Breaking records and fighting cancer with Robert Silva

By , September 28, 2009 8:22 am

Robert Silva breaking the record (photo by Robert Silva)

Robert Silva breaking the record (photo by Robert Silva)

funsherpa proudly features Chicago’s very own SCUBA world record breaker.  Last September 16th, Robert Silva spent 48 continuous hours diving underwater in Belize, smashing the previous record by about 12 hours.  Now recovering from the grueling achievement, Robert talks to us about his success, fundraising efforts, and why he is still lives in Chicago.

F: How are you coping with your newfound celebrity status?

R: I wouldn’t say I am a celebrity by any means.  You’re only on top till someone does it better or longer, and someone will.  Only time will tell how long I have the record.  It was a great feeling when I surfaced and saw all the people out on the boat, and again when I arrived back at the dock.  It was great the way I was welcomed by the people of San Pedro, Belize. You could take my name out of everything as long as people knew someone did it, and what they did it for.  I did not do this dive for me, but if the funds come in to The American Cancer Society it was well worth it.  I have been asked time and time again if I would do it again.  The simple answer is “make it worth it”.

If the fundraising went very well, I would consider extending the record.  I have an amount in mind that I would have to reach to consider putting my body through all of this again.  The dive was done at a great toll to my body and mind.  It will take me some time to recover completely but if the fundraising goes well then it was all worth it.

F: Can you share with us some of the benefits of breaking a world record?

R: The greatest thing with breaking a record is the personal sense of accomplishment.  There really is no financial gain to it.  A big misconception a lot of people have is that you get paid for it.  I get a piece of paper with my name on it and possible printed in a book, that’s it.  I did have some great sponsors for the event who provided some of the gear needed, but even that gear will get returned now that the dive is over.

F: Your record breaking dive was done for charity – why did you decide to get involved with the American Cancer Society?

R: Cancer has effected many of my family and friends lives.  I work very hard every year at trying to raise money for The American Cancer Society.  They are a great charity, and have done great things in the fight against Cancer.

F: What other fundraising events have you done?

R: Most of my fundraising in the past has been more traditional types such as letter writing, collecting from friends and family and selling stuff.  I have seen other people do records for fundraising, as a matter of fact most of the scuba records were set in the name of fundraising.

F: How can we help in the fight against cancer?

R: Support your local Cancer organization.  You can donate your time to them.  They always need volunteers to help with their programs.  You can also donate money.  Most of these groups survive completely off of donations.  Every dollar counts and no amount is too small.

Anyone wanting to show their support for my World Record Dive can do so on my website at  All donations go directly to The American Cancer Society.

F: Was there any point during your dive when you thought, “I can’t do this anymore”?

R: I was feeling pretty good up till the second night.  During that second night, my team had come down to let me know I had just passed the previous record.  At that point I was ready to call it over but I pressed on for awhile longer.  Later that night the dive really started to wear me out.  My mind was not working right, and I started to lose my train of thought.  Every time things started to get a little out of control in my mind, I settled down to the bottom where I had some pictures of my God Children that I had brought with me.  I would just look at them and they gave me the strength to continue on.  Once the sun came up that last day, I knew I was near the end, and could make it through.

It also helped to have a great support team.  I brought two people from the USA with me, and then Ramon’s Village in San Pedro provided the rest of the team.  My team was very good about keeping a close eye on me.

F: What did you think about for 48 hours underwater where you can’t talk or hear much?

R: Actually,  I did have the ability to talk to my team.  Ocean Technology Systems had provided me with some special masks and underwater communication gear.  Most of the time I kept my mind on the task at hand and when I needed the extra push, I had my friends and family on my mind.

F: What was the first thing you did after you surfaced?  How did being underwater for 48 hours affect your body?

R: The first thing I did was eat some real food.  My dive started on Monday morning, and I stopped eating solid food the Friday before. During the dive I was on an all liquid diet so real food was top on my mind.  48 hours underwater took its toll on me.  I had a full body rash, and a bunch of blisters. Once back on the boat I quickly realized just how weak I had become.  I was unstable on my feet, and just about everything was a bit sore.

F: As an avid diver, can you share with us why you still live in Chicago? Why not move to Florida or some other dive friendly location?

R: Chicago is a great place to live for a diver.  Most people forget we live right next to a major diving hot spot.  Lake Michigan has some great shipwrecks.  The cold freshwater helps to preserve them.  Once you get used to the cold water the diving is great.

F: Aside from diving, what do you do for fun?  Anything specific to


R: I spend a lot of time with my friends and family.  They are my life.  I am a big fan of the Chicago Museums and zoos.  And of course being a diver I love to head out to the Shedd Aquarium.

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