Interview with Stuart Cove
Images by Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas
For Stuart, who founded Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas, there is an underwater world he wants to share with us all. The coastline waters offer world-famous underwater film sets for scuba divers, snorkelers, and swimmers. There’s a whole cinematic masterpiece beneath the surface to be seen. From stunning, lively reefs and an expansive array of marine life (most notably the sharks) to dramatic drops and mysterious wrecks, the experiences on offer are a treat for every diver, whether you’re a newbie or veteran – or a celebrity with a film crew in tow.
Will Smith’s fear of sharks had haunted him his whole life thanks to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. This fear of sharks
would come up in any environment, even irrationally in the bathtub, as he admits in his Facebook Live video clips from 2019. Will decided to overcome his fears and team up with Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas to undertake a PADI Discover Scuba course. The location of this spot? Exactly where Jaws was filmed. He really did tackle his fear head on. The Bad Boys star wanted not only to learn how to dive but to appreciate sharks and their roles in our ecosystems.
Will said it had always been on his bucket list and he wanted to learn to love the creatures, not shake in terror at the thought, let alone the real life sight, of them. Indeed, Stuart notes celebrities are no “superheroes” and Will was terrified on the boat before entering the water. Then, remarkably, Stuart had the privilege, as he calls it, to watch this fear “dissipate into a sense of wonderment”.
Whether it’s dive enthusiasts, holidaying families or movie stars, for Stuart, it is so humbling to see people interact with sharks “so close that their bellies brush over their heads”. He notes that it is a powerful feeling when these individuals of all ages and all backgrounds “put their lives into your hands”.
In the case of celebrities, Stuart is always struck by how these famous figures have so many people looking up to them, yet they are just as humbled as anyone else when they’re underwater experiencing unique encounters with marine life. He concludes that after all his experiences underwater with celebrities, they are “just individuals who have high pressure jobs”.
Stuart also recalls in his years in The Bahamas how he has hosted numerous film crews and seen his dive school turned into a film set. Sean Connery, Sandra Bullock, and Heidi Klum are just some of the celebrities he’s seen. He has also witnessed how marine protection protocols have changed the way films are made. Before these were in place, crews would manipulate animals such as sharks, physically handling them like props or puppets to create the perfect shot. Now, thankfully, marine life must be left largely untouched by law. Other tricks are still employed, however, like altering the environment to match the characteristics and colours of different filming locations. For example, whiter sand might be brought in to mimic the colour of the sand from the Virgin Islands, another popular setting for movies.
From the Bond films to Avatar, The Bahamas has been chosen for countless movies for its photogenic beauty both above and below the waterline. But looking to the future, computer-generated imagery (CGI) is gradually changing that, with stunning locations like The Bahamas simply providing a backdrop that is then heavily reworked digitally. Actors are filming less and less in authentic underwater environments, instead shooting in swimming pools or tanks bathed in harsh artificial light and covered in green screens – with marine life added in digitally later. It is arguably easier for Hollywood, but the underwater world is so picture perfect, it is perhaps a shame. At least the sharks are left alone, and anyone can still enjoy the chance to dive with them.
Whether diving with novices, families or celebrities, or indeed anyone bravely overcoming intense fears, Stuart is passionate about introducing people to the underwater world and helping to create better divers. He has shared many remarkable moments and forged lasting memories. But, he says, although we may be starstruck when we hear about the famous people he has met along the way, for him it’s all in a day’s work, and he’s always looking for his next adventure. Indeed, these days, Stuart is looking up, not down, taking to the skies as he trains to become a pilot. In the meantime, Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas will continue to showcase the most exciting underwater life The Bahamas has to offer and you can be sure that you haven’t seen the last of this beautiful corner of the Caribbean on the big screen.
Quotes from Stuart Cove
Text by Sienna Lakin
To read more inspiring stories with unique encounters divers have had, pick up your copy of ‘What it Feels Like’ Scuba Diver issue No.124/2022 here
From underwater marriages to being courted by belugas, there are some beautiful and entertaining pieces you won’t want to miss!