Lighthouse Supply, Swimming with the Sharks

By Waldo Del Rocca

A couple of months ago I was speaking Seth (Ciferri) who put me in contact with Crash, I really wanted to get Tattoo Artist Magazine available here to South Africa  for the sheer quality of the publication and the content. Funny enough, couple of weeks later Kent contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reselling TAM through Lighthouse Supply.

I jumped straight on it and we worked something out and got the magazines down here. If that wasn’t rad enough, couple of weeks ago I got a e-mail from Kent asking if I wanted to write for TAM’s blog, I started laughing and honestly thought he was just messing with me…

I run a supply company called Lighthouse Supply (LHS). I established LHS mid-2010 for the sole purpose to get better tools available to local tattooers, to create a support system that does not expand or exploits tattooers or shops. Almost a year down the line, I can honestly say that this has been the hardest task I have ever endeavored upon, hands down, starting this with minimum capital and minimal support.

A lot of people claimed that I was running LHS in an elitist manner, which is, (and was very far from the truth) selling products only to professional shops and tattooers has never been elitist and also keeping my obligation true to the products I sell and their creators who have dedicated their lives to what the build, mix and sell. It’s out of respect, pure respect, for tattooing and its entire heritage. No bullshit.

When I started LHS, for the first four of five months I refused to sell machines, trying not to expand the industry down here,  not trying to control it, but support it… and there were a couple of suppliers, big and small supplying anybody and everybody off the street. Also, I couldn’t afford to buy any good machines at that time. I still can’t really, as I supply a very small part of the industry here who are conscious and not in the line of being rock-stars, but solid tattooers. LHS is a anchor for this time frame in the local industry and will definitely be part of the history going forward.

I was making sure Lighthouse Supply had a good presence online for South Africa and basically the world. I was sticking to my guns, making sure everybody I was dealing with and my suppliers knew what LHS stood for, and calling bullshit on all the other suppliers down here exploiting my friends and other tattooers. Seth picked up on some of my online activity, and I got a message from him asking me what my deal was, in a good fashion, he was interested in what I was doing…

Closer to the end of the conversation Seth and I agreed that it would be a good idea if I was the one who sold his machines down here…  From that conversation on, Seth has been a real amazing mentor to me, and as we all know he is one hell of a machine builder. Workhorse Irons has been another massive support and hands down one of the only companies that I have ever worked with that truly gives a shit, they care, from the way they conduct business to the purpose of what they do, and also the humanitarian work they do. A lot of people don’t know but they are solidly involved with some charities and HIV initiatives right here in SA.

Lighthouse Supply proudly represents  Seth Ciferri, Workhorse Irons, Mike Godfrey,  Adam Ciferri, Waverly Color, Tattoo Artist Magazine, Lucky’s Supply, Lucas Ford / Good Guy Supply and Stable Color, without these guys LHS won’t make much sense…

I am based at a shop in Cape Town, Tyler B. Murphy’s Sins of Style, where I work and run LHS with some really talented artists, Tyler B. Murphy, Lee Herbert and David Chaston, we recently had Sam Rulz from New Zealand down for a three-week guest spot. I took Sam all around Cape Town to show her a really good time, we swam with penguins, dived with sharks and spend many sunsets on pearly white beaches… Sometimes you need to spend time with a tourist to appreciate what you have around you and not take it for granted.

Back to the penguins and sharks…

I took Sam to a quiet beach on the other side of False Bay on her first proper day out and exploring in Cape Town, which is famous for its Jack Ass penguins. You pay a small fee to get in, but you get to swim with the Penguins, and if you aren’t scared of clambering over boulders the size of a house you can find a couple of amazing private little beaches not too far away. Sam gave me a commemorative tattoo for this day, yes, it was that good.

Then there was the cage diving with great white sharks, even before Sam landed she arranged to go on a cage dive mission, I was in two minds. I do surf, and sharks are not something that I want to see that close up, even in a cage… I played with the idea and was not completely convinced, so I decided to go with but I won’t partake in the actual diving. A bus picked us up at 8:30 a.m. and we started the two-hour journey to a small fishing village east of Cape Town, Gansbaai. We got there, filled out all the necessary paper work, that basically said if you lose your hand, foot or any limb, even your life… It’s your problem, fair enough…

We set out on the boat with a bunch of other tourists for what I think was a good 40-minute boat ride. We reached the destination of the dive spot just off Duiker Island, everybody was sitting on the top deck of the boat listening to Rob, our instructor and shark expert. I was looking off to the side of the boat staring at the water with thoughts of surfing and getting eaten by a shark, next moment a Great White breached clear of the water about 1.5 meters, with me as the only witness seeing the whole breach I shouted something in the line of, “Holy shit that thing is massive,” Rob corrected me by saying that is well below average, it’s only about two meters long, really? What the fuck? That thing was massive, at least six meters.

One guy started chumming bloody fish gut water off the back of the boat and within seconds the first Great White appeared, about 2.5 meters, then the next one, we were told that we can get ready to get in the cage if we want to dive, needless to say I was one of the first ones down and suited up, so was Sam, fucking damn-right I’m gonna go face the most evolved predator on earth, put me in the cage!!!  We didn’t dive with oxygen, just wetsuits and goggles, makes it easier and you can just go down as soon as a shark approaches the front of the cage.

We were in the cage for about 15 minutes and by this time we saw three individual sharks up close and personal, this Rob dude told us whatever you do don’t let your hands of feet slip out the front of the cage, pretty reasonable I think, he did say and I quote in a very strong South African accent, “Don’t warry about the beck of the cage.”

We went down while the biggest shark of the day (3.5 meters) was lured closer to the cage with two tuna heads on the end of a nylon rope,  I was is total awe, so every time a shark was heading off around to the side of the cage I would go back up to catch my breath, because Rob’s words about the “beck” of the cage put me under the impression the cage is against the boat and the side of the boat blocks off the back of the cage, while under water admiring this massive 3.5 meter Great White, the guy next to me from Beirut casually taps me on the shoulder pointing to the back of the cage, and of course my leg is dangling out, all the way to my knee, as I pull my leg in while turning around and not really thinking about it something caught my the corner of my eye, it was the 3.5m white, right behind me, at the “beck” of the cage Rob said I shouldn’t worry about… my thought about Rob? Fuck that guy!!! It was one of the best experiences of my life.

On the way back Sam asked Rob, “How much to have sex with a Great White?” Rob didn’t answer!

I thought it would be appropriate to give Sam a 10 question interview about her trip to South Africa, I asked her to be brutally honest, this is what she had to say…

Waldo Del Rocca: What was your first impression of South Africa that stuck?
Sam Rulz: The incredible beauty directly juxtaposed with massive poverty. I also saw a zebra.

W: Was the trip worth it personally, and for tattooing?

SR: When you’re with beautiful people in such a beautiful place, I don’t think it could ever be a futile endeavor. Tattooing was just a bonus. I’m really glad I went, my Dad tried to stop me because he thought I was going to get raped and burned. Dads huh?

W: What did you find most fascinating about the (tattoo) industry down here?

SR: I found it was the same as anywhere, there are a select few people busting their asses, doing really dope work, and a bunch of other people who are more into being a tattooer, or god knows what else. Oh, the best part was seeing a portfolio where the tattooer had re-drawn the lines over the photo to make it look better. So good.

W: Best and worst experience?

SR: Everyday I was there was better than the last, so it’s super hard to say, but swimming with penguins, diving with Great White sharks, and choking an ostrich were some highlights, worst part was dealing with the time difference after the 31 hours it took to get there from New Zealand. Accidentally starting a fire in a “classically elegant” restaurant was pretty dope.

W: Would you go back, and for what reason(s)?

SR: Absolutely, I still need to ride an ostrich. Honestly, Cape Town is so beautiful I have to go back.

W: Who or what in South Africa inspired you, if something inspired you at all?

SR: Tyler B. Murphy’s dedication to building his studio, and David Chaston still tattooing me even-though he had slashed up his finger the day before, purely because he loves tattooing and is a tuff cunt, I thought that was really fucking dope. Plus, being able to get so close to live animals was so dope, fuck a reference book.

W: Best food you had?

SR: Oh god, the legit Mexican tacos that I later spewed up cause I mixed my drinks. They even tasted good the second time, that good.

W: What originally made you want to go to South Africa?

SR: I had the opportunity and wanted to do something crazy, South Africa’s crazy. My friend told me that a girl born there is more likely to be raped than learn to read.

W: What should you take and what to leave at home?

SR: Buy a digital waterproof camera, put it in sharks faces.  Leave your fancy jewellery so you don’t get rolled.

W: What words of advice would you have to any tattooers visiting Cape Town?
SR: Pack a few days solid with tattooing and spend the rest doing rad stuff in the wilderness, the exchange rate makes everything so cheap, so you can go over there and kill it.

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