ESPNESPN The MagazineJust for FunNFL

“My reaction was like a high-pitched, high-speed underwater version of the Ray Lewis dance.”

ESPN The Magazine senior writer David Fleming shares his summer vacation adventure swimming with Indian Ocean sharks, "the second-craziest day I've spent with 'sharks.'"

This week, ESPN The Magazine senior writer David Fleming is visiting various NFL training camps hunting his usual quarry – informative but unusual stories.

David Fleming
(Chris Beauchamp/ESPN Images)

For instance, his feature in The Mag’s “Football Issue” this month focuses on the variety of ways NFL quarterbacks grip the pigskin.

But recently off the coast of the island nation of Maldives in the Indian Ocean, Fleming and his family were subjects of a gripping story involving swimming with filter and nurse sharks.

These sharks have reputations for being harmless – though there are exceptions, as ABC’s Good Morning America has reported.

So this excursion did have some elements of danger.

“It was probably more than an hour, but it felt like five minutes,” Fleming said. “To attract the sharks, the guides occasionally put food in the water. I know, totally nuts!”

With this swimming with the fishes experience, Fleming’s more than ready to handle future encounters with the likes of, say, the Miami Dolphins. Fleming shared some photos, video and observations with Front Row.


Our dive shop director in the Maldives said we could either swim with dolphins or sharks, and without hesitating both my daughters yelled out “sharks!” I’ve never been prouder.

(Photo courtesy of Ally Fleming/ESPN)

Somehow, of course, I was the only one between the food and the sharks and they literally “pinballed” me out of the way to get to their preferred meal. I totally kept my cool, though. My reaction was like a high-pitched, high-speed underwater version of the Ray Lewis dance.

(Photo courtesy of Ally Fleming/ESPN)

The encounter was freeing: It convinced me I wasn’t in any danger and afterward I felt completely comfortable swimming next to them, under them, between them and close enough to even get a shark selfie. We’re so programmed to be terrified of sharks but up-close, man, they are magnificent creatures.

(Photo courtesy of Ally Fleming/ESPN)

The Maldives, honestly, was the second-craziest day I’ve spent with sharks, after the epic 2017 Body Issue cover shoot I attended with San Jose Sharks Brent Burns and Joe Thornton.


The choice — dolphins or sharks – is what really translates to my work, I hope. Dolphins were the safe, cute, popular option. Sharks were the riskier, weirder, more challenging choice. Maybe it’s cheesy, but when it comes to adventures or stories, I always pick the sharks.

(John Loomis for ESPN The Magazine)
Close