Playing with Sharks: The Valerie Taylor Story tells the story of an Australian woman who devoted her life to dispelling myths about sharks. It’s a National Geographic documentary and can be seen on Disney+.
Playing with Sharks: The Valerie Taylor Story is an amazing story about an amazing woman. The film, written and directed by Sally Aitken, concentrates mostly on Valerie’s evolution from spearfishing champion to conservationist of sharks. There is much more to her accomplishments beyond her work with sharks, as you can see on this Wikipedia page.
Valerie Taylor was born in 1935 and is still diving today. She started as a competitive spear fishing champion in the 1950s. She married the underwater photographer Ron Taylor and the two of them began documenting what they found under the sea. Some of the film they took together is used in this documentary. Before long they stopped spearing fish and only shot them with their cameras.
Valerie and Ron became known as shark experts. They worked on the film Jaws. They never expected it to be a huge blockbuster that would harm sharks. After watching Jaws, people were terrified of going in the ocean and of sharks. They believed that Jaws was an accurate representation of sharks. Widespread killing of sharks by the millions followed the release of Jaws. Valerie spent many years after that trying to correct the false impressions the movie gave of sharks and established ocean sanctuaries to protect them.
Valerie was never afraid of sharks. She swam in a suit of metal mesh to prove that their jaw strength was not great enough to break an arm. She fed a fish to a shark and led him into biting her arm, which he couldn’t damage.
She perched near the water and fed sharks by hand to prove that they wouldn’t attack her. She swam near them and with them and was never hurt, never attacked.
Even now, in her 80s, Valerie Taylor still dives, still gets up close with the sharks who seem to recognize her, and still fights conservation battles of all kinds for the creatures of the ocean.
Her story is one of courage, curiosity, and determination. She’s an inspiration. If you can, you should definitely watch this film.
Here’s a little taste of what the film is about.