Like most bustling metropolitan workers in London, 28-year-old French-Canadian Valentine Thomas goes to work raising capital for the hedge fund she’s employed at. However, as soon as she gets out of the office, she goes to work on her real passion — spearfishing.
The world record-holder often heads out from London to Ascension Island in the south Atlantic, Durban in South Africa, Corsica, Greece, the Channel Islands, or wherever her next hunting trip is to take place. Wearing her diving gear like a suit of armor, she dives in the water to hunt big game, occasionally swimming with deadly sharks — this is the occupation she wishes she worked full-time.
Thomas’s story begins when she was a little girl learning to swim and dive from her father, Alain Thomas, whose penchant for ocean sports led him to sail across the Atlantic in his 20s. However, Valentine didn’t realize her passion for spearfishing until more recently.
In 2010, Thomas moved from Montreal, Canada to London and was persuaded by a friend to take a diving course off the coast of Egypt. Three years of spearfishing later, she broke the world record for the largest Atlantic Jack ever caught while she was diving off the coast of Ascension Island. Now, all of her trip invites and diving gear are provided by sponsors.
However, her extreme life of hunting in the ocean is met with abuse from those who oppose hunting and misogynists who oppose women participating in male-dominated sports.
“People call me a killer. I face sexism, I face a lot of hate, but I have also had marriage proposals,” Thomas told DailyMail. Recently, her Instagram pictures have also shown up on the sexist website “Spear Sluts.”
However, Thomas defends herself, not only as a woman, but as someone who respects nature and only kills what she will later cook and eat.
“I shoot them in the brain and they die immediately. I’m very respectful of everything I do.
“If you buy fish from a supermarket, why am I the bad guy? People see blood and they get squeamish.”
“People get really angry, they get upset because they are not used to seeing where their food comes from. Everyone turns a blind eye to what they are eating and I put the reality in front of them.
“For me to be able to grab my own food is amazing. I like everything — even cleaning the fish afterwards. We are really involved in sea preservation. We never kill anything we won’t eat.”
Spearfishing is widely known as a male-dominated sport, but Thomas has clearly proven that she can hold her own.
“It’s extremely rare to see women, actually. It’s really something quite different. It used to bother me — it definitely bothers my boyfriend. People don’t believe I can do things like this.”
Thomas also revealed that she wasn’t always as comfortable in the water as she looks now. “It took me quite a while before being comfortable with shore diving,” she wrote on social media.
“I almost drowned in the south west of France when I was a teenager after being caught in an underwater current.
“Spearfishing allowed me to overcome my fear of the ocean which got replaced with passion, but it was a long road to get there.”
On her very first fishing expedition, she had a near-death situation on her hands when she became separated from her partner with blood in the water and sharks nearby.
“I started freaking out. I was trying to swim to the shore and I couldn’t.
Sometimes you can be five miles from the shore. When you spear a fish and there is blood everywhere, the sharks are around.”
She was eventually able to find a rope that was tethered to her partner and swim back to the group.
For now, Valentine Thomas will continue to pursue her passion, hopefully turning it into a full-time job.
“My dream would be to make a TV show so I can fish for a living and I would like to get involved in protecting the ocean. Now it’s getting harder and harder to go back to the office on Monday and go on the computer.”
This July, she is planning to spearfish off the coast of Zanzibar in East Africa.