With a handle like @ACKSharks, we initially deduced that Elliot Sudal was in Nantucket (the ACK part), and doing something with Sharks (the Sharks part). Then we dug in a bit further….He is in fact in Nantucket, and Sanibel, FL in the off season, doing something with sharks, but that something is reeling them in. by hand. FROM THE BEACH. If you thought skim boarding in high tide was difficult, try riding a Lemon Shark, rodeo bull style while the waves crash around you. Elliot is no f-ing joke, so when we had the opportunity to shoot up to Nantucket and fish with him last summer, we took it.
If you follow Elliot on Instagram, which you should, you’ll notice his fishing wardrobe is pretty standardized: Board Shorts & a Trucker Hat. So when we talked about teaming up on something, the obvious solution was designing a killer trucker hat, that benefited the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, and thus, here we are.
You’re a shark fishing celebrity now….how did this all get started?
I had a pond growing up in my backyard in Connecticut... I blame this as my "gateway drug". My parents retired to Florida and lived on the water, during college breaks I would visit and caught a couple sharks thinking it was the coolest thing in the world. My first summer on Nantucket I had a viral video wrestling a shark out of the water in Sconset and ran with it. Let me tell you, the learning curve on this shark thing has been steep, but in the last few years I've managed to keep that wave going, get involved with tagging, and catch 600-700 sharks in the meantime. The media attention allowed me to connect with various conservation and tagging programs, meet other awesome fisherman, and work with cool brands.
What’s the most memorable catch you’ve had? Ever been bitten?
I get this question several times a day and always stress out when there's nothing made of wood nearby to knock on... So far so good, no bites. Definitely had some sketchy close calls, big angry sharks in big waves at night is far from safe. I guess they're a bit more docile up on the beach then most people think, keep in mind they're upwards of 300 pounds and as long as you're near the tail they usually don't swing around too quickly. Or maybe I'm just getting dangerously casual about the whole thing.
The Sawfish / VP Pence experience from the other day has been pretty memorable, 11 hours and 10 minutes to land this beast may be a world record. I've been joking I'll need to land a great white with the President himself to top this... But other than that; 12 foot tigers, Nantucket sleigh rides hand-lining in sharks from a dinghy, and last summers quest to tag 100 sharks from the beach in 2
months have all been good stories.
Big angry sharks in big waves at night is far from safe...
Why is Tag & Release so important?
The tagging aspect is the most important part of why I'm doing this. The tags provide tons of valuable data on migration routes, growth patterns, and where the sharks are reproducing. However, the farther I dig into this shark conservation world, the more I'm realizing that education and awareness are even bigger factors.
My audience has been growing over the years and my photos and methods are extreme, it's a different take on science. There's a million shows and photos of guys in cages or "researchers" diving with sharks out there... my ways are different and something people seem to stop and want to learn more about. It's almost more relatable being done from the beach, most people have no idea sharks are so close in to the shore.
I'm out there all the time and have been able to stop and talk to people, share the experience; hopefully intrigue and inspire other to learn more about shark tagging and the problems sharks face. The current estimate is over 100 million sharks a year are killed as commercial by-catch or targeted for their fins, sharks give live birth to small liters of pups and take a long time to reach maturity. Inspiring an awareness of the problems the ocean is facing, especially in younger people, is the only way we can start to fix things.
The current estimate is over 100 million sharks a year are killed as commercial by-catch or targeted for their fins
When you’re not body shaming the rest of us, where on earth is your "happy place"? It can be a beach side destination or a quiet spot in your apartment. Just let us know why it's your spot.
I'm happiest out on the beach around sunset with a couple of friends and some shark rods going. It's beautiful and relaxing... until you get a bite. Zero to sixty. I love that. Boom, chaos. You can feel the excitement when that reel starts to click and you know something big is on the other end of the line.
I would have to say the Nantucket scene is my favorite, set up in my 'Sconset spot. Couple of jeeps and land rovers parked on the beach with a little campfire going... good food and friends. I like using those crazy 15 foot rods up there, usually run 3 at a time. You'll look over and see the rod tip twitch and you know whats about to go down... best feeling in the world.
Do you have a quirky travel ritual? Like are you a weirdo who brings your own pillow onto the plane?
I basically pack my life into my SUV and travel between Nantucket and Sanibel every year - 1600 mile drive between the two. I'll bring a part of my Sanibel beach up north with me and burry it in my Nantucket spot, like a bag of sand or jar of sea water, seashell, etc... and vice a versa when I return. These spots have drastically shaped my life and just try to keep the energy good between the two. Sounds pretty strange typing that out....
What music are you listening to these days?
Been really into this bluegrass band that covers all sorts of mainstream and classic rock songs lately... I'm amazed at how fast people can play the banjo. Yeehaw. But all that indie / EDMmmy stuff out there lately is great as well.
What’s your happy hour drink of choice?
Mojitos... but I always feel like a jerk ordering them because they're annoying to make.
Best bar in the USA...go
Wynwood, an artsy little town on the outskirts of Miami, is awesome and loaded with cool bars. It's like gentrification through art and music over there, great cuban food, and Mojitos.