In Deep Water

Dalton Connelly and his friends spear fish locally at depths up to 90 feet.
Dalton Connelly spears a 56-pound Cubera snapper.

“There’s no Pokémon out in the ocean,” says 23-year-old spear fisherman Garrett Abernathy.

“No, there’s no Pokémon out there. We don’t do that kind of stuff,” agrees Dalton Connelly, 19. His mom, Laurie, nods and laughs. Then she gets serious. “See, I don’t even know what goes on underwater, and that’s probably a really good thing. It’s a scary hobby.”

When Dalton was still in high school, Laurie introduced her son and his friends to 13-time, world-record-holder and free-diver Cameron Kirkconnell whose two-day class focuses heavily on safe free diving. She had made a special flyer with Cam’s picture on it for Dalton’s 16th birthday, planning to attach it to a free diving book she’d give to him as a present. 

“He was working on a paper for his literature class; and when he went to print the paper, I must have printed two copies of the flyer. He took everything and stapled it together, turned it in and the teacher said, ‘I don’t think this is part of your paper.’ Dalton started freaking out in the middle of English class saying, ‘Is this for real? Is this for real?’”

Dalton and seven friends spent a full day in a pool classroom learning free diving techniques such as proper kicking, how to be weighted so you’re neutrally buoyant, and what to do if a diver is cramping up or blacking out. The next day the boys went out into the Gulf Stream, where they set up a buoy marked at 30, 40, 50 and 66 feet. “That’s what you’re supposed to be able to get to by the end of the class,” says Dalton. “All of us were able to do that if not more.”

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