Today we’d like to introduce you to Derik Rush.
Derik, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I’ve always been somebody who loves being in the water. Whether it’s getting tumbled by the shore break or shooting down a river without a raft, I love the feeling of weightlessness and euphoria that it brings me. But it was not until I was 17 that I had my first experience with Freediving.
It was around spring break 2017, and I was scrolling Groupon looking for something interesting and cheap I could do. Up popped a post for a shore dive spearfishing tour in La Jolla with a local company called Aquaholix. It sounded interesting and I liked their name, so I decided to go for it. We did a safety briefing then kicked out with pole spears, and I was instantly hooked. I had no idea we had such a diverse ecosystem right in our backyard, and the idea of playing such an active role in bringing home food seemed special to me. I managed to bring in a couple of perch on that first dive and already I was eager to go again. The very next day I went out and bought a basic set of dive gear and a pole spear.
From this point on, all my free time after school and on the weekends was spent in the ocean. Every day I would dive into La Jolla, and whether I brought home food or not, I was loving it. I ran into the Aquaholix crew almost every time I went out. We made fast friends and started diving together. After gaining more experience and tagging along on many tours, I joined their crew and started guiding snorkeling and cave tours. This was huge for developing my skills as a diver, as it forced me to build the endurance to push through back-to-back tours, and overall built my confidence in the water.
It was also around this time that Mark Morgan, who owns the Spearshack in OB, took me under his wing and started showing me the more adventurous side of where spearfishing can take you. On my first trip with him, we took his 29′ sailboat about 15 miles offshore to The Los Coronado Islands in Baja, Mexico. We anchored up, slept on the boat, and dove the next 2 days off of kayaks, eating fresh fish at night that we caught that day. Again I was in a world that I had no idea was so close to home, and it left me wanting more. We started taking frequent trips to Baja, both by car and boat. Each time we went it left me wondering what else is out there just around the next bend, just a little further south. I was hooked and there was no looking back.
Around a year after I started my diving journey I took my first formal freediving class with Martin Stepanek of FII. This sparked my interest in not just chasing fish but chasing depth and the relaxation that comes with it, But there was really no community here in San Diego doing any sort of depth training at that time so I mostly continued with spearfishing and guiding tours in La Jolla. A couple of months go by, and I start to hear about a small group that was meeting weekly to do some line diving called Just Get Wet. I start going as often as possible, and every time I was hitting greater depths more comfortably while watching the group continuously grow. This is exactly what SD needed at the time. I soon took my level 2 freediver course and watched the depths grow even more.
Chris Cheezem, who is the owner of Just Get Wet, approached me not too long later, asking if I would be interested in training to be an assistant instructor and eventually get my full instructor certification. I jumped on the opportunity and was soon flying down to the Yucatan to get my assistant certification. I have been working now with JGW as an assistant for a little over 2 years, and recently went through and passed a full instructor course to get my PADI Freedive Instructor certification. Along with instructing classes, I work as a safety diver on Lineage Charters helping to put people on their fish of a lifetime and can be found a couple of days a week in the JGW retail shop.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with is seasickness. Not great when you are trying to be on the water for 8 hours a day while guiding a crew. There were points during my journey when I was ready to give everything up and find another passion. It seemed like every time I would hit the water regardless of if it was off a boat or shore diving I would get seasick, and when it hits, it was completely debilitating. There’s no diving, there’s no being useful for really anything, it just knocks you down. The only thing that I’ve found has helped with this is time on the water. The more the years go by the less I am affected by it. But every once in a while it still gets me.
Other struggles have been getting your foot in the door to make money as a freediver. It is such a niche industry that you need to commit everything to make it a possibility. When I started to really take it seriously I dropped out of college so that I could give it my full energy. That was something that I debated if I made the right choice, for a while, but I’m at a point now where I would hate to imagine where my life would be if I decided not to. I feel like the community and the sport is growing enough now in San Diego and internationally that there is a bigger market for it and there will be more opportunities for work, but only time will tell.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I’m a Freediving Instructor, Spearfishing Guide, and Underwater Photographer. Whether your goal is to hit new depths, shoot monster fish, or capture some awesome underwater content, I’m here to aid you along your journey.
I think something that sets me apart from others is my passion for adventure and confidence even in unpredictable environments. Wherever somebody is looking to go I’m ready to come along for the ride, making sure everybody stays safe and everything runs as smoothly as possible.
What matters most to you? Why?
Safety education is the most important thing to me. Freediving and spearfishing come with inherent risks, but there are easy things that we can do to minimize these risks such as not diving alone, knowing what your personal limitations are, and being able to look for possible signs that a dive is not going according to plan. But if never taught, these are things that often go unnoticed.
Far too many Freediving and spearfishing fatalities happen each year, and avoiding these can be as simple as taking a freediving course, and making sure that you are diving with trained buddies. The overall goal with this is education and awareness, the more divers that are educated on the risks and how to properly handle them, the fewer incidences will occur on the water.
- $400 Introduction to Freediving Course
- $80 rental gear for full class length
- Website: justgetwet.com
- Instagram: @diving4tacos
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9gvGMiHMbNRd-1qxjULsKA