TO BE AT­TACKED BY AN AL­LI­GA­TOR

Scuba Diving - - Training - BY STEPHEN MARTINEZ, AS TOLD TO BROOKE MORTON

As a golf-ball diver, I’ve been in the wa­ter along­side big al­li­ga­tors and never thought any­thing of it, although in the stirred-up muck, vis­i­bil­ity isn’t even an inch.

The en­counter that nearly ended me be­gan when an 8-and-a-half-foot fe­male, whom I knew was in the shal­lows at a Boyn­ton Beach, Florida, golf course, sud­denly latched onto the boot of my tank and yanked. The sec­ond she re­leased the tank, I reached for my knife. But in that split-sec­ond, I thought, Don’t grab the knife; grab your air.

I hadn’t been fully sub­merged, so I hadn’t pulled on my full-face mask. I did so im­me­di­ately. That turned out to be the first step in my sur­vival. Her mouth clamped onto my left hand, and she be­gan drag­ging me to the lake’s cen­ter, my hand out­stretched in front of me like Su­per­man. As she swam, her whole body worked like a snake. Imag­ine the move­ments that an iguana makes run­ning — ex­cept 100 times big­ger. There is no fight­ing that.

Still, I tried. With my right hand, I strug­gled to grab my knife but could not grasp it. As we reached the mid­dle of the lake, I knew what she was go­ing to do. Sud­denly a vi­sion of my two kids en­tered my mind. I couldn’t leave them. Not like this. So as she started rolling, I reached my right arm around her as far as I could and held on. I also started kick­ing. Madly. At this point, the adren­a­line was only work­ing in my fa­vor. I was fo­cused and think­ing clearly. As soon as she stopped spin­ning, I re­claimed my right hand — and started punch­ing her in the eyes.

Only then did she for­feit my left hand, dan­gling. But it was still at­tached, for which I was ut­terly thank­ful.

Our meet­ing left me with 15 punc­ture wounds and a nasty bac­te­rial in­fec­tion that also could have been the end of me. But I sur­vived that too.

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