A story by Dan Silveira
I've spent the last 20 years of my life training for one thing, and that one thing doesn't have a number one stamped on a trophy, it doesn't have its letters engraved on a plaque, it doesn't have my name written at the top, but it is strongly ingrained in my mind forever. That one thing is my life's journey, which has taken me to the far reaches of this planet. It led me deeper beneath the sea than most men would ever dream. It has not only allowed me to catch my own dinner with my bare hands, but has given me the courage to swim with dangerous sharks and jump off very high cliffs. It has given me the strength to step outside the modern stereotypes and be myself. I have traveled the world to experience other cultures, to eat their food, to live their life, and understand their religions which in turn allows me to appreciate and realize that when we open our eyes to the beauty of life, that is when we can truly live in the moment and appreciate the love for our neighbors and the earth around us.
Freedive spearfishing is the sport I enjoy most. It has many inherent risks involved, such as: shallow water blackout, shark attacks, being lost at sea, venomous sea snakes, drowning, entanglement, being dragged down by a fish, and being stung by jellyfish. Yet with all these dangers associated with the sport, I find it to be safe, and more comforting than being on land. I like the calmness and mental focus that freediving provides me. It allows me to refocus my mind and live completely within a single breath. It is hard to appreciate how valuable life is until you have been neglected the one thing that provides us with life - Air. Spearfishing puts me in touch with my primal instinct, but also forces me to experience the emotional consequence of what it takes to consume food. I kill fish to eat, and the death of that beautiful creature fills me with mixed emotions of happiness and sorrow. When I have gone through that experience, I care for my food like never before. I clean the fish in a way that allows me to maximize it’s use. I make fish soup with the bones and head, I grill the collars, and I have beautiful filets to cook as the main course with. I then share this amazing meal with my friends and family to continue giving thanks for the food on the table. I had caught this fish on a single breath, with my own two hands, in a foreign environment, cooked it to the best of my abilities, shared it with my friends and family, and wrote a story that will last a lifetime.
On a recent spearfishing trip to Indonesia with some friends I experienced an epic battle with a fish, but without the help of my friends I may not be here to tell the story. This trip had a host of people from different backgrounds. We were on a 33 meter boat, and set out to sea for the next seven days to document the awe inspiring world surrounding the ocean. Our ultimate goal was to catch some big fish to cook for our consumption and to share with the local villages.
I had slipped beneath the surface and soon found myself laying on the reefs edge at 100 feet, far away from reality, far away from light, and far away from returning to life. It was as if time had come to a standstill. The eyes of an old soul were staring into mine. This sea turtle had been a part of the ocean for longer than I had been alive, and I couldn't recall how long I had been staring back into his eyes. The animal was not afraid of me like most fish, and I felt like there was some bazaar communication between us. I finally understood what the message was. “This is our home. It is a better place down here, stay and you shall receive a gift.” Suddenly I felt a sense of anxiousness, because I had no idea of how long I had been down, but for a moment I felt invincible and that I could conquer anything. I clenched the handle of my speargun, looked back at the surface, and said goodbye to the turtle. The truth was, that I wanted to go deeper. I didn't just want dinner, I wanted a feast and it did not matter how long it took or how deep it was. A big fish was down there, and I was not returning until I had it in my hands. Camouflaged in the distance, near a large reef, I saw what I was looking for. It was a massive coral trout, a sub species of grouper. When that fish turned broadside, I did not hesitate. I squeezed the trigger and sent my spearshaft right into the back of his head. It was only then that I realized what I was really in for. I was now at 42 meters and the fish erupted with a powerful force towards the shelter of it’s cave. Life for me was now on the edge. The future and the past had no relevance, because there was only thing the mattered and that was “NOW”. This is mindfulness at its best. There was no question of death, or not making it back to the surface, or being eaten by the shark that came in to check out the commotion. I was living purely in the moment.
I never took a class on how to experience life, but for me it started in the ocean. It is easy to get caught up in day-to-day life and forget to appreciate the important moments and what really matters. I never measured my success, as a champion freediving spearfisherman, by how many breaths I took, how deep I went, or how big the fish was that I speared, but rather the moments that took my breath away. Living my life in the ocean has opened my eyes to different worlds. It is a place where possibilities are created. When I learned how to listen to my body I realized it had greater capabilities than any of us has ever imagined.
We can learn a lot about life and how to live by understanding the ocean. The ocean is a combination of hostel and welcoming environments. It will always be dynamic as it is constantly recreating its own form. It is certain that our lives will experience change, yet no matter how intense it may be, we can always find happiness and beauty as we do with the sea.