The Pink Lady Doing Amazing Things With Sharks

Pioneering conservation while wearing bright wetsuits

 Valerie May Taylor. An Australian conservationist, filmmaker and photographer. With her husband Ron Taylor, she is known famously for their conservation documentaries about sharks and film sequences for movies, including Jaws (1975) and The Blue Lagoon (1980).

Both were competitive spearfishing champions in the early to mid 60s. During this time they soon replaced their spears with cameras, as their fascination with the ocean grew.

I started diving in the mid eighties when the man next door gave me a health-ways tank and regulator.” - Valerie Taylor

Ron had experience with cameras and even built his own underwater housing for both still and moving cameras. Valerie also had her own film camera, which she used to take behind-the-scenes shots of all their work.

Pursuing an adventurous career with their amazing marine documentaries, Ron and Valerie were the first people to film great white sharks without the protection of a cage. They introduced Australia and the world to the wonders of sharks and the alien worlds of marine life, in her trademark pink wetsuit. Both are responsible for putting Australia on the international dive destination map.

From shark hunter to protector; How she spent a lifetime correcting the unintentional damage of Steven Spielberg's thriller:

Creating a number of shark films and documentaries including Blue Water, White Death, caught the attention of American film director Steven Spielberg, and led them to working on Jaws, The Blue Lagoon and many more.

Valerie with the infamous Spielberg animatronic shark

After many years of experience diving and documenting sharks, and especially when Jaws came out in 1975, she began to view them as magnificent creatures in need of protection, mistaken and misunderstood for man-eaters. She pushed her efforts to change how people thought about sharks.

“People became terrified to go to the beach,” Valerie, now 87, says of the film ‘Jaws’.

“Gung-ho men took it upon themselves to kill sharks.”

It was while they were working on an episode of the iconic Australian TV show Skippy that Valerie had the confronting realisation of what humans were doing to sharks.

"We went up there and to our horror, when we went out to the shark gutter, there were all these dead sharks," she recalls.

"Someone, I won't say who, had gone down there and … killed every one.”

"I realised if they weren't protected they would disappear," she says, "and they were very important to the web of life in the ocean.”

It was an epiphany. They vowed never to kill a shark again. Resulting in her tremendous work to have the grey nurse become the first protected shark by law. Along with her husband, Valerie embarked on a tour of the US talk show circuit, to tell people that this was a fictitious story about a fictitious shark.

The experience showed Valerie's commitment to shark conservation, one that continues to this day with her advocacy for the removal of shark nets from beaches, which is inspiring a new generation of conservationists.


Valerie’s photographs record places and ecosystems that span decades, giving conservation scientists a peek into our planet’s marine history. The ramping up of climate change has had many unforeseen effects on marine populations and their habitats. Changing ecosystem compositions, population numbers and species are some of the ways our marine life are being affected, and Valerie’s collection has captured a moment in time before some of these began.

Some shots show and insight into the changes over time from healthier reef beds, larger schooling populations and unusual fish that are hard to find today. Valerie and Ron's photographic collection is an amazing time capsule of life in Australia and International water. It was unusual for the average person to be able to travel as far and widely as the Taylors did by the 60s. The photos allow us to understand our past and help inform management plans for our oceans’ future. 

She and Ron were tireless advocates for a range of marine animals and gained protections for the potato cod in the Great Barrier Reef and Grey nurse sharks.

Our inspiration of Valerie Taylor on Nisí: 

Valerie has been a large influence on Nisí, from her passion for diving, conservation and bravery, to her amazing dive fashion and style and pure artistic talent. Known as the lady in the pink wetsuit is what always caught Amelia's attention. 

Wearing bright hot colours most importantly for visibility and safety, she still styled her look in a classic feminist and fun way. From bright pink, red, yellow and blues to count a few of the colours used for her diving equipment. She always paired her suits with a coloured ribbon/s in her hair to match. 

Valerie with a variation of ribbon styling

Her "girly" look is what we aspire to bring back to surf and dive fashion. Women get made fun of for picking the pink and colourful options by men all the time. It is looked down upon as if our fashion is more important than our bravery and intelligence. This is something Valerie proved wrong, with her bright colours and ribbons, looking 'cute' as one of the most fearless divers of her time. And she still looks classy!

Her family never had much money, but her mother instilled confidence, bringing up her children to believe they were "beautiful, intelligent, admiring everything we did".

"I thought I could do anything I wanted," Valerie says.

"The world is mine." 

A woman in a man's world, Valerie insisted on venturing forth from her cage even when discouraged from doing so.

"The director turned to me and said, 'There's no shame in not coming'. I said, 'Oh, I'm coming'."

“I have that sort of personality that I don’t get afraid. I get angry,” Valerie Taylor said. “Even when I’ve been bitten, I’ve just stayed still and waited for it to let go — because they’ve made a mistake.”

Wetsuit gear:

As she can say, with some pride, that she has only been bitten four times in all those years. She did experiments with sharks in the early 80s, wearing a steel mesh suit to see if it could successfully protect against shark bites. It did. 

The 1981 front cover of National Geographic magazine featured Taylor, off the coast of California, during one of these experiments with Blue sharks wearing this chainmail suit.  Photographer Ron Taylor 

In the 1980s and 90s, Ron and Valerie continued to research shark deterrents.


Valerie wearing the chain mail suit

We asked Valerie ourselves some questions about her gear and choices for colour.

Nisí: Were you inspired by anything with your choice of diving fashion as a woman at that time or was it merely what was available in the 80s? 

Valerie: "My colourful wetsuits were designed to stand out in a blue world when on camera. I never gave a thought to fashion. My blue Espadon fins were and still are the best flippers ever made.

When Ron won the world spearfishing championships in Tahiti US diver magazine asked him what he thought was the main reason he did so well. Ron's answer, 2 words, Espadon fins. I don't agree with todays fins. Fish would have split tails with holes in them if that helped with swimming ability."

Nisí: We are so interested in your old style diving fashion sense and the colours you used to wear. Especially your choice of wearing pink ribbons in your hair. Was there a reason behind this?

Valerie: "Hot colours always help if there is a search for someone in the ocean"

Valerie modelling for Miss Heron Island, 1960

As a brand, we are in awe of the practicality of simplistic old designs and the colour choices used. We believe that most in action women won't always have to think twice about their sporting clothes, if they already look good! Valerie did not think too much about her choice of colours besides the reasons of what was important for safety, and what was available. We have a future ahead of us to create comfortable and flattering looks, that are effortlessly cool. 

Bold, Effortless Surfwear.

Valerie Taylor’s life has been lived literally immersed in the world’s oceans with an ease and grace in the water that conceals her 87 years of age. Her personal journey and career arc from shark hunter to protector is an inspiration, and a call to action for many.

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