mark II, try and make them sound sexy for the owners because that’s their world. So, we build this guy a Mark IV Guadalupe white-shark cage. He lives in Long Beach, and I received a picture of his yacht not two weeks after delivery. There is our cage on the top of his yacht with all these girls in various states of undress, dancing [big laugh] as he’s pulling around Catalina Island.
“So, I called him and I’m, like, ‘Stanley, that’s not an approved use of a Mark IV shark cage.’ He says, ‘Of course it’s an approved use, I’ve got girls in it.’”