The recent surge in viral popularity of vertically filmed smartphone videos of people jumping into Bass Pro Shops aquariums has been amusing for most folks, but for me it’s been somewhat exasperating. At least a few times each week for the last two months, I’ve had to explain to different people that just because the news media websites (and Lil Wayne) are all using a photo of me in the tank every time somebody jumps in one, it doesn’t mean I’ve gone back for more, and then I have to tell them the whole story. So, here’s a short tale about my quick dip into the Bass Pro Shops aquarium.
About five years ago, myself and some of the boys were on a winch trip through South Florida, jumping down spillways, sliding concrete ledges, and enjoying the freedom of life on the road. We’d been stacking clips and photos for about a week when we needed to stock up on camping supplies. It’s important to note that I’d been out of the water for an entire month due to an ankle injury and had been confined to driving the winch or shooting photos the whole trip. To say I was full of pent-up energy is an understatement. Pulling into the parking lot, someone cracked a joke about diving into the aquarium with a GoPro, and we kept embellishing the hypothetical scenario until it started to sound more like we were actually planning details than joking. By the time someone asked if I was really going to do it, we were walking in with a couple of well-hidden cameras and I had already committed to looking through the glass from the other side.
We spread out around the store, some heading to the second level for a better view, then I gave the signal and scaled the artificial rock wall up to the edge of the water, past the stuffed deer and coyote. Taking a deep breath and smiling into my GoPro, I slinked quietly into the corner of the aquarium, fully clothed, and swam down into the middle of the assorted fish species, who looked almost as perplexed and startled as the family of four standing on the other side of the glass. I was only under for about 10 seconds, but in that green silence, I imagined that alarms were going off throughout the store and Bass Pro Shops commandos would be popping out of the tent section to confront me. I emerged from the water only to find more silence and to watch my friends scurry back into the clothing racks to remain inconspicuous. I drip-dried next to the stuffed deer for nearly a minute before hopping back down and making my escape. I was intercepted by an amazingly rageful manager near the exit, but the rest of the employees seemed more concerned about containing him than they were about me (he was saying some pretty awful things), so I walked out the front door, ditched the guy they’d sent to follow me, and circled back to the rendezvous point: a nearby Italian restaurant where the boys and I laughed over our little Bass Pro adventure.
I’m banned for life, but really the worst part is having to be the poster boy for all these amateurs getting broken off and hurting themselves. Maybe if one of them could manage to get a decent photo, I’d be out of the limelight.
Until then …