National Wildlife Day at the Gulf of Mexico

National Wildlife Day at the Gulf of Mexico

My band and I were in Florida and Alabama this past weekend. We had a CRAZY GREAT time with folks in both places. We had an outdoor concert at Village Baptist in Destin on Friday night (our thanks to Michael, Amy, Lang and EVERYONE for an awesome event). Saturday, all we had to do was travel from Destin to Mobile, which is only a 2 hour drive. So, we decided to sleep in, maybe hit the beach, and take our time on this leisurely day.

I slept until 8:50. I met up with drummer Kevin and bass player Wes, and we headed to the beach.

I threw on some shorts, and didn’t even put my swim trunks on, because we knew the jellyfish had been so bad for a couple of weeks, and we wouldn’t be able to get in the water. We had walked to the beach Thursday night as soon as we arrived, and the jellyfish were washing ashore in droves. It was pretty creepy actually. There was NO getting in the water. They were everywhere. I was so sad, because I’m an ocean guy. I LOVE to swim in the ocean. I love to just BE in the ocean. Bummer for us. No ocean this time.

So, on Saturday morning when we walked to the beach, much to our surprise, the jellyfish were gone! I mean, almost completely gone! Just like Tobymac sings. GONE. I couldn’t believe it. The water was clear and beautiful. My heart skipped a beat. I was so happy. I had two hours staring me in the face with nothing to do but ride waves with my buddies..

I called the rest of the guys back at the hotel and told them to get up and get to the beach. I left messages for them, and went straight to the water. It was really happening; the water was clear. The three of us were joined pretty quickly by our friend Stephen (guy who does all of our words and visuals on the screen). We were having a great time. Then, oops. There was a jellyfish. No problem, though. Just one. Well, and then another. And another. But not too bad. Just here and there. Then we started getting some slightly itching and stinging places all over us. Someone told us that that was probably from jellyfish tentacles floating around…what with the previous weeks’ jellyfish convention in that part of the ocean.

Then, we saw a family huddling around something in the water. We asked them what they were doing. They were looking for a sting ray that they had just seen. NICE. Okay. I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that, because I’m having too much fun. I’m in the ocean on a beautiful day with some of my best friends in the world. Sting rays, get out my house.

I swam to shore to check my voicemail and see if the other guys got my message. Seth was on his way. Alexis was on the
beach already…somewhere…so we saw each other from far away and I flagged him over to come join us. As he was walking over my way, I just so happened to look back at the water. My friends were pretty far out there.

ALL OF A SUDDEN…I looked at the water…about 15-20 feet in…where I just walked through to come to my phone…where
the water was about up to your knees…and I saw a SHARK. For real. A shark. A. SHARK. What in the heck? I couldn’t believe it. A shark. There were kids and people everywhere, and that shark was tearing through the water at a very fast pace, heading westward up the shore. Dude. This thing was FLYING. People started to see it, and a few people started screaming. The fine vacationing folks were hopping up from their beach chairs to get a better look. But in a flash he was gone. By the time Alexis got down to where I was, the shark was way up shore. But he was able to catch a glimpse of it just before it disappeared into the blue water.

A shark.

And there my buddies were…bobbing along without a care in the world.

So what did I do? I went back and joined them. In the water. In the shark-infested, sting ray ridden water. I know. It was stupid. But what’s a sanguine to do? All of his buddies were in the ocean. If somebody’s gonna get bitten, the sanguine must be there for the drama. So I headed back out into the deep. Well, not the deep. But, you know. The sort-of deep.

No more sharks. No more sting rays. A few small jellyfish, and a couple of HUGE jellyfish. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the whole time, there were these schools of thousands of small fish swimming around us. But that’s pretty normal. They don’t bother you. You barely even feel them.

We were having a good time. talking, laughing, swimming. Then – again – all of a sudden, the little fish that were around us, all instantly began to attack all of us. At the same time. It would have been a great video. There we were – 6 guys – instantly and impulsively jumping up and down and yelling, trying to get away from the hundreds of fish jumping all over us. It was the strangest sensation. At first we didn’t know what was going on. Then when we realized what was happening, we started chopping at those fish through the waters like Bruce Lee.

We were kind of laughing and kind of like, uh…this is getting a little weird. It was at this point when some man close by said, “Uh oh. When that happens, it usually means there is something larger in the food chain close by.”

OK. Seacrest – OUT.

Done. Finished. It was time for my visit to the Destin Aquarium to end. I probably could’ve hung with it a little longer. But I think the sight of the 4 or 5 foot shark barreling through the waters like Jeff Gordon was a vision too tough to shake at that point.

We had a couple of hours in the ocean, and that was nice. It was great, actually. Amazing weather. Awesome fellowship with friends. I just think next time, I will wait and go when the fish are back in school.


  1. Kelli on July 28, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    OH MY WORD! I am pretty sure you lived my worst ocean night mare! I can’t believe you saw a real live shark in the ocean and then GOT BACK IN THE WATER! 🙂

  2. Profbaugh on July 29, 2008 at 12:29 am

    You are one brave man or one crazy dude. I can’t quite decide. All I know is that I saw the original “Jaws” at the theater when I was 14 0r 15. And ever since that time, I’ll do anything to avoid sharks. I LOVE the ocean too, but I hate sharks more!!!

    P.S. All I could think about with the Jellyfish was the episode of “Friends” where Monica gets stung. It’s a good thing you were with your own “friends.


  3. Deidre on July 29, 2008 at 6:04 am

    That is CRAZY (but funny). I love to swim in the ocean, but I know with the sight of ONE jellyfish, I would’ve called it a day. I can’t believe you went in after seeing a shark. That’s devotion!

  4. Fran on July 29, 2008 at 6:19 am

    You are NUTS!! NUTS!!!

    My nephew was down there…stung!
    Our friends kids down there now..stung!

    We are going next week and those bad boys better be back to school!

    See you in Louisville! 🙂
    Prayers being lifted~

  5. Way More Homemade on July 29, 2008 at 7:02 am

    *** gasp ***

  6. Anonymous on July 29, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Your post is just in time for:

    SHARK WEEK on the Discovery Chan. this week….


    We were glued to the box last night watching shark week.

    Glad you are safe!

  7. Heidi on July 29, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Going to Destin in less than 2 weeks. I didn’t need to hear that. Time for the jellyfish convention to be over. 🙂

  8. Big Mama on July 29, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Yeah, all those little fish are what sharks refer to as a buffet.

    Just so you know.

  9. Stephanie from MO on July 29, 2008 at 8:11 am

    We went to Ft.Walton Beach (which is basically Destin too) a month ago and the jellyfish were EVERYWHERE!! So was the seaweed! (So much so that my son and my husband who went “way out” came in with baseball size wads of seaweed in the pockets of their swim trunks–I have pictures…) We had two days of seaweed and jellyfish and then the next day–all gone. Only a few straggler jellyfish and tiny remnants of the seaweed. I did not get in the water until all was clear. The nice clear day, we also watched some boys fishing at the edge of swimmers and “the deep” as they caught an 18 inch shark. It looked like a miniature Jaws! We took a cruise in Panama City, and were informed that the little groups of fish that move around are feeding and if you see them, you know that something else is feeding on them as well. Sounds like that’s what you encountered. God’s creations are a marvel, but I think sometimes it’s best to just marvel from a distance….Amen?!

  10. Tiffani Long on July 29, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Okay, from the title of your post to Seacrest–OUT…this stay at home mama is ROLLING!!! Seacrest was bitten by a shark this week…CRAZY! Well, my fam will miss the Wildlife at the beach and head for the Wildlife at Disney instead this Sept.. Glad you had some moments of fun in between filming an episode for Discovery 🙂

  11. wheretheboysare on July 29, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Okay – so while it’s funny to read about someone else having that experience, it doesn’t exactly make me look forward to our vacation in September. And where are going?

    DESTIN! Of course.

  12. Anonymous on July 29, 2008 at 10:09 am

    ok, this was hysterically funny. I almost lost it by the time the school of fish were attacking! Trav, I’m so glad you are ok, what would I do without my favorite?!!

  13. Christy Semsen on July 29, 2008 at 10:40 am

    I will never go in the ocean again just from that story. And we don’t really experience that stuff here in SoCal. Dang it, we live at the beach.

  14. Three Fold Cord on July 29, 2008 at 11:01 am

    OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!!!!!!
    MY jaw is dropped and I cannot believe you saw A.SHARK!

    I also want to see Angela’s face when after all that you got BACK in the water. I am a sanguine as well but I think with all of those water creatures I would have been fine on the beach.

  15. Yoli on July 29, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    wow!! I can’t believe you got back in after seeing the shark. I guess you do love the ocean that much. Glad it was a good time for you – and now what a story you have to keep sharing!!!

  16. Grammy and Olivia on July 29, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    You went back in !?!?!?!?!?! Oh my goodness, that will be a story to tell for a long time to come.

  17. Anonymous on July 29, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Oh, Travis! You can sure tell a good story!! I believe every single word and really did LOL.
    Praying for you regarding the simulcast~
    love ya, di

  18. Anonymous on July 29, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Wow. Did I ever need a laugh today! Thanks for providing it! You are a great writer. For a moment I was right there in the water swimming too….until you mentioned SHARK.

  19. Tina on July 29, 2008 at 2:06 pm


    I so enjoyed the story and I am VERY serious when I say this…

    A BOOK


    Your writing abilities are too wonderful to limit to two verses, a bridge and a chorus.


    A BOOK.


  20. Elaine on July 29, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Yikes. Freaky for sure. Better for there to be glass between me and the critters.

    Apparently the jellyfish have an extended network…saw lots bobbing in NYC harbor. I didn’t think they travelled that north. We were on a ferry. As I was scanning the water (for what I didn’t know…but everytime I am near water, I just watch like crazy) I would say, “There’s a jellyfish.” Over and over. The lady next to me…an apparent expert in marine life, kept saying, “That’s not a jelly fish. That’s not a jelly fish.”

    Kinda funny but not as funny as your experience. Good goin’ getting out of the water.

  21. Kelly S. on July 29, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    “back in school” LOL
    I can’t believe you went back in the water after you saw a shark….nope still can’t believe it. And the Seacrest thing- FUNNY! His account wasn’t near as entertaining as yours!!

    praying for Louisville!

  22. RealEstateGirl on July 29, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Oh my! With even the “threat” of jelly fish, I don’t get in the water! I’ve never been stung and never want to be!

    And dude, the shark just heard it was “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel, so he was dropping by to say “hello”!

  23. ocean mommy on July 29, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Now that my heart rate has returned to a normal pace…that was pretty funny. 🙂

    Have a great week!

  24. Darlene R. on July 29, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Dude! I can’t believe you got back in there! No way, no way, NO WAY!!

    Glad you had fun and all, but I think you’re crazy! 🙂

    You’re a good kind of crazy though 😉

    Oh and by the way, thanks to your post with the donuts, I had two Krispy Kremes on Saturday morning.
    Just thought you should know you pushed me off the health wagon. But man was it worth it!

  25. twinkle on July 29, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    I feel like I was there…have you been praying for God to DELIGHT you?!? A shark. Piranha fish. Jellyfish. Great Story! But glad you weren’t the catch of the day!

  26. lavonda on July 29, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I cannot BELIEVE you didn’t hear the music.

    I ALWAYS hear the music.
    with or without actual visual confirmation.

    daaaaa dum.
    daaa dum.
    da dum. da dum. da dum.
    da dum da dum da dum dadumdadumdadum…

    glad you’re okay! 🙂
    see you in San Antonio!

  27. connorcolesmom on July 29, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    LOL that was too funny!
    I can just imagine all of you MEN jumping up and down at those fish biting you
    BTW: we were in Destin last week and the jellyfish were present but overall not too bad
    so my 4yr old got on his boogie board to “surf” and just as he made his landing on shore a dern jellyfish stung him
    Oh it was SO SAD
    Needless to say we were out after that as well 🙂
    Glad you had a good time though

  28. Lisa Pierre on July 29, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    DRAMA, I love it!

  29. Adam Owens on July 30, 2008 at 3:40 am

    Dude.. no freakin way. That is the craziest story. I would not have gotten back in that water after I saw that shark.
    I mean i could deal with the jelly fish and stingray.. but the shark would have pushed me over the edge.
    Seriously it sounds like some crazy Animal Planet show. But glad to hear that the insane fish didn’t eat any of your toes.

  30. Michelle Bentham on August 2, 2008 at 9:33 am


    Did something happen to the rest of your post, cause I was reading along and … imagine… You started getting little stinging places all over and someone said that probably was the…

    A cliffhanger – when can I tune in for the conclusion. Apparently there is a really great CLIMACTIC moment when a shark joins the story but… I can’t find that part anywhere :o(

    You had me hook, line and sinker…(sorry, just couldn’t resist).

    And then it is like the hook broke… HELP!

    My father and my brother have a fairly funny story about Florida and a salt-water crocodile that is oh, about 22 years old or so! But, that is not mine to tell today!

    My kiddoes went to Orange Beach, ‘bama just a few weeks ago. They have beatiful pictures and had a great time swimming in the ocean! No jellyfish or shark reports from this end. Thank goodness – youngest daughter has issues with lake water but tried out the ocean. They did have a dolphin siting, though! Fun stuff!


  31. tami in la on August 2, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    We went to Destin because we wanted to worship at the beach with you! Friday we scooped up at least 90 jellyfish and Saturday we saw 5 sharks!

    By the way, the worship time was great. I have never sensed the presence of the Lord so strongly!

  32. Connie on August 2, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    What happened to the rest of this post? Somehow it got cut off…so I didn ‘t get to read about your shark encounter.

  33. Lindsee on August 3, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    I am so laughing out loud right now and I have no one to share this hilariousness with because they are all in bed. I guess I should follow suit. But, really, that is hilarious!


  34. jeni on August 4, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Okay, that was hilarious! Scary, but hilarious! We had almost the same experience too on the east coast of Florida at New Smyrna Beach. My son and daughter were out in the water about knee deep when they came running back saying she saw a shark! Then some people next to us came in and said the same thing. We talked to the lifeguard, and he said that it was common, that if we see one, to just come on shore, wait about 30 seconds, and then go back out. I was like, WHAT?!?! Same thing though, everyone else happily swimming away. Oh, we saw hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jellyfish. It was weird though. We only saw the tops of them laying everywhere and some in the water. I have no idea where the tentacles went! lol…..little kids were picking them up and putting them in their buckets. Funny! They actually felt pretty cool, kinda like a Jello Jiggler with bumps. Glad you were okay! 🙂

  35. Mark Celoria on August 5, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Glad you weren’t a star on Discovery Shark Week.

  36. Mhavertj on August 5, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Ahhh I am so bummed. I have the hugest crush on your drummer after seeing you at LPL in San Diego and you guys were in my HOMETOWN!! Swimming in my Gulf of Mexico. Glad nobody got chomped or stung. 🙂

  37. Anita J. on August 7, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Hilarious! You had me crying.

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