Valentine Thomas, 28, is a city worker from Canada currently based in London. It’s not her profession that launched her into the social media spotlight, but rather, her hobby of choice — spearfishing.
With thousands of followers on Instagram, Thomas documents her spearfishing adventures with vivid photographs, where users flock to deliver both encouraging and disparaging comments about her hobby.
Thomas spoke to MailOnline about getting into spearfishing, dealing with sexism, and handling backlash from those who call her hobby inhumane.
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“People call me a killer," Thomas said. “I face sexism, I face a lot of hate, but I have also had marriage proposals.”
The words “sustainable eating” are included in Thomas’ biography section on Instagram, which point to her practices when spearfishing.
“For me to be able to grab my own food is amazing,” Thomas said. “I like everything — even cleaning the fish afterwards. We are really involved in sea preservation. We never kill anything we won’t eat.”
She denounces those who say her hobby is inhumane, calling them hypocrites.
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“People get really angry, they get upset because they are not used to seeing where their food comes from," she said. "Everyone turns a blind eye to what they are eating and I put the reality in front of them.”
While some criticize Thomas’ pursuit on the grounds of animal rights, others believe she isn’t the one behind her catches — something she has since gotten over.
“It’s extremely rare to see women, actually," she explained. "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.”
It’s difficult to imagine Thomas, who became a world record holder in 2013 after catching the largest Atlantic Jack, being afraid of the ocean. But Thomas credits spearfishing for helping her get over her longtime fear of the ocean.
“…[M]y fear…got replaced with passion, but it was a long road to get there," she recounted.
Thomas’ spearfishing hobby has taken her far and wide, including Ascension Island, South Africa, Corsica and Greece. Next month, she hopes to claim a new world record in Zanzibar.
Because of her passion for spearfishing, Thomas says “it’s getting harder and harder to go back to the office … and go on the computer.”
“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," she said.