It all started on the Left Coast Leisure Tour. A few days of winching Tampa & the 941, then down south to Ft Myers. A bunch of good winch spots down there… After visiting Bass Pro Shop for camping supplies, we were talking about how epic it would be to have a clip swimming around in the giant aquarium with a gopro. The next day, we packed up everything after a long day of winching, and then, in a move that can only be described by TJ Giesey as “YOLO!”, I made the call- We head back to Bass Pro & get the clip. I had been driving winches & shooting photos the whole trip (unable to wakeskate because of an ankle injury), so I definitely had a lot of pent up energy at the time.
We did most of the planning in the parking lot. Me & Stu have been watching a lot of that TV show ‘White Collar’, so I went into Neal Caffery mode right away. We went in at separate times, iPhone 4’s & gopro’s at the ready. We all moseyed around the store for about 10 minutes to feel it out… This place is huge. My heart was thumping in my chest & I was pretty sure that I was going to find a logical reason to talk myself out of doing this. My rational side does that sometimes. I made a recon pass by the jumping-off point, halfway down the stairs, over a metal gate onto an artificial cliff, then right into the tank. The coast was clear. Travis & TJ were pretend browsing the clothes rack in front of the tank. TJ gave me a look like he was trying to gauge if I was actually going to go through with it. “It’s go time”. A quick glance up to the hunting area to see Tad & Josh lining up the shot from above.
I pulled the gopro out of my back pocket on the way up the stairs & hit record right as I jumped the gate, made my way across the artificial cliff, and slipped into the water without a sound. Beforehand, I was a little bit scared of the giant catfish & the alligator gar, but I was running with adrenaline on full, so it didn’t matter anymore. I don’t even remember if I took a real breath before going in. Under the water, I swam about halfway across the length of the tank & hung out for a few seconds in the ethereal greenness, laughing to myself about the family of 4 watching me, absolutely motionless. I couldn’t see their faces, but I could guess haha. Passing a gar on the way out, I surfaced quietly right where I had entered, & slipped out of the tank just as silently as I had entered it…
For some reason, when I was in the tank, I had the impression that everything outside was suddenly thrown into a state of panic & energy, thinking that alarms were going off, and that people were running in from all over the store to deal with the situation… but when I came out, all was quiet still. Other than the family of 4, it seems no one outside our circle of conspirators was even aware that someone had just gone for a leisurely dip in the aquarium. I sat crouched on the cliff, drip-drying out of view for about a minute, then I stowed the gopro back in my pocket, hopped the gate, and made my way back down the staircase, heading for the front door with a noticeable trail of water behind me.
I was just a few steps from a clean escape when I heard voices behind me, those voices I had been waiting for. I stopped and turned, with as sincere of a curious expression as I could manage, as if to pleasantly say “Can I help you?”… The following exchange saw some really amazing dialogue, stemming from the fact that this man, S–n, apparently a manager of some kind, was so angry you’d have honestly thought that I had walked in the store & personally smacked him & his family in the mouth with a freshwater bass from the tank. I was calm as a Tibetan monk.
S–n: You think that’s funny?
Me: Ummmm, yeah. Obviously.
S–n: Oh you just think you’re so fucking funny don’t you, punk? I bet you can’t wait to tell all the kids at school how funny you are, you fucking dumbass
Me: I’m 23. I haven’t been to school in 5 years.
S–n: Holy shit, 23? God you are a fucking loser. You’re gonna go real far in life I can tell already.
Me: Don’t worry about me, I’ll be just fine.
S–n: I bet you don’t even care that you probably just killed those fish you fucking prick.
Me: You work at Bass Pro, selling fishing & hunting gear. You don’t care about animals.
At this point the other employees are mostly standing around chuckling at the fact that someone jumped in the aquarium, and that S–n the 55-year-old manager is now turning purple with rage while the soaking wet kid in jeans just seems amused at all of it. As they took my picture with a digital camera so that they could enforce my “Banned For Life” status, I just threw up the peace sign & a smile. A nice middle-aged lady comes up & asks me why I did it… For fun.
Other manager: Okay S–n, we’ll take it from here, just go back to your section and we’ll deal with it.
S–n: Fuck that, I’m not scared of him… Just cause he’s ripped… Ripped like an idiot!
Me, to the other employees: Alright, I’m outta here… I’m really sorry about the wet floor!
S–n: I hope you wrap your car around a fucking light post tonight you piece of shit!
I was genuinely happy that I had gone through with it, that I hadn’t come up with some excuse about why I shouldn’t do it, and that it was just as funny as we thought it would be… I was grinning for days. I know it’s cliche, but I felt really alive. After all the ‘likes’ & comments from my friends & all the wakeskaters who saw it on Facebook & Instagram, I couldn’t help but grin some more…
My only regrets about the situation are that I couldn’t come back in & dry up the floor (I hated leaving a mess that some kid is probably gonna have to clean up), and that I didn’t film the conversation with S–n at the door… Me & TJ walk to the far end of the parking lot, one of the managers trying to inconspicuously follow us to get our license plate #, since I wouldn’t give them a name or anything at all, but me & TJ are on point. We had just watched the Scorcese/DiCaprio movie ‘The Departed’, so now it was “Lose the fucking tail”. When we walked right on past the far edge of the parking lot and into the adjacent lot for LA Fitness, TJ texted Travis to come around & pick us up…
30 minutes later we were laughing over a warm dinner at a Miller’s Ale House, no more than 200 yards across the parking lot from the Bass Pro Shop aquarium.