Jerry Hall is all smiles as he emerges from South Holston Lake Friday. David Grace photo.
BRISTOL, Tenn. — 5 ... 4 ... 3... 2 ... 1. He’s done it! Jerry Hall has not only set a new world record, but shattered it.
At 1:41 p.m. Friday, Hall successfully emerged from South Holston Lake at the Lake View Boat Dock after spending exactly 145 hours, 31 minutes and 23 seconds underwater to claim the Guinness World Record for longest freshwater scuba dive.
Other than being a little cold and very hungry, Hall, a Gate City resident, said he felt fine after completing his record-setting dive.
“I got cold, and I don’t like to be cold,” Hall said shortly after coming ashore. “We didn’t have the clarity in the water that we were hoping for, and the temperature was about 81, but it was cold. There about two days ago I was really cold, but I told the guys and they fixed it and got me semi-warm. I’m just now starting to warm up completely.
“I’m hungry too. I’m ready to eat.”
Hall has been attempting to set a new world record for longest scuba dive. He previously held the record of 120 hours and 1 minute in 2004. In 2011, a Florida man broke the record by spending 120 hours and 14 minutes underwater.
The record was surpassed on Thursday at 12:25 p.m. All the time Hall has spent in the water since then is because he wants to set a new benchmark for divers who may follow him.
It has been a long journey for Hall, who has spent almost an entire week underwater.
Hall said he spent much of his time on the underwater platform watching movies on a specially made television set.
Although nothing “unexpected” occurred during the six-day dive, Hall said he did receive a surprise visit at one point from his girlfriend, Tina Fuller.
“I was standing there watching TV and found somebody tugging at me, and I turned around and saw her hair,” Hall said. “I was speechless for a minute. It was all I could do, just hug and hang on to her.”
Hall said his accomplishment would not have been possible without the help of his team, which consisted of 23 support divers and various on-shore personnel.
“I’m 48 years old and I went into this because I felt like we had a great opportunity to pull this off,” Hall said. “I felt like I was in shape enough to pull this off and that we had the team to pull this off.”
Hall added: “The real people in this dive are the people you see with the blue shirts on this dive team. They’re the ones, to me, they’re my heroes. There’s no way any of this could have came about (without) the trust that I had in them and the trust they had in me.”
Jim Bean, who helped plan the dive with Hall and Tony Rutledge, said the support team members all felt a responsibility to help Hall achieve his goal.
“It was a mental challenge for the whole team. Jerry has been preparing mentally and physically to do this,” Bean said. “The entire team wanted to make sure that if he failed it was because he decided to come up, not because we messed up at the top and he had to come up. That was our biggest worry, not messing it up for him.”
With the world record now reclaimed, Hall said he has no plans to give it another go in the future.
“At my age, I just don’t see that there’s a need,” Hall said. “I’ve done it three times, we’ll get a Guinness World Record out of this, so it’s time.”
In addition to setting the record, Halls said he hopes the dive will aid in raising money, and awareness, for Speedway Children’s Charities.