Dylan Gartenmayer has spent much of his 22 years of life in the water, since before he was even born. His family has made Key West their home for generations, and swimming, diving, and fishing are in their blood.
Dylan’s mother, Tabitha Gartenmayer, said his first taste of spearfishing was when she was pregnant.
“As natives of Key West, we love the ocean,” she told WTVJ. “I was spearfishing with Dylan in my belly.”
“I do a lot of deep free diving, so I like to go over 100 plus feet on a single breath,” Dylan said.
Dylan and two friends were out enjoying the water when they noticed the conditions had started to get dicey. They decided to get one more dive in before heading back — but that’s when trouble started.
The 22-year-old was free diving at around 35 feet when the Gulf Stream current picked him up and swept him a mile away. He was forced to hold his breath for two minutes as he was pushed along underwater.
“I had a bunch of bait floating up around me and everything,” he added. “I knew that there was, you know, big fish eating those baits, and there were sharks going to be shortly behind them. I was ready to, you know, fight the night out, but glad I didn’t have to.
“So that’s how I ended up getting separated. … They were mainly looking down, thinking I had blacked out from a lack of oxygen.”
When he surfaced, he spotted a channel marker about a mile away, and he swam to it. Along the way, he found bamboo floating and gathered it up to help keep him afloat.