Manuel Menendez Hunting for Dinner by Felix Leander

If I were stuck on a deserted island there is only one person I would want to be with in terms of survival and having "food on the table".  When I was approached by a friend who was tasked by AJ+ (part of the Al Jazeera) to do a segment on "Hunting for Dinner" - I knew Manuel Menendez would be the person to feature.

Manuel is a Miami native who has been diving the South Florida waters for over 30 years.  He knows where to find fish and how to catch them (pole spear, spear gun, hands, whatever it takes) while freediving.  You go out with Manuel and you are pretty much guaranteed to have a delicious dinner and a better understanding of the SOFL wildlife.  

We have been friends for over 5 years now and it is always a pleasure to explore the ocean with him - solid guy who will be there when you need it.

Below is the video that was featured on AJ+

Cormorant Freedivers by Felix Leander

Cormorant are Miami's best freedivers.  We always see them in the bay swimming on the surface and diving.  Usually it is next to impossible to get close to them - they are weary and shy. However, the other day we saw one that had just caught a fish and was having problems handling it.  I was able to get close enough for some footage.

Cormorant freediving for his dinner in Miami, FL

Hawaii Skin Diver Magazine by Felix Leander

Growing up I would anxiously wait for our subscription to Skin Diver and National Geographic (particularly for those issues that featured underwater photography).  Of course National Geographic had a much higher standard than Skin Diver and over time - looking at divers with SCUBA gear on above a coral getting blasted with a flash was just boring.

For a short while there was Ocean Realm Magazine with absolutely stunning images - unfortunately this publication no longer exists.  There were a few others that focus on Freediving and sharks but they definitely are definitely not top tier.

Freediving with sharks featured in HSD...

Enter Hawaii Skin Diver (HSD) - by far in a class of it’s own.  Not only does the publication focus on spearfishing and freediving - the quality of the photos, design / layout of the magazine / articles are world class and award winning.

HSD became what it is today thanks to Sterling Kaya and Clifford Cheng.  In 1999, Sterling bought the magazine and brought on Clif as a partner.  Clif has an exceptional eye for design (he studied graphic design at the University of Hawaii).  The team is extremely small and the magazine relies on help of photographers and writers that contribute articles from all over the world.  And while the name of the magazine has “Hawaii” in it…it covers spearfishing / freediving from all over the world.

Manuel Menendez on cover of HSD

The magazine is published on a quarterly basis - if you do not have a subscription yet, I encourage you to subscribe.

Stuart Cove's Being Bad by Felix Leander

We have come to expect more from Stuart Cove's - particularly when it comes to shark encounters and the handling of the animals...or maybe not.  The video titled "Hammerhead shark tries to attack diver" shows a Stuart Cove's shark wrangler clearly teasing and antagonizing a Great Hammerhead with a piece of fish.  He goes on to give the guests a "show" by grabbing on to the shark's head multiple times further exciting her with the fish.  Circus and rodeo come to mind...

Whatever happened to keeping things simple.

Great Hammerhead Shark - keeping it simple.  Image by Wolfgang Leander, 2007

And while no one was hurt - once again the shark is made to look like the villain, just one example - the video is featured on Yahoo with the following description: 

"A dramatic video has emerged of a hammerhead shark trying to attack a diver in the Bahamas. In the footage, captured during a scuba diving trip in the Bimini Atoll in late January, the shark can be seen circling a diver before lunging forwards several times. Fortunately, the experienced diver was able to push the shark away and survived the experience without any injuries."

The description is completely laughable as is the "experienced" diver.

For more details on the story you can read Mike and Martin's blogs.

Stuart Cove's has been quick to criticize other dive operators for not adhering to high standards - it's time they look at their own.