Shamu Review

I had planned a family vacation for almost a year and happened to be at Sea World San Diego to see the Shamu show a few weeks after the death of Dawn Brancheau. She was the trainer that was drowned by a different killer whale at Sea World. After a short time of cancelling the Shamu show “Believe” at all locations, I was happy to see that it was back on the schedule by the time we got there. Like most, showing our little ones the massive acrobats was on the top of our list and we would have been very disappointed to not have seen it.

Now I have been to Sea World before, but it was 25 years ago and it is less than a vivid memory. I do, however, remember distinctly the trainers in the water with the whales and them riding on their back and jumping off of their noses. It was remarkable to see the interaction between the humans and these giants. In fact, I think that was kind of the point of the show. This time, however, the show was changed. Nobody went in the water with the whales, the interaction was limited to throwing some fish in their maws and some slapping of the water. They did their jumps, spins, and “Shamu slammed” the audience fulfilling the promise of the “Soak Zone”, but the feel was a little different. It seemed more distant and more like the circus where they glue a bear’s feet to the pedals of a bike and make him ride the tightrope while wearing a dunce cap and a vest. Hilarious, I know, but not so much an interaction between man and beast as a furry tub of guts doing party tricks for some kibble. Not much different than the “Pirate Daddy” routine I do for my kid’s birthday parties, but I digress.

I won’t go so far as to equate the bear and the whale here, but I do think the separation has hurt the show. It is also obvious that while the trainers want to remain safe, they spend years with and love these monsters. They want to be in the tank with them. They know the dangers better than anyone and accept that the day they put on the wet suit. Of course, Sea World will have to make new rules to show the public that everyone is completely safe, but let’s get real, they are KILLLER whales. Day after day, year after year of interaction, somebody is going to get hurt, it is going to happen. They have ridiculous power and it doesn’t take much to rag-doll a person when you weigh 3 tons, just ask Brock Lesnar. Take Siegfried…or Roy, whichever one learned the hard way that Tigers aren’t just oversized pussy cats. A good friend used to tell me “The best dynamite man in country is nicknamed ’Lefty’”. You can’t do something dangerous every day of your life and not have an accident, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be allowed to make that choice.

Don‘t get me wrong here, my kids and I loved the show and the immense training was obvious. The animals were amazing. I’m sure my kiddies will never know that the show used to include people and whales interacting in an entirely different way. So we were still very entertained. That being said, Sea World, please let your trainers do what they are there to do, and have spent their lives doing. Have them sign a waver and get back in that tank. I know Dawn would want it that way.


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