Nfld. & Labrador

When his garbage blew in the ocean, this daredevil jumped in too

When a gust of wind took Sandy Snellen's plastic bag into the ocean, he dove in to rescue it. No suffocating marine mammals on his watch.

Sandy Snellen says his icy dip from the East Coast Trail left him gasping for air

Sandy Snellen dove into this tiny cove by the Spout on the East Coast Trail to retrieve a plastic bag. (Submitted)

When a gust of wind threatened to turn Sandy Snellen into a litterbug, he wasn't having any of it. 

Snellen was camping by the Spout on the East Coast Trail over the weekend, when the wind blew an empty plastic bag into the ocean below. 

"Me and my friend were just standing there being like, 'Oh, this is so horrible! Like there's just a bag in the water and it's our bag!' and we just wanted to claim responsibility for that bag," Snellen said. 

Snellen, who has lots of experience on the water, evaluated the rock cliff to determine the best plan of action. 

"This is a responsibility to the environment that I'm willing to commit to. So I just stripped down and jumped in and got it."

'So terribly cold'

The thing about this water, though, is that it's the Atlantic Ocean off Newfoundland in late June. Snellen told the St. John's Morning Show it was only about 3 or 4 C. 

I had to climb out of this, like, trench which was covered in seaweed, and there were a few good ledges to stand on, but it was a little sketchy, you could say.- Sandy Snellen

His bag blew into the middle of a tiny cove at the bottom of a sheer cliff face. 

"I took a bit of a running leap and just jumped off the rock edge and tried to get as much clearance across the water as I could before I was in the water, because it's so terribly cold," he said.

"Then I had to climb out of this, like, trench which was covered in seaweed, and there were a few good ledges to stand on, but it was a little sketchy, you could say."

Snellen said he was gasping for air because the water was so cold his body was in shock. But he made it, plastic bag in hand. 

Mom says not to do it again

"I wouldn't recommend it unless you have some kind of water training," he said

"I am a sea kayak guide. I've been surfing for years. I've been a lifeguard as well, so swimming is totally part of my life and I've been in and around the ocean here for my whole life, so I know the risks," he said. 

Snellen says he has the training and experience to comfortably dive into the ocean, but wouldn't recommend it to everyone. (Jonny Hodder/CBC)

Unfortunately, a second plastic bag the campers had with them blew in, but that time Snellen let his friend Meg do the retrieving. 

All in the name of environmental protection. 

"Keeping plastic out of the ocean is just such a big deal, like you've got so much here in Newfoundland especially in terms of our clean environment and pristine ecosystems," he said.

"I think we, as an island, have a great opportunity to really, you know, protect that and keep it clean."

Snellen dried off and warmed up, but said he'll take his mom's advice, and never let a bag get away from him again. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

WIth files from the St. John's Morning Show