By Matt Leerkes
As 18-year-old “men” on a continuous journey to find and experience new and exciting ways to kill stuff, my friends and I jumped at the opportunity to spearfish a few years back. Mad Mike, father of my friend Alex and our somewhat fearless leader as young boys, had been filling our heads with tales of grandeur about all the fish he would jump in and shoot with homemade spearguns on the oilrigs.
“Oh yeah, man,” he’d often tell us, “all you gotta do is dive down about 30 feet under the murk layer and shoot all the damn grouper and snapper you want.”
Tantalized by the idea, we rummaged through Mike’s old stuff, and sure enough, we put together an old BCD (bouncy control device), a two-stage steel regulator, some masks, fins, snorkels, and even an old JBL speargun.
A quick trip to the dive shop for some tanks, and we were on our way to the Louisiana coast to become spearfishermen.
The next morning in Fourchon we all jumped in a 21-foot bay boat (affectionately named the Sea Rat) and headed out to the oil-sucking dragons in South Timelier 80 block.
As we suspected, a nice green brown layer of calm gulf water awaited us at our first stop. Down I went through the murk, bubbles bursting from every gasket and tears in the old hoses and BC that were keeping me alive. Falling through the silty water foot after foot into the dark abyss, my heart was pumping adrenaline-saturated blood through my body. I was nervous, but my mind was surprisingly clear.
This was a new emotion, an entirely different life experience; I was in underwater kill mode!
After descending for what seemed like an eternity, the water went from lukewarm to cold…I had made it to the twilight zone. I would later understand this to be the thermocline layer. In addition to a sharp temperature change, this is usually where the fresher silt-laden water from the top mixes with the clearer high salinity water underneath. The turbulent eddies and clear-to-chocolate blurry swirls filled my mask as I transitioned into the kill zone.
With clear water came a sudden realization:
Look at all the fish!
I’d been fishing the offshore oil and gas platforms for many years at this point, but I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined this. There was life everywhere! All shapes and sizes, big fish, little fish, crabs, shrimp, coral, jellies, and things I didn’t even know existed. Every inch of the steel rig legs were covered in creatures and growth. It was an entire underwater ecosystem…I was in a whole ‘nother world!
After a quick look around in amazement, my attention quickly focused in on a huge school of snapper. Game time.
This is what you came down here to do.
With the rubber bands already pulled back, the safety went to fire position. A few smooth fin kicks towards the snapper school brought a beautiful red-eyed scaly sea monster into my sights. With arms extended, a gentle squeeze of the trigger rocketed the sharp-tipped cold steel shaft into the scaly body. Whammm!! The game was on and, I was hooked!
Fortunately, the rest of the crew eagerly shared the excitement and passion for the adrenaline-packed underwater hunting adventure, and we spent the rest of the day plunging into the murky Louisiana water, filling up the boat with a smorgasbord of critters. With ear-to-ear grins and salt on our lips we knew we had done something that would change our lives forever…we had become spear fishermen!
Our willingness to go full force into the deep after sea creatures with some old tattered dive gear and little to no formal dive training had apparently bought us a little street cred with the old guys, and that evening over some beers and fresh fillets, Mad Mike muttered a few words that seem to have stuck with us.
“Y’all are some Kamikaze Divin’ motherf—ers!” he said.
So, as the sun set on the beautiful Fourchon Louisiana marsh that fateful summer day, the Kamikaze Divers were born.