The time comes in every man’s life where he is faced with the penultimate decision. It’s the moment when he rises to meet the occasion or….he arrives at a crescendo of epic failure. The moment that will determine how he will be defined for eternity. This is the story about my moment.
As I stood there aiming, I knew it was do or die. I was about to make a name for myself, about to become legend in a sport that one hundred and fiftyseven people know about and follow worldwide. But, as I tried to do just that, I froze. Suddenly, Panama flashed back into my head. I had been in this situation before and in that defining moment, I had failed.
(Seven years earlier)
As a somewhat new but experienced diver, I was ready to cut my teeth with the big boys and give the whole tuna in Panama experience a try. Traveling with likeminded companions Jeff Croci and Josh Gregory, we brought an equal amount of experience and enthusiasm to our nineteen day excursion in Panama. Having learned that this was the new Promised Land, we were eager to make our mark in the spearfishing world. Little did I know that I would be the first to give it a go. So there we were, on the very northern tip of the west side of Panama, starving to death. In the wrong place at the wrong time with no Pangas (or even restaurants) and only shore diving in bad visibility. I knew it was up to me. I realized at that exact moment that I had somehow been chosen to provide for the group. Donning the proper equipment (board shorts and sunscreen), I loaded the oneband “Tahitian Toothpick” that my good friend Mario Korf had made me. We found the intended target species and started to get into the perfect position. Suddenly, I knew the time was right. I aimed, one eye closed (but maybe both; I never know), putting a bead on the perfect stone shot. I could even sense and feel that I couldn’t miss. As I relaxed, ice flowed through my veins, my killer instinct at the precipice of its ability. Not even the four extremely overpriced beers we bought from Juancho, an American who had gone to this remote location to run a tikishack hotel and die from melanoma, affected my balance and focus. A gentle squeeze… and BAM! The stone shot. Amidst the calls of “woo hoo!” and “f##k yeah!” my immediate grin faded to a look of dismay. Before my colleagues could recognize what happened, I could see the writing on the wall. The big picture. The whole kit & caboodle and twenty other clichés that I’ll spare the reader from simply because I can’t remember them offhand. I realized immediately that while my aim was true, the stone shot was not what the situation warranted. A tear escaped my eye as I watched the milk drain from the coconut, down the shaft, along the shooting line, onto the gun, with the last few drops falling gently upon my now shaking hand. Cries of dismay rang out as my companions finally realized and yelled, “You d##k!” “Why didn’t you just go for the holding shot!” “Why did you have to show off like that?” I knew my time to shine was over. No second chances. My moment in the sun… done. Downtrodden and desperate, we hiked into the jungle and had to settle for bananas. Wild bananas. The kind that have actual brown spots on them and taste so delicious that you would think you’re eating something so amazing that it might even possibly come from nature. Wait, hold on a second and back up. Back to the part where I f####ed up. Back to where I knew the moment was lost. I unsnapped the swivel and pulled it through the now dry and barren coconut.
(Back to the current moment in time)
So, here I stood once again, this time in Yelapa, Mexico; still with my faithful travel companion Croci, but, unfortunately, without Josh who had gone on to actually do some cool spearfishing s##t. Tongue, slightly out and resting on my bottom left lip, in tota l concentration, perfect stance and form. Gun aimed directly center mass. My steely eyes, trained on the closest coconut in the school, steady and ready. Time to etch my name into the annals of the 314 th most important sport in the history of sports. Time to become part of the elite group (that no one will remember, appreciate or care about in three years) and pull the trigger. As I glanced back I could see the look of confidence in Jeff’s face. It was a four “Ballena” look of confidence that only a handful of people know and, in that moment, I knew only too well. I turned back to face the target. I wasn’t going to f##k it up this time. With the utmost surety that only a stupid drunken spearo with a loaded two band 130cm on land knows, I pulled the trigger. SCHLUNK! I connected with the target. The holding shot was perfect. No need for a securing shot from a backup gun. After a vigorous fight, the stem finally succumbed to the back and forth fatigue, the 300 pound mono held, and the coconut dropped from high in the tree to the ground. Victory was mine! As we sat relishing the victory and the barely palatable fruits of our labor, I couldn’t help but think: sometimes you do get a second chance. A second chance to carve out your own special place in history.
Authors note: no palm fronds were harmed during the actual, 100% true events of this story.