In the corporate world, Sheri Daye is a longtime, successful IBM engineer. In the ocean, Daye is a champion freedive spearfisher.
“I lead a double life,” Daye says with a laugh. “I’ve always been good at math and science, but I also fell in love with the water.”
Daye, who was born in Nebraska and spent her early childhood in Honduras, discovered an interest in the ocean as a young girl. When Daye started at IBM in 1981, she spent the weekends scuba diving. It was her release.
That turned into freediving, during which Daye would log dives of more than 250 feet while holding her breath. Then, she experimented with freedive spearfishing, which required her to hold her breath for at least four minutes while diving deep into the ocean and hunting with a long spear. One of her largest catches was a 179-pound yellowfin tuna.
“Once I was attracted to the water, I went all in,” she says. “I remember seeing people on a charter boat spearfishing, and it looked interesting to me. The rest is history.”
In 2006, she won the Women’s Freedive Spearfishing National Championship title. That same year she began as a host for the Outdoor Channel’s popular show “Speargun Hunter,” which lasted for six years. The sport has led her across the world, from Europe, to Australia, to Japan, where she has speared more than a dozen world record fish, some of them breaking men’s records.
“When I got into engineering, there was a big demand for women,” she says. “In spearfishing, men were a dime a dozen, too. The world records for women were wide open. Since I started, more women have followed. Some are even breaking my records, which is totally fine with me.”
Daye has also found time to act as president of Twin Palms, a center for developmentally disabled adults in Boca Raton, where her brother Terry attends. Back in 2006, when Daye was first appointed, she was desperate to find a way to keep the center in business. “They were losing money every year,” she says.
Daye searched for a way to unite her passion for the ocean with her dedication to Twin Palms. That’s when the Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo was born.
“I knew a lot of spearfishers,” she says. “I thought I could have them all talk, invite people to come and then charge an entrance fee.”
The first edition was a major success. Shortly after, she was asked to plan a second one. She has since raised more than $60,000 for Twin Palms. “It took on a life of its own,” she says. “Now we’re gearing up for our 11th year.”
The show, which will take place all day on April 14 and 15, has grown into Fort Lauderdale’s largest watersports convention. This year, the event will incorporate fishing exhibitors for the first time. Come April, Daye expects more than 5,000 attendees.
“It’s not just about promoting free-diving and spearfishing,” she says. “We have exhibitors who offer everything from underwater photography to marine art, paddleboarding, kayaking and scuba diving. It’s a big party for anyone who loves the ocean.”