A Central Florida scuba diver Saturday broke the world record for longest saltwater dive by almost five minutes after spending two days under turbulent seas.
A team of divers helped a weak but spirited Allen Sherrod, 45, onto land at 10:25 a.m. as powerful waves rolled onto shore and the sun broke through an overcast sky. He was whisked away to his hotel room at the nearby Windjammer Resort for a medical check and shower.
Sherrod, of Groveland, addressed the media showing grayish, swollen hands and feet, and broken skin on the back of his knees. He said he felt "great" and looked forward to a nap and meal, perhaps the lobster he'd scooped up underwater or something sweet, like barbecue, to offset the taste of saltwater.
"I don't try to show off, just break the record," he said, after gingerly shuffling from the hotel room to a chair in front of the beach.
Sherrod dove in at 10:12 a.m. Thursday morning when the sea was flat, but that swiftly changed and conditions deteriorated.
The diver spent much of his time kneeling on the sea floor to stabilize himself and prevent seasickness. He also clung onto an artificial reef about 250 yards offshore that stimulates coral growth using solar-powered electrical currents. He said he wanted to bring awareness to that technology.
Strong currents whipped him around underwater and caused bruised ribs as well, he said
The former world record was set in Indonesia in January 2010 by a diver from the United Kingdom, according to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea spokesman Steve d'Oliveira.
This was Sherrod's second attempt to break the record — he made his first attempt Oct. 25, but water conditions forced him to surface after 12 hours. The record-breaking diver, who certifies the famous mermaid performers at Weeki Wachee Springs, also holds the record for longest freshwater dive — five days — which he accomplished this year.
Although Sherrod waved off the new record as "pretty easy," challenges arose.
The water temperature was consistently about 77 degrees, but when Sherrod's temperature appeared to drop, his team of divers massaged him and helped him swim laps to bring it back up. Throughout the night, his team also hauled air tanks to replenish Sherrod's supply every two hours, said lead safety diver Jose Mijares.
The current was so rough that it dragged some divers assisting Sherrod a long distance away, he said.
"It was even harder because we had no control over the environment," Mijares said, comparing this dive with the previous one in the freshwater lake. "The environment had the control."
Sherrod tried to take catnaps by ignoring the persistent crackling of bubbles and wearing a full face mask. He communicated using a magnetic drawing board and his "self-contained underwater loudspeaker" invention, dubbed SCUL. He drank chocolate milk and Gatorade, Mijares said.
Despite the challenges, Sherrod said the nurse and horn sharks, sea turtles, lobsters and tropical fish kept him entertained.
His next record-breaking attempt: traveling from Lake Worth to Bimini in the Bahamas on an underwater scooter next year, Sherrod said.
Copyright © 2011, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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