Waterman Mark Healey brings the seas to spectacular life

From shark-tagging in Japan to free-diving in Maui, this expert can help you explore and experience new depths of the world's oceans

(Image credit: @Pompermayer)

I could swim before I could walk - and now I'm surfing 70ft waves. I remember spending three nights a week on the beach, fishing with my dad. In the morning, I'd walk across the road to school, hose myself down and take any fish I'd caught into first-grade show-and-tell. It was a magical lifestyle. By 14, I had been sponsored for surfing and was flying to Fiji on a ticket that my clothing sponsors had paid for - it was my Willy Wonka golden ticket.

The ocean fascinates me and one of the things I'm particularly interested in is the history of free divers pushing themselves physically to be able to go to great depths on just a breath of air. In the Tuamotu islands, people dived to their deaths so frequently when sourcing black pearls that it was believed they were encountering evil spirits in the black parts of the ocean. I learned to be safe and disciplined when working on stunts in the film industry and I also know how important the safety aspect is from being professionally involved in various water-sports industries.

People come to Hawaii for the ocean, but I noticed a real disparity in that there were few businesses focusing on it. I am close friends with some of the best water people in the world - whether they be kite or wind-surfers, scuba instructors, free-dive instructors or cinematographers - meaning I was always just a phone call away from any experience in the ocean. So I thought: why not create the most amazing holiday experiences for people, helping them do things that 99 per cent of people born and raised in Hawaii have never been able to do?

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(Image credit: D.J. Struntz)

There's a reason mine is the only company like this, revolving around the ocean, and that's because it's really difficult. The ocean changes so much and I realised my experience and that of all the really talented people I know was an essential part of making our unique proposition work. My role is incredibly client-specific - that's the key - meaning the planning process starts months before we even enter the ocean.

A big part of my work is educational and science-based. This is really important to me and working on marine-biology projects such as shark-tagging, which is something I do with clients, is amazing because it dovetails with research and will add to a database. Meanwhile, the client can still say: "Look, this is where my shark Toto is now." I also organise educational island-survival days with kids, which have been really successful. We look at the good kinds of coconuts to eat, visit shark nurseries and even catch and cook a small fish and eat it with some coconut, so it's a really cool, informative day.

Essentially, I can create any ocean-based scenario that the client desires, no matter how unrealistic. I encourage people to tell me their wildest dreams and then I do my best to make them happen.

MARK HEALEY is the founder of Healey Water Ops, which delivers one-of-a-kind ocean-going experiences. He is also an award-winning spear fisherman and surfer, a part-time Hollywood stuntman, a film-maker and free-diver; markhealeywaterman.com

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