I have been very fortunate to have had some truly special encounters with a variety of marine creatures, most often dolphins.
To be able to experience them in their natural habitat with a shared curiosity for each other is incredibly awe-inspiring. Dolphins swam with me for about 40 minutes during my Cook Strait swim last year. Swimming so close I could almost touch them, I will never forget how unique that was for me. In November during my Molokai Channel swim, I was delightfully greeted during the late evening hours by a couple of dolphins, lit up by bioluminescence and glowing ethereally under the moonlit sky. I swear I made eye-contact with one of those dolphins. It's difficult to adequately describe how these close encounters have impacted me.
The fact that they swam next to me without fear was the most magical part of these experiences. Perhaps bewildered with my actual intent, they watched me with the same amazement. All I want to do is relive those moments, and while the odds are definitely in my favor to do so, it is not guaranteed.
And so from the moment I jumped into the pristine waters of this massive aquatic wonderland, I pulled the handle of my very own Las Vegas slot machine. After taking a breath I gazed into the deep blue nothingness, eager to see dolphins line up on the pay line, I pulled the handle repeatedly. Over and over again. As the reels spun around, I waited, patiently, for that moment.
Now over halfway through our swim, with only pictures of the occasional jellyfish appearing on the pay line, I was beginning to believe in the old adage, "the house always wins." Regretfully I was preparing to return home without my payout.
Though dizzy from watching the reels spin so intensely, I pulled the handle hard. My focus intensified and the slot machine began to work it's magic. Around and around the reels spun. The first reel stopped: dolphin. Then the second reel stopped. Dolphin! The last reel seemed to purposely spin in slow-motion. A jellyfish? A seabird? It was hard to tell. I heard a satisfying high-pitched squeak echo through the water. And then, all of a sudden the reel stopped, a line of dolphins greeted me. "DOLPHINS!!!" I yelled to the support boat. A pod of about 6 dolphins appeared to be drafting behind us. And, as I have done with each of my dolphin payouts, in the hope of communicating in some way, I squealed with delight. Dark blue shadows of dolphin silhouettes darted 20 feet below me.