FINS
I use Picasso Black Team fins. Cressi also makes a very good one, but it has a little grey lip on the top that illuminates under certain light conditions, so you have these two little flashes moving, and with the sharks in mind I don’t like that very much.
My favourite fins are Picassos mainly because they are matt black.
It doesn’t matter about speed. I use freediving fins mainly because I learnt to dive on them. I am a freediver, but I also use Picassos for scuba or rebreather diving. I choose not to change my gear too much.
It’s not a fin that makes you go fast, but one that reserves your energy. We’ve found that if you need to turn in the water you just move one blade and you can turn through 360°, so the movements are very subtle.
If you have short fins you tend to be kicking a lot, which might freak out the animals. Fast movement, especially that which you might get using a propulsion system, would make them more and more interested, and could possibly lead to a negative encounter.

WETSUIT
At the moment the one I prefer is a Coral 5mm open-cell suit. It’s made by a South African company based in Cape Town and it’s very nice. Again, there’s no coloration – it’s a black suit.
Cressi also makes an open-cell suit, and mine works fine, but my Coral seems to be that little bit warmer. I can’t understand why – it’s the same material, so maybe it’s just in my head. But the suit must be black, and it must be open-cell for our water conditions.

COMPUTER
My favourite computer is an Aladin Pro, mainly because it assumes a constant out-gassing rate but not a constant ascent rate. I also have a Cressi Edy computer-watch, which works fine. What’s nice about that is that I can wear it anyplace and anytime.
If I’m doing commercial work I take my Aladin, and my Cressi is always with me anyway. You learn to use both. Aladin is old-school but it’s no worse than the new stuff – what works, works.

REBREATHER
I have an APD Evolution. The only thing we changed on it is that the back has to be all-black, so that once again there are no flashes if you turn or anything.
We ordered it from Ambient Pressure Diving that way. I’ve had it for four years now, and in fact I was the first diver to get a black one, though I see that the company is now selling them.
If you dive in UK waters it’s good to have coloration so that you can see the other divers, but if you dive in shark areas, coloration makes the animal more and more interested in you.
You want the animals to be interested in you, but not over-eager! A dull black silhouette works best for me.

REGULATOR
My favourite is the Poseidon Cyklon, again very old, but it works. You have to suck for your air, it’s not an easy breathe, but that’s the way I like it.
You can fix a Cyklon wherever you are. They do present slight problems, but you get by.

BC
I have two, more or less similar. The one I use most is a Halcyon, which is very nice, and the other I got more recently is a replica from DiveSystem.
The only real difference is that the Halcyon has a 2kg backplate, while the other one has an aluminium backplate.
If I use my Halcyon, I can drop 2kg off my weightbelt. But 2kg is 2kg, so if I’m going to Mozambique or somewhere and have to fly, you take the lightest gear you can, and that’s when I take the other one.
I don’t use heavy-lift wings, because if you want to do something like that you should get yourself an airbag. I don’t dive using hundreds of tanks, I use the smallest amount of kit I can. The smaller the kit, the more manoeuvrable you are in the water.

MASK
That’s a strange one. My favourite mask, the one I dive with, is not on the market any more, and I wish someone would make it again because it’s excellent.
It’s a two-plate teardrop mask that was made by Reef in the 1970s or ’80s, so it’s very old.
It’s a low-volume mask – the teardrops are big and very close to your face, so you have good wide vision. Like the rest of my kit, it’s black.
Cressi is bringing out a range of dive gear for me – everything, even the first stages, will be matt black.
I believe that will make a big difference.

LIGHTS
I don’t need torches because of the depth in which I like to dive. If I dive deep, I know what the colour is, I don’t have to see it. For still photography I use a flash, and if I’m using video, I just colour-correct it.

CAMERA
My stills camera is a Canon. At the moment I’m shooting with a 20D in an Ikelite housing. Ikelite housings are great except that for me they’re prone to flooding – a little snag!
The dome is not a screw-on one, so if you get a current between the body and the dome, it pulls the dome away. I get by, but that’s really inconvenient.
There is a new digital camera housing, and I want to put a Canon 40D in that. If you’re shooting, say, with a Nikon, you put your Nikon in, flip a little switch and it picks up that you’re using a Nikon.
I saw the prototype in Italy and I was impressed.
I believe that’s the way to go, because housings are so expensive as you keep upgrading your kit.
It has a screw-on dome, too. The people who made it took a lot of time and care in making it
as good as it could possibly be.
For video, I have two HDV cameras, one in an Amphibico housing and the other in a Gates housing. The Gates one has an ultra-wide lens and it’s very, very nice. I prefer shooting with that one, though because I took all the manual bits out and put a digital system in, it’s not a true Gates anymore. The Amphibico lens I find inferior to the Gates.

WEIGHTBELT
I use a freediving weightbelt. It’s rubber, so it stretches, and I find that very comfortable.

PACIFIER
The only other tool I use for diving is a little stainless-steel rod, about 15cm long and just bent round at the end so that it won’t hurt your hand. If an animal gets too curious, you can give it a tap with it.
If you give the animal a tap, it’s the first time in its life that it has ever seen anything manipulate anything. So the moment you tap it, as far as it’s concerned you are made of stainless steel – it doesn’t realise that you are holding something made of a different material.
I just push it into my wetsuit, and it lies there so that I’ve always got it. Or, if you need to get close to the reef, you can just find a sandy patch or something – not on the corals – and put it down to stabilise yourself without causing any damage.

Mike Rutzen was talking to Steve Weinman