Bruce Boyd is from Santa Barbara and after his tour in the US Navy, became a fire fighter for ten years in California. Later he moved to Utah where he started Bruce’s Industrial Painting, a specialist high rise painting company.
CC Bruce, how did your love affair with the sea begin?
BB A close high school friend, Noel Kemp introduced me to freediving in 1960 when I was seventeen. A year later he taught me a painful lesson when he died while freediving at a place called the Deep Hole off the beach in Ventura, L.A. County. Noel was diving for white sea bass and had a shallow water blackout.
CC You are 59 now but you had a hard time making it this far in life. I can’t save this question for later, so tell us about your own shallow water blackout.
BB This was my first spearfishing trip into Mexico. Although I had experience in shooting white sea bass, halibut, big sheepshead and calico bass along the Pacific coast I was not prepared for the strength and power of a large pargo, (dog snapper). This incredible reef predator when speared will go straight for a hole and take you with him.
I was diving with my friend Richard Glenn at Cabo Pulmo. A large school of pargo surrounded me and I shot the largest one I estimated to be over 50 lbs. The fish went for a hole 40 feet below. While releasing the line on my reel, it jammed and I was being pulled down. After fighting the fish for several minutes I was able to release the reel and started swimming for the surface.
The last thing I remembered was looking up about 10 feet from the surface. The next thing I remembered was waking up in the boat. I had suffered a shallow water blackout and because I was negative I sank back down to the top of the reef. My friend Richard had retrieved me from about 40 feet down and he and Enrique were giving me mouth to mouth resuscitation.
Richard told me later that he thought I was dead but Enrique put his head to my chest and said that he could still hear a faint heartbeat, so they kept going. I was blue and had suffered a severe mask squeeze which ruptured all the capillaries in and around my eyes and bruised my face, turning it purple. They estimated that I was underwater around 6 minutes.
Back then in 1969 Cabo Pulmo was so primitive and remote the Mexicans didn’t even have motors for their boats. It took an hour to row me back to the beach.
There were no services in Pulmo so they took me to a small hotel on the beach about 2 hours away. I stayed there for several days recovering. The next day Richard went out and found my spear gun with the fish still on it. I was very thankful to get this gun back as it was a hand made Attic gun that has landed many big fish since that day. A week later I was back sticking big fish with a new sense of caution for big pargo.
I would like to express my most sincere gratitude and thanks to Dr. Richard Glenn and Enrique Castro for saving my life that day.
Lessons learned: Use a line guide on your gun several feet in front of the reel, and if you’ve shot something you can’t handle, just let go of the gun.
CC Your travels into Baja California were pretty extensive from the sixties through the eighties; tell us a little about them.
BB Yes, I have been on about 35 to 40 freediving trips over the years with divers like Bev Morgan, Dr. Jerry Bastion, Jay Riffe, Ted Hoffman, Terry Dahl, Jerry Henthorn and of course Dr. Richard Glenn. Besides Cabo Pulmo we usually stayed for 2 to 4 weeks at a time diving places like Isla Cerralvo, Punta Arena and Los Frieles. We shot big groupers, pargo, amberjack and roosterfish, which I chose as my signature fish. We all had a fish design we chose to mark our gear.
CC Your second near death experience had nothing to do with diving; tell us about it.
BB On July 5th, 1991 I was involved in an industrial accident where another painter and I fell six stories while painting a grain silo in Burley Idaho. I was permanently disabled and told I would probably not walk again. It was my swimming therapy with mask, fins and snorkel that in three years got me out of the wheel chair, off crutches and using a walking stick. I still had a long way to go but I started scuba diving again with my brother Bill and after ten years of swimming therapy and a few freediving trips each year, I now get around pretty good! I don’t have the stamina I once had for diving in currents and I have trouble spotting halibut buried in the sand due to needing glasses. Very few halibut ever got by me in the old days.
CC Do you have family members that dive?
BB My oldest son Bruce II and I have been on many spearfishing trips over the years. Last year we went to Lapaz, Baja CA. We dove Isla Del Espiritu Sontos for a week of spearing grouper, pargo, and cabrilla. We also hit a cow and had to pay off a crooked cop for going through a flashing green light, but that’s Baja!
CC What about Utah diving and the competitions there?
BB I competed in four competitions at Fish Lake in southern Utah placing first and second for the most pounds of non-game fish. In Sept of 1983 my son Bruce II and I were the only freedivers in one tournament, in which we took first trout and first non-game fish with 68 pounds. But later I told the story of a brown spotted fish I had shot and lost that day that was three times the size of anything turned in. This of course drew comments of “yeah right, the one that got away!” So I went back the following Sat to the same spot with my big reel gun and after an hour of searching found him in 20 feet of water. I made a silent dive and nailed the fish through the top of the head, pinning him to the bottom. The big trout had my fresh spear wound on his left side. There was another big fish tournament going on at Fish Lake and I won first place at 26 lbs. It took 5 days to certify the Utah State Record for German Brown Trout and the fish had lost over 4 lbs. The certified weight was 21 lbs. 12 oz., a length of 35.5 inches and a girth of 21.75 inches.
CC Tell us your future spearfishing plans?
BB I am considering competing in the 2nd Annual Blue Water Classic Spearfishing Tournament at Fish Lake Utah this August.
CC Finally, what advice would you give to a new spearfisherman?
BB Always keep your buddy in the water and close by. Also have a sharp boatman watching you, ready to assist for whatever reason and with a tank ready to go incase of a blackout. Trust me on this one.