My grandfather used a massive fossilized megalodon tooth as a paperweight; he'd found it on an expedition to Greenland in the '30s. Sharks are some of the most misunderstood animals on earth—people think of them as relentless, destructive man-eaters, which couldn't be further from the truth. But I didn't know any of that growing up. I'd sit at my grandfather's desk and stare at the tooth, wondering what it'd be like to see a shark up close.

After college, I moved to Hawaii. My guy friends there were into free diving, where you hold your breath and propel yourself down hundreds of feet without scuba gear. I pushed myself to be just as daring—now I can hold my breath underwater for about five and a half minutes. In the shot above, I'm standing on a sunken tugboat. The sharks kept bumping into my legs, and I was gripping the boat with my feet, struggling to stay down. When I got to the surface, that breath of air felt like the best I'd ever had.

Now I'm a dive instructor in the Bahamas, and I'm obsessed with shark conservation; I'm helping lobby the Bahamian government to put certain species on the endangered list. My brother has a great job in D.C. and a beautiful new baby, whereas I rarely know what I'll be up to in the next 24 hours. But on 90-degree cloudless days when I'm sitting on my boat and the ocean is perfectly still like a pond, I can't imagine living any other way.

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