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Joe Noonan / Plongeur


A wonderful interview with Joebaby, shamanic nature guide, author and dolphin whisperer.
“Nature, the ocean or the mountains are dynamic entry points. Through surfing, snowboarding and diving we fall in love, we open up. If we stay with that passion, it grows. That’s the juice we are all after ; being present to the magic and power of life.” 

Most people spend their lives living on the surface, rarely daring to delve deeper… so how could we not have an article in this issue about the ocean and it’s power. Diving deeper and exploring what lies beneath the surface is a perfect metaphor for what life is all about. Whether staying in the water for hours waiting for the right wave, or just swimming, snorkeling and diving, spending time in the ocean allows us to make a deeper connection with ourselves and get a great taste of Mother Nature. This is why we are drawn back again and again, to continue to experience these special, life-altering moments.
So what attracts us to the ocean ? What are we looking for when we leave the shore and move towards vaster horizons ? Waterman Joebaby, living between the Bahamas and Hawaii, embodies the answer to these questions. He is one of those for whom the surface was not enough. Meeting him and diving deep into his mind and heart might very well trigger some of our deeper feelings of ‘longing’ and ‘belonging’.

“I had on-going nightmares of the ocean as a kid. I would fall into the ocean ; sink and these bizarre fish would swim up, look at me and lick their lips at me. Just as they were about to eat me, I’d sink deeper… The ocean is a scary place for many, it is like our unconscious ; the deep, dark place where all our monsters and everything we’ve suppressed lives. It’s all very much alive and waiting for us down there. These days, what I love to do is hold my breath and dive down !”

As we listen to Joebaby talk about his past relationship with the ocean and his present communion with it, we wonder how the shift happened.

“I feared the depth and power of the ocean. Then I swam with wild dolphins. I fell in love with them and to be with them, I had to swim far out from the shore. Swimming out to the dolphins was like dating somebody who lives in a scary neighbourhood ; you are willing to walk through those dark streets at night because love is calling. That is what a surfer does, following his passion for the waves. I remember the first time I swam with them on the Big Island ; there was nobody around, no dolphins in the bay. But, I had travelled all the way to Hawaii and I thought: I am not going to wait another day… I started swimming and when I was a half mile from shore, I saw something big beneath me and I thought – shark ! I stayed present, breathed and watched this big thing from the deep getting closer and closer until… it turned into a dolphin ! Ten years later I got bitten by a shark, got 28 stitches and, crazy as it sounds, it took away more fear. What happened was, over time, I got past my fear and fell in love with the ocean.” 

All surfers and ocean lovers know what it means to meet fear… The transformation happens when we move from fear to trust. Something within us blossoms as we dare to open our eyes wider and embrace the present moment.

“Moving through fear is all about being present ; weaving a thread between the fear we imagine and what is real, breath by breath. We all spent 9 months floating in an amniotic sea ; we already have a primal connection with water. However, we also carry a primitive fear of being eaten, but that fear is from the past. By facing fear, real or imagined, our connection to the sea grows. Earlier this week I was in the water with a mother whale and her baby. This two-ton baby came rushing over to play, flapping her big pectoral fins and tail like a giant puppy. At thirty times my weight, she was coming in so close and so fast I got scared ! But, by just breathing and relaxing, Baby relaxed too and I got to just hang out with them. Being in the ocean with them, just floating there, gives such a profound sense of expansion and belonging… After a while, there is no more ‘me’ ; there is just the ocean looking at itself through these eyes.”

The ocean is such a magical place in so many ways…

“The ocean is the embodiment of the divine feminine ; she is the vast, huge, unfathomable void where everything begins. Where do the seeds of all life start ? In the dark, moist unknown. Everything comes from that dark void. The mind is afraid of that unknown, but the truth is, it’s the most real place there is. 20 years ago, I fell in love with the sea, became a free diver and discovered that when you take a breath and dive down, the mind finally quiets… there’s a profound sense of peace and you feel one with everything. This is such an immediate, present state to be in, it is totally ecstatic.”

As Joebaby talks, taking long breaks between words, I feel the quiet intensity of such moments. Everything goes still and there is a sense of deepening, as if we were suddenly projected under the surface of the water.

“The ocean is a powerful, vibrant expression of life. To spend time in her is to surrender to her, to become one with her, feel her moving within us. She softens our grip, reminds us all is well and in its own flow. Problems melt away and hearts open in the vastness of her embrace.
Over time, we become part of her rhythms and waves. My son Mark grew up helping me with my dolphin trips ; he’s now a snowboard instructor in Aspen. A few weeks ago we were on the mountain together and I could see the ocean moving in him as he was flowing down the mountain. As Kabir, the 15th century mystic from India said, ‘the drop lives in the ocean and the ocean lives in the drop’. We are all walking, talking bags of salt water ; we belong to the sea more fully than our minds will ever understand. Why living it is better than understanding it… We are fully aware before we are born and we will also be again when we die. We are spiritual beings having a human adventure… Fundamentally, we are all one and we pour a tiny piece of our essence into a lifetime, into a body and this tiny piece says, ‘Who am I ? What is going on ?’ But even as the mind doubts, the totality of our essence is just loving its mini adventure. My essence is having a blast even if my mind is complaining about the cold water, sloppy waves or crusty snow. While the mind grumbles, my lungs are enjoying the fresh air and my eyes are drinking in the beauty of the landscape. The book God is Delicious is about exactly this ; how Nature shows me the party that existence is having with itself through this body and these senses.
Life is an invitation to fall in love – to live this human journey with great joy and passion. We are constantly being seduced by the beauty of snow, wind, water and waves. I am in love with the ocean, sometimes in ways I don’t understand. She continues to open my eyes and my heart and I often get an amazing feeling of excitement when I step into her. I think this depth of love is in all of us and through our passions we can find it in everything.”

Keri Gonzato / 7sky

Keri supports

Joebaby Noonan


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