For anyone that’s had the privilege to meet PADI AmbassaDiver Gerardo Del Villar, it may come as a surprise that his first dream was to become a professional snowboarder and represent his country, Mexico, in the Olympics. It wasn’t until he was two years into his training that he decided to quit the sport and return to diving.
“We didn’t have great access to the ocean where I grew up but I was inspired to start diving after seeing a photo that my dad showed me of him and my mom diving and another picture of my grandpa diving with my dad,” Del Villar says.
His drive for adrenaline didn’t stop there. Soon after becoming a diver he discovered he had another passion – sharks.
“Since I was a little kid I felt an attraction for powerful animals and when I saw a shark for the first time I totally fell in love with them,” Del Villar says. “I could not understand why people saw them like killing machines when they are not, so I decided to dedicate my life to them.”
After becoming a PADI IDC Staff Instructor at The Dive House in Cozumel, he didn’t waste any time working toward the conservation efforts that got him into diving in the first place by creating documentaries and powerful images showcasing the beauty of sharks in their natural habitat.
And Del Villar isn’t short on exciting stories to share either. One of his favorite dives involved not one, but three, of the most unpredictable sharks in the ocean.
“We were changing a scientific receptor in Guadalupe Island, Mexico, and three great white sharks came around us in their natural behavior without chumming them, this was my favorite moment underwater,” he says.
Check out the thrilling encounter here:
But not all of the sharks show up so easily for the seasoned underwater photographer.
“While trying to photograph a mako shark off Catalina Island, I waited for five days looking for him and at the very end of the expedition he finally came to me and let me take an image,” Del Villar remembers. “It was a magical experience.”
Unfortunately, not all of Del Villar’s encounters are as pleasant. Through overfishing and finning, the fear that they will disappear is at the forefront of Del Villar’s work.
“Sharks are very important in the food chain,” he says. “Without them, the ecosystem will collapse, and most of the marine species will be extinct, so it’s important to help us to protect them.”
To emphasize the importance of shark conservation, the 45-year-old Del Villar continues to educate people via a variety of mediums and experiences.
“My main project is to change the bad perception that people have about sharks, by sharing my images in photo exhibitions, creating shark documentaries, publicly speaking about shark conservation and bringing people to scuba dive with sharks.”
And while we’re sure he would have made an impressive Olympic snowboarder, we’re grateful he decided to spend his life’s work under the melted version of snow.
Check out one of Del Villar’s recent projects here …
For more information about Gerardo Del Villar, visit his PADI AmbassaDiver page.