john dornellas freediving hunting pelican

John Dornellas

Freediving, Spearfishing

John Dornellas is an avid underwater hunter, boat captain and long time educator of all things ocean. He has been teaching freediving for Freediving Instructors international for eight years and is the co-author for the FII spearfishing curriculum. John has been instrumental in creating an apnea-based experiential curriculum for addiction recovery, is a multiple spearfishing world record holder, underwater photographer and writer. As a married father of two, John spends his time teaching his kids how to work with their hands and shares his love of the natural world with them at every turn.

john dornellas underwater photographer
john dornellas spearfishing
john dornellas underwater hunter

What motivates you in the morning?

Excitement for what surprises the ocean has in store, hungry kids or my boxer dog whining to go outside.

What is your mantra for when things are tough?

I just try to breathe, stiffen my spine and smile through it.

If you could do anything else, what would it be and why?

Fly the A-10 warthog. It goes BRRRRRRPPPP!.

Describe your best moment ever.

I don’t really have just one, but a memorable one was landing my biggest dogtooth tuna in Fiji. My wife was right there looking at me in the water while she was pregnant with our son.

How did you get into your profession?

My dad trained me as a windsurfing instructor when I was fourteen. I’ve been teaching windsurfing and most water sports under the sun since then. The ocean activity that has resonated with me the most over the years is spearfishing and freediving, so it was a natural move when I met Martin Stepanek of FII. We chatted, I endured a grueling instructor-training program that changed how I dove, how I taught and opened doors around the world for me. I have close friends and relatives who struggle with substance use disorder, so when the door opened for me to work in that field it was a natural progression. Captaining ties in with everything else I do, especially in Alaska where I work for Coldwater AK. I am on the water for 10-14 hours per day during the summer and constantly have incredible animal encounters (which I get to bring my family along for), spearfish in my off time and am constantly struck by the majesty of the natural world.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?

“Just gonna suss it out mate” – Jaga Crossingham of Freedive Fiji

What are your top three Pelican products?

Ohhhhh man. Only three? Ok, I’ll try to pick my favorites. I’m really impressed with the Dayventure pack. It works perfectly to bring home fish filets and carry my lunch while I’m on the boat, but it doubles as a padded case for my long lens and underwater Aquatica housing for my Canon. And it looks sweet as.
Another one would be my Pelican Storm gun cases. I have one for my rifles and bow for hunting. They’re so sturdy and I have zero worries about anything getting damaged inside, plus they look sweet as.
My other top pick is the 1510 Protector and 1535 Air cases. I can break down all of my underwater camera gear, extra lenses and ports and camera into one carry-on case. I don’t like checking any camera gear, so it’s the perfect travel case. I lost mine with all of my cameras into the water in Portugal one time and didn’t break a sweat because I knew my gear was safe…plus they look sweet as.

john dornelass r20 ruck case fishing
john dornelass water boat fishing