There comes a time in every man’s life where he needs to drop his need to be the best. Drop his
competitive nature, let go of his pride, step aside, and let the next generation shine. And I think I more
than proved in my “Changing of the Guard” article that I know when that time is. I think you will find
that I prove it again with this story.
So here goes. On the last morning of our “friendly” DVH tournament a few years back, my pal Alex
Reynaud strode calmly down the beach at sunrise though the other thirteen competitors to ask Dam
Nguyen where he was headed for the final day of the tournament.
‘So what?’ You might ask. ‘What’s the big deal?’ Well, nothing. None of that so far is a big deal – to the
average observer. But, I am not the average observer and here is what I saw: a dude puff his
currently-super-close-second-place-chest out to walk within inches of me, without even a glance, to ask
Dam where he was going for the day to try and hold onto first place as he yet again planned on carrying
the entire team. To this day I’ll swear he even kicked sand in my face and stole my girlfriend as he
So here I was. The fifth day of a five-day tournament after a day off from a three-day sinus infection,
pulling my shit together to make an appearance for the team, who had thus far been carried by Dam,
feeling a little insecure, and a dude destroys the only ounce of self-worth I have left with a Barney Fife
snort and a simple sentence.
What’s the old saying? Never kick a man when he’s down? Something like that. Boy, had I just been
kicked. In fact, yeah, now I do remember. He did kick sand in my face and steal my girlfriend. Sure, I had
been blowing blood into my mask as my head was exploding from reverse squeeze starting day two, but
I wasn’t complaining. I’d call that a pretty good excuse, by the way. And, of course, there’s the fact that
even though I was the captain of my three-man team, my number two guy was probably one of the
number one guys diving-wise in the world (he was single-handedly keeping us on the top of the
leaderboard) eating into the last part of my brain left unaffected by the blinding cloud of green, yellow,
and red filling it.
Just like that it was game on. It was time for the one-hundred and ten-pound weakling to hit the gym,
get buffed, take his girlfriend back, and give the bully a black eye. And black his eye I did.
We managed to get to the currently most reliable productive spot first and even though Dam told Alex
where we planned on going, Alex made a critical mistake. Thinking a nearby area could turn on, he
decided to stop there first. Dam scored an AJ over seventy pounds on his second dive. Great cushion but
not enough to know we’d be comfortable with the seven pound lead we had over Alex and his twice
well-(Coppertone) oiled-team machine.
It was then that I made my first move. I had the Pangero captain report over the radio that Dam had
shot an AJ, knowing that it would bring Alex to our spot right away. It worked like a charm. Twenty
minutes later, there he was, gloating over what he thought was my critical mistake. He and his team
pulled alongside. I did my best to look disappointed. Alex couldn’t wait to pounce, “I heard Dam got an
AJ!” Knowing that there was a two-fish-per-boat weight limit, and knowing that Alex knew that, I said,
“Yeah but if it breaks twenty-pounds I’d be surprised”. Then I dejectedly added, “I can’t believe that
skinny idiot shot it”. Alex asked, “How long ago did he get it?” And here’s the only time I told the truth:
“Right off the bat. Nobody’s seen shit since. This is their last drift and then we’re off to find another
spot. Maybe somewhere where there’s wahoo so I can get in and shoot from the surface” Man, talk
about laying it on thick but he bought it. Bought it hook, line, and sinker. Or shaft, line, and buoy if you
will and, with that, he and the rest of his suntanned team were off to a better spot with a bronze
Turns out that they never found another decent fish, got frustrated, went in to the inner reef and shot a
couple pargo last minute in hopes of making up those last (twenty)-seven pounds. We found the fish.
Because of course we were already on them.
Oh, yeah….there’s a little more to the story….I managed to pull my shit together, get rid of enough of
my phlegm cornucopia, get into the water, punch a sixty-plus foot dive, and shoot a fifty-plus pound AJ.
Our other team-mate Paul Holland shot two in the forty-pound range for his first big pelagics ever. And
Dam? Sealed the deal with an eighty-seven-pound stud.
Of course in the end, Alex was correct – Dam did carry the team the entire team. Paul and I didn’t even
weigh a single fish, Dam did it all but Alex and his team could have taken it all. If not for one snub, and a
man who still held an ounce of pride and a pound of loogie, he would have. Maybe it sounds a liiiiittle
vindictive but if he had not stepped within kissing distance to snub me I swear I would have given him
full disclosure throughout that fateful day.
And what’s the other old saying? Even a dog knows the difference between getting kicked and tripped
On a side note: Most of you know how much of this shit is embellished and if the disclaimer doesn’t
kinda give you a clue, you should maybe just go back to your coloring book and attempt to stay between
the lines. The preceding story is no exception, of course, but this time I felt that it needed stating that
even though the story was based on reality, I’ve never harbored any ill will against Alex nor him for me.
Sure, my feelings were a tad hurt in the moment but as soon as I let Alex know it, he made it abundantly
clear that it was unintentional. Thank you Alex. You are more than just a great competitor; you are a
great human being and a great friend. Next time I will beat you fair and square. Without Dam.
Next Issue: Who I’m Not