I have decided to share with you my thoughts from my Safety for Spearfishers & Freedivers speech for the Townsville Skindiving Club at the Yacht club, which I made just last week. The spearfishing and freediving community in Australia is facing another death of a young spearo, and many of us are asking a lot of questions. Words seem inadequate to express the sadness we all feel about the loss of another innocent life due to black out. My heart and hearts of many freedivers, spearos, instructors and ocean lovers are with the family and friends of the deceased in this time of sorrow.
I was not personaly involved in the investigation of the recent accident. However, as a freediving athlete and international instructor, I am being exposed to many accidents and black outs in my career, both directly and indirectly. From my own experiences, I believe that the main reason why black outs actually happen is that people simply don’t know what they are doing due to lack of proper freediving education or because they push their limits or because of stress.
In most cases, we freediving instructors can save the lives of many people,not just by teaching them how to freedive but more importantly showing them the right attitude towards the sport. Just the other day, a good friend of mine and my student saved someone’s life. Freediving and spearfishing are very “free sports“. Gear itself is available and it’s very easy to jump into it. A lot of people are forgetting the fact that with a pair of fins and spear gun should strongly consider some formal freediving education. Google is not enough. Especially beginners think a lot about depth when it comes to improving the way they freedive or spearfish, but it’s just a part ofit.
Learning how to freedive means also how to listen to your body and being able to understand it. One of the main safety rules is telling us: improve slowly. Why ? Am I not capable of reaching 30m depth on my first diving course? Answer is, that you maybe are, but what is more important than reaching 30mis to know how we reach it. This experience comes with a good amount of time spent in the water so you are able to distinguish between easy and hard dives. The main difference between a freediving and spearfishing session is that during freediving we focus on ourselves or our buddy. When we spear,we focus on the fish.
We, freediving instructors have to understand this differences and adjust our teaching to meet spearos needs. If we just have a look on one scenario : spearfishing on the wrecks. If one person is down at 30m for more than 2min hunting fish, other diver is on the surface pulling that fish with a rig line, who is a safety for diver who is exhausted, coming from depth ? No one. It’s extremely important to discuss all possible scenarios and safety before we are on the boat heading for a spear.
I believe that there are three things, that spearos can do in order to improve their safety.
Firstly: Strongly consider attending a freediving course. Course will teach you not just what to do in case of black out and how to prevent it,but also what are symptoms and signs of black out, so in case there are some, it can be possibly recognized before it happens. Safety and rescue is a big part of any course.
Secondly: Discuss very carefully logistics of a spearing session before hand to prevent unnecessary accidents and be ready to act if needed.
Thirdly, but probably most importantly: Don’t let your ego overcome your mind.There is no fish big enough or depth “cool“ enough which is worth of your life or life of your friends. There is no need to push your limits. Respect who you are and train to become better. Me myself, I am a deep diver and competitor and I completely understand the joy of depth, that amazing and fulfilling feeling of reaching bigger depths. However, too many beginners are too motivated to reach depths instead of focusing on safety, fun and slow progression. Freediving and spearfishing are our passions. Passion is energy,which comes from doing what we love. So let’s focus on how much we love what we are doing but let’s do it properly and safely.