I take one last gasp of air and say goodbye to the world of endless breath. I begin my descent, and use the 17 pounds on my weight belt to my advantage. At roughly 40 feet, I become weightless; I am zeroed out. A rush of tranquility shocks my head and slowly seeps into the rest of my body, ending in my fingertips. For the first time in a long time, I feel at home. While trying to cope with old feelings of freedom again, I begin surrounding myself in a school of baitfish. My goal: try to convince these fish that I too belong in the ocean. Now comfortable and curious, the fish begin to swarm me but it’s not their curiosity I am here for. After what feels like hours, the fish I’ve been chasing for a year now appears from the musky deep. Reluctant at first, it too is fooled by my act, and becomes curious of all the fuss. I raise my 6 foot-long loaded speargun and wait for the fish to pass by it.
This is the activity or, in my perspective, art of spearfishing. Spearfishing is one of the most dangerous forms of hunting. Why? Because when a spearo (gender-neutral form of spearfisherman) goes down to hunt, they become engulfed in a world that isn’t theirs. In this world, the diver has to do anything and everything to pretend that they belong. This includes how they move their body, how they kick to propel themselves, and even how they aim their gun. The meticulous nature of spearfishing is compounded and quadrupled when added that all of these things must happen while holding one’s breath.
Finally deciding to pass by my gun, I pull the trigger and the fish (with a spear now driven through it) darts off. I immediately rush to the surface barely avoiding both thighs from cramping, and although I desperately need a breath of air, I scream, “FISH ON!” On the surface, the game of tug of war begins. I finally make out the silver, yellow, and green of my opponent, but start to see it swim towards a strand of kelp. Being one of the smartest fish in the Pacific, it uses the leverage of the kelp to wrap the line around it and poof; the spear rips right through its belly and the beast disappears back into the deep. I’ve lost, again. Anger and frustration burn my face and I feel immediate remorse.
The ocean has always been the greatest teacher in my life. As a very anxious and constant rapid fire thinker, the sea has taught me so many lessons of focus, tenacity, and patience. It’s like a secret underground laboratory that can brainwash me into thinking slowly by erasing my mind for the time I’m in it. Finding nothing else like it before, I’ve become addicted. It’s the reason I can surf for hours, crush 4 tacos and a dr. pepper, and head right back out. Spearfishing has become a new type of educational meditation that has furthered my connection to the ocean and allowed me to grow even more as an individual. While spearfishing, my mind is screaming at me
to get new air in my lungs while also making me jittery with excitement of a possible fresh fish dinner. All of these thoughts however, must be wiped clear. If not, I could come home without dinner, or worse, I could simply not come home. I have been humbled by the raw power of the ocean over the years and I accept the fact that it can kill me at any moment while I soak in its beauty. I accept the risks with the utmost respect and continue to allow the ocean to be my mentor in this game of life.
As I stomped through high school, I was halted by the suicide of a childhood friend and pushed down further after deaths of life-time mentors, an uncle, and even another high school friend. I was lost and felt unattached to the world. I had never felt spiritually connected to anything and I was sometimes jealous of the perfect, cheesy, religious families. It was in this darkness that I realized a light had been with me the whole time. To this day I continue my quest of living with and in the ocean and have created a love stronger than any other in my life. The sea has become a part of who I am.
The ocean is my light. The ocean is my place of worship. The ocean is my church.