SPRING BRANCH, Texas - This is a story of a sunken treasure; a valuable item lost and then found. OK, that's a bit dramatic. But seriously, it's a crazy story.
Earlier this week I lost my nearly new Apple Watch while boating at Canyon Lake. I was wearing one of those knockoff brand watchbands from Amazon. When I purchased it, my husband asked me why I would trust my $500 watch with a $6 watchband. I was confident it was fine. I was clearly overconfident. The band unlatched while I was holding onto the side of the boat and the watch fell into the water, quickly sinking to the bottom of the lake.
I immediately jumped in the water to look for it, but even with a swim mask on, I couldn't see more than a couple of feet in front of me and I could only swim down a few feet before getting anxious in the murky water. The lake was at least 15 feet deep where we had anchored. My watch was gone.
On Wednesday, I lamented about my lost watch on Facebook, as one does. A friend I've known since we were teenagers commented on the post.
"Zandy wants to know how deep? Near shore? He likes to find stuff," she wrote.
Zandy is her husband, and he loves to free dive. I told her that it wasn't far from shore and she asked for the address.
Shortly after that she messaged me on Facebook.
"Heading up for an adventure," she wrote.
I couldn't believe it. Their whole family just hopped in the car on a mission to find my sunken watch.
"Zandy loves challenges. This is fun for him," she wrote.
Zandy's wife told me that he has a gift for finding lost underwater treasures. It's become a hobby. In fact, the family has a couple of nicknames for him -- River Monster or Lake Monster -- depending on which body of water he happens to be diving in that day.
I was already back in San Antonio, but my brother met him at the lake and pointed out the approximate area where we were anchored in the cove.
Two dives later, Zandy came up with my watch. Seriously. And it was still powered on and working after nearly 30 hours at the bottom of the lake.
He's found other treasures
I had to ask him more about his diving hobby. How often does he go? How does he do it? Is he ever scared?
Zandy told me he has loved to free dive since he was a kid. It started during trips to the river with his family. He'd bring a mask to swim around and look for fish. One time he found a $5 bill in the water, and that opened his eyes to a world of sunken treasures.
"I love diving and looking for things," he said.
Zandy said he also just loves to be deep underwater. It's therapeutic for him. In college, he pursued marine biology, until he changed his major. (He now works in marketing.) He and his roommates would go out to Canyon Lake and float out with an inner tube. One of them would be sitting in the tube holding a heavy, basketball-sized rock. When they got out away from the shore, his other friends would hold Zandy up so he could balance with his arms free. His friend with the rock would drop it into Zandy's arms and he'd immediately sink to the bottom, where he'd hang out for as long as he could hold his breath.
He also used rocks to help him get to the bottom of the lake to look for my watch.
I asked him if he ever saw anything scary under the water.
"I've seen some good-sized catfish and some really big alligator gar, but nothing that bothered me too much," Zandy said.
"My only fear is finding a dead body," he said.
He did find a body part one time -- a prosthetic leg. He was at the Guadalupe River with his family playing in the water. He noticed a large crowd gathered in one area. A man on shore waved them over and said, "There's a guy who lost his prosthetic leg. If you see it, let us know. He's even offering a reward."
Zandy said the man had hired professional divers with tanks but they couldn't find it.
It wasn't long before Zandy was swimming to the surface with a leg in hand.
He found it in the rapids right before the river gets really deep.
"I dove in between two large rocks and saw a foot. It was kinda freaky until I saw the titanium pole attached. I just reached in and pulled it out," he said.
He tossed it to a man on the shore who urged him to stick around for a reward, but Zandy wasn't interested.
"I said, 'You tell him if I ever lose my leg, he owes me one,'" Zandy joked. He never even met the guy.
And that's how it's been for every treasure he's found.
"If I can find the person, I don't need a reward," Zandy said.
He once found a camera underwater that had pictures from a wedding, honeymoon and vacation on it. He knew it was important to someone so he did some detective work to find her.
"Luckily, they had taken a picture posing behind a newly purchased Harley Davidson motorcycle. I found the owner based on the license plate. I Googled her name and found out where she worked," he said.
Zandy called a couple times and left messages asking her to return his call. When she finally did, he thought, "I'm going to have some fun with this."
"I asked her, 'Hey, did you take a trip to Jamaica last year?' She said yes. I said, 'You got married and bought a motorcycle. How was the Bahamas?' She finally said, 'OK, you're freaking me out. Who is this?' And that's when I told her I found her camera," Zandy said.
The woman lived between Houston and Galveston. Zandy's brother-in-law delivered the camera to the woman while he was on a business trip in the area. Zandy never met her.
Another time, he found a class ring and was able to find the owner over Facebook. The man's uncle lived nearby so he delivered it to him, and Zandy never met the ring's owner, either.
Not only does Zandy turn down rewards, he's not comfortable with any public accolades. It's why I agreed to not use his last name in this story. But you've got to admit it's a pretty spectacular one. You can bet I'll be retelling my watch story for years to come. And there are others out there like me who have Zandy to thank for their unlikely happy reunions.
His wife told me that this is his way to serve his fellow man.
"You’re supposed to do good when you can. This is his gift," she said.
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