Jupiter, Florida free diver fights against shark stereotypes (includes video story)

Sharks often get a bad rap from the general public due to the narratives created by movies like “Jaws,” “Sharknado” and “The Meg.” Tanner Mansell, a shark-loving free diver from Jupiter, Florida, has made it his mission to change that perception. 

Born and raised in Lakeport, California, Mansell regularly traveled with his father to the town of Mendocino where he would dive and spearfish for abalone off the coast. He loved exploring the ocean from a young age and as he grew, so did his curiosity for the deep sea.

At 21, he moved to Beaverton, Oregon where he worked at Intel as a manufacturing technician for five years. It was while on vacation in 2016 that he ended up in Jupiter and found his passion in free diving with sharks. After this life-changing trip, Mansell realized he wanted to turn this newfound hobby into a career one day. 

A conversation with a local boat crew turned his dream into a reality. Needing to fill up a vacant spot on the craft, they offered Mansell a position as a shark guide and underwater photographer, where he gained seven years of experience in free diving and saved up to permanently move to Jupiter.

 “In Jupiter, you can find turtles, shellfish, wahoo, marlin, and some of the best sailfish in the world, ” said Mansell about why he fell in love with the city. “It has such an abundance of wildlife and is one of the best places in the world to see sharks because the gulf stream current is pushing all kinds of nutrients and blue water up against the deep reef current.”

In his time as a free diver, he’s handled almost all shark species, including tiger, hammerhead, bull, silk, dusky, sandbar, lemon, Caribbean reef, blacktip, nurse, and more.

“Sharks aren’t what Hollywood and the media make them out to be,” said Mansell. “They are actually quite peaceful creatures if you swim with them under the right conditions . . . it’s possible to coexist with them and have fun, safe dives.” 

The last two years have seen the development of his own business, Tanner Underwater LLC. He and his crew of five go out every day the weather permits, taking up to four trips in a single day. They offer underwater photography shoots with sharks and shark charters to clients.

“The best advice I could give someone is to go out there and experience what we are doing here,” said Mansell. “It is such a surreal experience, and it takes that bravery and courage to break out of your shell and just do it.”

Daniela Zulueta is a FIU Alumni at Florida International University who graduated with her bachelor's in digital broadcasting and media and holds an associate degree in journalism from Miami Dade College. She loves Miami and aims to share the stories of the citizens who live here and all over the world. After her studies, she wishes to pursue a career in the entertainment field.