Freedive Training: Cardio, Intervals, CO2 and O2 Tables
Freevive training can be a complicated process for many people. Just about every dive will agree that the best way to train for breeding is to freedive. Nothing beats in water experience. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or access to be in the water as much as we would like. Fortunately there are several ways to train for freedivng outside of being in the water. It should be noted that these training techniques try to help the same muscle groups and mental skills that are helpful in freediving. Remember, never train freediving in the water without a dive buddy that understands rescue protocol.
Cardio: How Endurance Improves Freediving
There are a lucky group of people that actually enjoy cardio. Those people are widely considered crazy by the rest of us. The rest of us just need to grin and bear it when we are doing cardio and recognize that doing some of it will help us enjoy other hobbies. The biggest benefit of cardio in freediving is building up endurance. There is nothing worse than getting in the water in a strong current and struggling to be able to dive because you are running out of energy on the surface. Implementing a regular cardio routine has untold benefits to allowing you to enjoy a long day in the water. Some great activities that help also build up you leg muscles are swimming, biking, and of course running.
Intervals: Improving Recovery and Anaerobic Exercise
If there is anything more unpleasant to train than cardio it has to be intervals. It takes the unpleasantness of cardio and magnifies it with the feeling like your heart and lungs are going to explode. For those of you unfamiliar with Interval workouts the more familiar term is sprints. Sprints can be applied to any of the previously mentioned cardio exercises. Basically just push yourself further than you can sustain.
If you are running you can do distance intervals or timing intervals. Runt to a light pole, walk to the next light pole, or run 30 seconds then walk 60 seconds. Swimming can be swimming hard for a lap, recover for a lap. This process is designed to spike your heart rate and helps train your body to recover from anaerobic exercises quicker. Anaerobic exercise is any exercise that uses more oxygen than your body can replace in the amount of time the exercise continues. You can understand how this type of exercise could be helpful I training for freediving.
CO2 and O2 Tables: Training the Mind to Accept Discomfort
CO2 and O2 tables are useful tool in getting your body used to holding its breath. They eat h work in different ways to improve this goal.
CO2 tables focus on getting a build up of CO2 in your body. ?This helps your body become accustomed to that discomfort that makes your mind think you need to breathe. It is not a lack of oxygen that makes you think you need to breathe, but the build up of CO2. By regularly exposing your body to increased levels of CO2 it pushes your mental limits of what your body considers normal. The method of doing this is typically to hold your breath for a consistent amount of time and to reduce the amount of time you breath up before holding your breath.
O2 Tables work on a similar principle but in an inverse way. O2 tables allow for a more gradual buildup of CO2 by having a consistent breath up and holding your breath for longer and longer intervals.
Freediving Safety – The Buddy System and Spearfishing
In all underwater sport it is a safe practice to participate in the buddy system. Two or three divers helping one another is significantly safer than an individual diving on their own. The buddy system improves dramatically when you communicate expectations of buddies in the water ahead of time. If done correctly, the buddy system can even help your group land more fish.
How the Buddy System Saves Lives
The most important reason to use the Buddy System is the fact that is can and does save lives. The greatest risk that free divers and spearos face while diving is shallow water blackout. If you are unfamiliar with this term you should take a freediving course to educate yourself on the risks of freediving. Almost all shallow water blackout incidents occur at the surface or within 15 feet of the surface. That means an attentive dive buddy can prevent almost all potential shallow water blackout fatalities if they know how to act in this emergency. Again, if you haven’t already you should take a freediving course to learn the skills necessary to save yourself or your dive buddy.
Implementing and Improving It
Any group of friends is going to have different strategies in their given dive location. There can be mixed skill levels, or separate goals in any given group. Communicating expectations before you get in the water is a valuable practice.
Two Up, One Down Method
Some groups prefer to use the Two Up, One Down method in place which allows someone to always be underwater. As the name implies, you have one diver conducting a dive. The second person is acting as the dive safety and doing their breath-up. The third diver is conducting their recovery after their last dive. This is a good system to implement in a group of newer divers, or if the group is diving in deeper water where you may need longer recovery times.
One Up, One Down Method
The One Up, One Down Method is also popular. It allows for a smaller amount of diver pressure in the chosen dive site. This does require both divers to act as more attentive dive buddies and to multi-task a little more. To do this method properly the safety needs to stay at the surface with the recovering diver for a minimum of 30 seconds to ensure the diver does not blackout. This is a better practice for shallower water, where you have shorter recovery times. A proper timing device makes this method even safer. It is helpful to have some type of dive computer to make sure you and your dive buddy are doing proper recoveries.
How the Buddy System Helps Land More Fish
If you thin, about spearfishing as a group activity, as you should, working as a team helps land more fish. There are countless examples of how working as a team does this, but we will touch on a few common situations.
It is very common for a diver to take a long shot on a fish at the end of their dive. It is not always the best practice, but sometimes it’s the shot you get. These shots often turn into a fish that goes into a rock, or ledge, or inside whatever structure is nearby. If you are diving by yourself (Don’t do that) you have to come to the surface and do a long breath-up before you can safely dive back down. In that time the fish can work its way off the spear shaft or get taxed by another creature. If your dive buddy is right there on the surface they can help pull your fish out of the rock for you. You owe them one hell of a thank you afterwards because they just used one of their dives to help you, but that’s what good buddies do.
Sharks and Other Creatures
If you take the previous situation but you add sharks or other animals that want to take your fish you can have some challenges if you are by yourself. A good buddy can help fend off these tax collectors by putting themselves between the animal and your fish. Typically acting aggressively towards these animals helps keep them at bay. It is far from a guarantee, but it does usually help land the fish. There is significant risk involved in putting yourself between a predator and a potential food source. This is not a paragraph recommending this method, it is just explaining something some divers do.
The Importance of Not Drowning – How to Properly Weight Yourself
The first thing you should consider is to take a freediving course from a qualified instructor. This article does not in any way, shape, or form replace proper training. The article is simply going over some basic weighting principles to help increase safe freediving and spearfishing practices. This article isn’t designed to teach you every element of how or why you need to be properly weighted. It is just a quick article about the mechanics of being properly weighted.
Why Proper Weighting is Important
The reason you should always be properly weighted while freediving is the risk of shallow water blackout. Blackouts are one of the biggest risks we face as freedivers. This article is not going to go into the details of how, why or what happen during a shallow water blackout in great detail. That being said, the result of a shallow water blackout is temporary unconsciousness and a passive exhale (loss of control of the airway) at the surface. The combination of these two things put a diver at great risk of drowning. It also allows us to plan on how to weight ourselves on the surface. We want to float at the surface after a passive exhale.
How to Determine How Much Weight You Need
The best way to determine the amount of weight you need on your weight belt is to start small. Every diver is different and the amount of weight you need is different between salt and fresh water. The thickness of your wetsuit is also a factor in how buoyant you are. That means a thicker suit will need more lead weight to ballast a diver. It is a good idea to have a few solid weights and possibly a few quick weights to allow for quick adjustments in the water.
At the surface start with a few pound of lead on your belt and do a passive exhale. A passive exhale is just a light exhale, like a normal breath. Don’t try and blow all the air out of your lungs and see if you sink. Without kicking your fins you should be floating roughly at eye level, or all least that is your goal for proper weighting. You will likely need to make small adjustments to get to this point in the water.
How To Double Check
Another way to confirm you have the correct amount of lead weight on your dive belt is to dive down to 30 feet and see if you are neutrally buoyant. If you are sinking like a stone at that depth you are probably over weighted. If you find yourself floating up to the surface without kicking you might need to add a few more pounds of lead.
Again, if you need this article you should reach out to a qualified freedive instructor and get certified to freedive. The information in a freedive course will help make you a better and safer diver, not to mention a better dive buddy.
Blister Prevention on Multi-Day Dive Trips
Blisters while freediving are often not a consideration for most divers, until they become a big problem. It makes sense that putting large amounts of force from kicking on our feet can cause blisters. The long fins that Freedivers use can compound this problem. There are a couple important ways to ensure blister prevention while freediving, and we will be going over some of those strategies in this post.
Booties – Blister Prevention while Freediving
Dive booties help prevent blisters and fill in your freedive fin foot pocket. They can also help on long walks to and from your dive site. Booties prevent blisters by adding an extra padded, protective layer, between your foot and the sometimes abrasive rubber of a foot pocket. A good neoprene bootie will help keep your feet safe from the environment around you. That can be anything from an underwater rock, to shells walking along the beach. Booties are the single biggest piece of equipment that can prevent blisters from diving. Make sure to always have a spare pair of dive booties in your dive bag to prevent skipping a day of diving, or ruining your week or month. If you have particularly sensitive feet you should consider wearing a thicker neoprene bootie.
Properly Fitting Foot Pockets
After dive booties, properly fitting foot pockets are critical to blister prevention. Foot pockets for freedive fins should be like an extension of your foot. They should be snug, but not tight. If you foot can easily move back and forward in the foot pocket they are too loose and can likely cause blisters. Make sure to get a comfortable pair of foot pockets that fit your foot well. If you are having a hard time finding a good pair of foot pockets that fit you, another good option is to use a pair of Fin Keepers to hold the foot pocket to your foot better.
Know When to Get Out of The Water
It is amazing how quickly your feet can go from completely normal to looking like ground beef. If you are on a multi day trip it ic critical to make sure you are taking care of yourself. That means staying hydrated, cleaning your wetsuit, and taking care of your feet! One of the toughest calls you can make on a trip is to know when to get out of the water. If you forgot your booties up in your room, just stay out of the water for a day. It is brutal to miss a day, but it beats missing the rest of the trip and having to heal up for over a month with major foot injuries. We speak from experience when we say it is not fun to spend more time than necessary in 3rd world clinics trying to pick up antibiotics for blood poisoning.
Putting Together a World Record Kit
Freedive spearfishing has been around for decades. The organization that maintains the standards and the records is the International Underwater Spearfishing Association, IUSA for short. This is the organization that maintains the rules for submission, weighing, and how you must land your fish for it to count as a spearfishing world record. We will be going over the basic rules and equipment necessary to submit a world record.
Summarized Rules for Landing Your Fish
Spearfishing world records fall into four categories. Men’s Speargun, Men’s Polespear, Women’s Speargun, Women’s Polespear. These rules are obviously based on gender and the tool used to take the fish. Divers follow specific requirements in order for a fish to be considered for a world record.
Equipment and Action Restrictions
The first rule is that the fish must be shot and retrieved exclusively while freediving. You cannot use artificial means of breathing such as scuba, Hooka, bail outs cannot be used in any part of the taking of a fish. You are technically allowed to get out of the water to get additional equipment from a boat or on shore. With that said you need to get back in the water where you left it. No short cuts to the fish allowed. The only help you can get from another diver is to receive an unloaded speargun. The diver that shot the fish then needs to load the speargun themselves for a secondary shot on the fish. You can to use chum and flashers. You need to declare the use of chum during the narration in your application. No powerheads are allowed to be used to subdue the fish.
Otherwise the fish needs to be wild and free swimming. Penned or netted fish can’t count towards a world record. Other than that you need to be following the law in the area you are spearfishing. The diver needs to shoot a healthy fish. That means it cannot be mutilated or damaged by other fish or another diver. The minimum weight to be considered a record is 10 pounds or 4.5 Kilograms for saltwater species. Freshwater species need to be a minimum of five pounds, or 2.3 Kilograms. You can enter any legal game species.
Fish Weight Requirements
For fish under 25 pounds the fish needs to beat the previous record by at least two ounces. Fish that weigh 25 pounds or more, need to be at least half of a percent more than the existing records weight to be considered. The example the IUSA gives is an existing spearfishing world record is 200 pounds. The challenger needs to be a minimum of 201 pounds to contest the existing record.
Weighing Your Catch
Ideally, an official weigh master weighs the fish. The fish needs to be clean from debris, like sand, dirt, or ice. Subtract the weight of any line used to secure the fish to the scale. A Certified Digital Scale is preferable because it gives precise measures, which the IUSA requires. Weigh the fish on a certified scale. The Scale’s certification needs to be current to within the past 12 months. Alternatively, Certify your scale within two weeks of weighing the fish. If you have to weigh the catch at sea you need to have multiple witnesses write statements describing the highs and lows of the weight difference as well as the sea conditions. You should also provide a video with the application.
Other Required Documentation
The legate and girth of the fish are critical in the application process. You need a tape measurer that does not stretch, even when wet to verify the fish’s measurements. For perfect clarity of the application process you need to look at the guidelines on IUSA’s official site.
Short List of Required Gear for a Spearfishing World Record
- Certified Scale
- Static Tape Measurer
- Pictures and Videos (SmartPhone)
- Statements from unbiased individuals and witnesses
- Rope for attaching your scale to a solid object or attaching your fish to the scale
The best practice is to keep everything you need to in one place, like a dry box or dry bag.
Bluewater Spearfishing Basics
Bluewater spearfishing has its challenges. It is simultaneously the most boring and exciting spearfishing there is. It does require its own collection of equipment as well as techniques.
Bluewater spearfishing is challenging because the fish are elusive. Pelagic species are highly migratory, live in deep water, and are fast predatory fish. In order to target these species you have to have infinite patience while drifting through infinitely deep, blue water. There is a delayed gratification to bluewater spearfishing. Typically, you spend eight to ten hours a day drifting over structure you will never see, hoping your boat driver dropped you on the right drift. If you are lucky you will have a few seconds of excitement just seeing your target species. If you hit the jackpot those seconds of excitement are followed by either a few minutes or several hours of absolute insanity as you attempt to land a fish of a lifetime.
Spearfishing for Bluewater species still requires the basics you need for any freediving. It does require a couple other pieces of equipment specific to hunting these giant pelagic species.
The first difference is a larger speargun. Many pelagic species are wary of predation, and simply won’t get close enough to hunt with shorter spearguns. Bluewater spearguns tend to be both longer and wider. They are larger because they need to compensate for the recoil of additional bands and larger spear shafts. For a more detailed explanation check out this article. The spear shaft used with the Bluewater gun will most likely require a slip-tip to allow the fish to fight without tearing a hole in itself.
Floats and Floatlines
After that, you will need to look into a float and floatline setup. The type of float and floatline will be dependent on both the species as well as your own abilities. Larger fish will need multiple or larger floats as well a bungees to connect them. Smaller or more delicate fish will need smaller floats to prevent too much back pressure causing the slip-tip to pull out. For a more detailed explanation on choosing the right float and floatline check out the linked articles.
Bluewater Spearfishing Rigging and Accessories
Beyond the speargun and floats you have some choices between types of rigging as well as a few accessories that can help you land your fish a bit easier. Most bluewater spearos have adopted a breakaway setup to allow them to keep their speargun with them and to streamline their bluewater setup. For more information on that check out this article.
One of the accessories that comes in handy to bring the fish in on your drifts is a flasher. There are several types of flashers and all of them help. A flasher is some type of shiny object or collection of objects designed to look like bait fish in a ball. Because pelagic species are usually highly opportunistic predatory fish they often come in to check out feeding opportunities. A group of divers may try several flasher rigs within a group using flasher floats set to depth, as well as throw flashers to target specific fish as they come in. Check out this video of our throw flashers doing the job.
An often underrated pice of equipment is the floatline clutch. These large fish often will make multiple runs as you start to pull them in. A floatline clutch helps you keep the progress you have made against your fish.
Bluewater Spearfishing Techniques
Diving as a buddy group is critically important in all diving from a safety perspective. That is never more true than in bluewater spearfishing. Working as a team helps bring in more fish because there are more people to work the flashers and flasher floats as people dive. This is also critical for safety, as bluewater spearfishing supplies its own entanglement hazards. Be ready to help your buddy no mater what happens.
The most common form of bluewater spearfishing is drift diving. Pelagic species tend to be most active in heavy current and anchoring a boat and effectively diving in these conditions are challenging at best. It does take a competent boat driver to put a group of divers up-current of the targeted structure and monitor divers as they do their drift. A real quality boat driver can let divers keep their floats and flatlines in the water without running over the flatlines or getting them tangled in the propellers.
If you are anchored up in an area without too much current you may have the option to chum. A warning about chum; you will encounter several sharks. A combination of sand, menhaden oil, oatmeal flakes, ground or chunked up fish, and glass minnows if you can find them, are a sure way to bring fish up into the water column. It is also a sure way to bring in sharks too.
Learn about the species you are targeting. Research what depths they tend to swim. Determine if moon phase or water temperature impact how the fish act. Try and identify reasons or signals of where the fish may aggregate. If bait is hitting the surface or birds are chasing bait at the surface that may be an indicator of pelagic species chasing bait fish near the surface where divers may be able to reach them. Bluewater spearfishing is a great opportunity to become more familiar with fish behavior through research combined with your own experiences.
Reading Fish Behavior: Identifying What The Fish is Going to Do
The short version is that every fish species acts differently, and individual fish within a species will adapt as well. With experience, there are strategies we can learn that improve our ability to read fish behavior and get closer to all fish species. There are also broad categories for types of fish that can help determine how a given species may act. There are other factors that may impact how fish may act. For example, frequency the fish is hunted in a given area, or time of year are both factors that can influence how a fish can be expected to act. Ultimately, your experiences will dictate how you interact with certain species of fish.
Reef Fish Behavior
Reef fish are generally fish found towards the bottom of structure. Grouper and Snapper are common examples of reef fish within the United States. Sea Trout and Job Fish are example in Australia and other parts of the Pacific. No matter where you are in the world there are always a few species that are easy (or easier) to hunt. We will focus on species that tend to be harder to hunt.
Large reef fish tend to be weary of new arrivals to their environment. There are two broad actions you can expect most reef fish to do. They will either swim away, or be curious. If they are curious the best thing you can do is be still on the bottom and try and wait them out. Use a rock to hide behind for a better opportunity. If they are swimming away you have two main options. You can either try and chase them down, or you can call your dive and try and approach the fish from another direction. For a more in depth breakdown of the best method to do this check out the Hunting Techniques blog post and skip to the “Cone of Death” section.
Pelagic Fish Behavior
Pelagic species can be a bit harder to read in the water. Because they are more rarely seen in a day of diving it is easy to forget about hunting techniques and to just try and run them. This usually results in the fish getting spooked and swimming away faster than you have any hope in catching up. The best thing to do with most blue water species, like Wahoo, is to take a calm breath and try to create an intersecting path with the fish. Body language is everything when spearfishing. In simple terms you want to be the sea turtle instead of the shark. Not to sound too corny, but you almost have to lie to yourself and think that you don’t want to kill the fish. If you believe it the fish may believe it, and that can help you close the distance.
There are highly migratory species that tend to congregate on reefs as they move through an area. Mackerel are a common species that can be found on normal reef structure during certain times of year. These species tend to turn into targets of opportunity. Some of these species can come through and you may be lucky to see them ever again, so you may have to take advantage of them coming through quickly. Other species may simply do large loops on structure. Cobia are an excellent example on some shipwrecks. It is common for cobia to do large circles outside a bait ball on a shipwreck. When they do this you can just try and make an intersecting path with them and wet within range of the fish to close the deal.
There are countless factors that impact how fish behave. Below is a description of a few common factors and how they can impact fish behavior and hunting technique.
As we mentioned earlier, there are several factors that can impact how a fish can behave. One of the biggest factors that can change behavior is a fish spawn. Spawns are different for most species of fish. Many fish species have evolved to have mass spawns to improve the likelihood of successful breeding. That means that during certain times of years there tend to be large aggregations of a given fish species in one location and they tend to be focused on breeding rather than avoiding predation. This can afford a diver the opportunity to hunt large fish of a given species where a fish may not be as focused on avoiding the diver. There is the moral issue of knowing you are taking advantage of the fish, but that comes down to the individual diver and what they are comfortable with. Other species tend to show up around other spawns as well because the spawn acts as chum in the water.
Moon phase is a common consideration for fish behavior. It often dictates when some species spawn. The moon also impacts tides and currents. Tides and currents are an under appreciated element of fish behavior. Fish tend to be more active the stronger the current and the more water that is moving. Fish tend to move up current because of the nutrients that are moving into their area. Strong currents defiantly can make for challenging dive conditions, but they do usually afford more opportunities for shooting fish.
A thermocline is a dramatic difference in water temperature. This can impact how bait fish and other species behave. Often times fish will sit just above or just below the thermocline. This means you can plan to hunt a species by identifying how they are going to act on that day. Typically the thermoclines get colder as you get deeper, so you may be able to identify if the given species prefers warmer or colder water and target them in the window they prefer. There can also be dramatic differences in visibility between two thermoclines. Water temperature is defiantly a driving factor in how certain species behave.
Storing Floatlines – The Struggle of Storage for Easy Deployment
Storing floatlines is always a struggle, and one of the big problems with using floatlines at all. Over the years we have come up with several means to help make storing floatlines easier. The biggest factors come down to space, storage space, and travel conditions.
Bait Sorting Basket or Bucket
One of the best ways to store a floatline is in a bait sorting basket. This works well on boats with plenty of deck space. The best way to store it is to rig up your floatline to your speargun first. Then from the speargun side of the floatline flake out the line into the basket. From there you can attach your float to the other side of the floatline. To deploy you floatline you just need to put your float into the water and let the current do its work. The floatline should deploy tangle-free almost every time.
The other benefit to the sorting basket is that it doubles for all of your equipment storage. It also has the benefit of draining well. If you have a wash basin after your trip you can basically just dunk the entire basket and be packed for the next trip. A 5 gallon bucket has similar functionality, bud does not drain well (usually). It does have the benefit of being useful in other, traditional ways.
Figure-Eight With A Floatline Hook
If storage and deck space are limited you can use a stick after you wrap up the floatline in a figure-eight. The figure-eight prevents loops from getting tangled within the next loop of the floatline. It is not as effective as just flaking out the floatline in a limited space, but it does work.
The floatline hook can be placed in a fishing rod holder or hooked onto a railing or Bimini . It keeps the floatline out of the way while moving spots. You should make sure the figure eight is long enough that part of the floatline is resting on the deck of the boat. This keeps the figure-eight loops form unwinding into regular loops that can easily tangle. This is also a great way to transport your floatline in a bag. It prevent major tangles while traveling domestically, or internationally. It helps keep your floatline organized in your duffle or travel bag.
Figure-Eight On A Speargun
This is a good way to manage a floatline while shore diving. You can prepare this method form the comfort of your home. You essentially use your speargun as a rigid stick you make a figure-eight using the spear shaft and unloaded bands, the body of the speargun, and the handle to keep the floatline organized. No method is prefect, and is has its drawbacks. The biggest is that your floatline and speargun are not ready to be used as soon as you get in the water. You need to undo the figure eight manually, and gradually while you are in the water, This does not present and issue, until there are fish all around you as soon as you get in the water. This method of storage is highly discouraged for diving off of a boat for this specific reason.
A Giant Tangled Mess
Anther option is to accept the giant tangled mess that is a floatline. This method is not recommended for several reasons. The biggest reason is that it can prevent you from landing big fish. This can be from the amount of time you waste trying to fix it in the water, or from actually shooting a nice fish and the resistance of a knot causing too much back pressure. Either way it is frustrating when it happens.
The other reason to try and keep it organized is to prolong the life of your equipment. Knots in a line are a natural weak point in any line. If you have a bunch of knots in your floatline it can compromise the integrity of the product.
The last concern is a tangled mess of a floatline should be your biggest concern. The risk of entangling yourself and drowning. You should be wary of any large loops in the water. If a large fish suddenly takes off and you are entangled in your floatline you have a real risk of drowning. Always keep safe in the water.
Keeping the Boat Organized and Safe on Dive Trips
It does not matter how big of a boat you have dive trips always turn it into a mess of gear all over the deck. There is no way around it, it is just a reality of diving. The best thing to do is to have a plan and try and keep everyone organized as best you can. Here are some ideas on keeping the boat organized and safe on dive trips.
Gear Bags for Keeping the Boat Organized
Gear bags are one of the most underrated components of keeping your equipment organized. Bags can range from a quality fin bag that has some extra storage for other equipment, to a solid duffle bag that can hold all of your gear plus a spare of everything. Finally, there are speargun bags that are designed for travel and to be out on a bouncy panga keeping your equipment protected and organized. All of these bags have their benefits based of the type of diving you are doing. If you are going out on a buddies center console, where storage is limited, try and keep your gear simple. Bring a bag that breaks down and fits in a small space once you have your gear where you need it.
One of the best investment you can add to your own boat is plenty of speargun racks. These tend to be available in two varieties, horizontal and vertical. The vertical racks work well if you have the space to safely add them to your boat. Horizontal racks have the benefit of being able to be place under a boat’s gunnels. They can additionally hold fishing rods if that is also a hobby of yours. Having proper storage dramatically reduces the chance of injury from just laying the spearguns on the deck. If you have spent enough time spearing on boats you have probably kicked a spear shaft laying on a boat deck. Needless to say, it messes up your day immediately and dramatically changes the mood on the boat.
Baskets and Buckets
For bluewater spearfishing baskets or buckets change the game on gear storage. They still take up a bunch of deck space. Baskets keep floatlines and floats organized and easy to deploy. If you’ve ever been on a boat with a bunch of people using floatlines without a system it turns into a tangled mess. Baskets go a long way in keeping the boat organized.
Boat Safety While Spearfishing
Boating has inherent risks. These risks complicate boat safety. When we add other activities to boating it compounds that risk. The best thing we can do to mitigate these risks is to be prepared. We become prepared through a combination of training and by having the right equipment available.
Boat Safety Basics – Equipment
There are some pieces of equipment that are simply required on boats in most countries. You can find more information on what is required on boats here. There are also pieces of equipment you should considered required every time you go out on a boat.
First Aid Kits
Boats have a never ending means of harming boaters. Injuries can range from minor cuts and scrapes, to life threatening issues. Make sure you have a first aid kit available available that meats your level of training and will meet your typical needs. Make sure to restock your first aid kit as well. Some items deteriorate over time or need to be replaced as they are used. The bandages in your first aid kit are only helpful if they are actually there.
These should be part of your first aid kit, but warrant special consideration. There are a number of injuries where a tourniquet can mean the difference between living and dying. You should defiantly have a real tourniquet available on your boat. Other forms of stopping blood loss are also beneficial to have on the boat. Here is some more information on tourniquets and how to use them.
Standard Safety Equipment
As previously mentioned, there are some required pieces of safety equipment for boating in the United States. At a minimum there needs to be a proper PFD (lifejacket) available for everyone on the boat. Additionally you need at least one (1) throwable PFD onboard as well. If your boat has a permanent fuel tank you are required to have a fire extinguisher. You need a visual signaling device (flairs, flag, etc.), and an auditory signaling device (whistle, horn, etc). Below is a simplified list:
- Wearable PFD (Type II)
- Throwable PFD (Type IV)
- Fire Extinguisher (B-I)
- Visual Signaling Device (Flairs or Lights)
- Auditory Signaling Device (Whistle, Horn, or Bell)
Radios are an underrated piece of equipment that become critical in an emergency. The reality of most major accidents is you will be corresponding with a government agency for assistance on your way in. The ability to communicate is critical. Just as important as having a radio is knowing how to use it. Be familiar with the channels you need to use and how to communicate properly. Have a plan and know the relevant information you need to give to the Coast Guard. An emergency binder with all the boat information is hugely helpful in an emergency situation.
EPIRBs and Other Equipment
EPIRBs and other emergency signaling communication devices are invaluable. An EPIRB is an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. It sends a signal to the Coast Guard of your location and that you are in destress. Over the years these devices have become better. Many are activated automatically if they are submerged. If you spend time offshore you should have one of these attached to your boat and ensure it is serviced or replaced regularly. Ensure it is registered to ensure a more rapid response from the authorities.
There are other devices that provide similar functions. The Garmin In-Reach Mini is capable of sending messages to specific individuals as well as act a an EPIRB. You can even purchase a case that allows you to take the In-Reach Mini with you on dives, so it can stay on your person.
Boat Safety Basics – Training
Training is just as important as having the equipment available. Remember to become familiar with your equipment. In an emergency situation it should be second nature as a result of training you do with yourself.
First Aid and CPR Certifications
A simple first aid class goes a long way in becoming familiar with how to preserve a life. The addition of CPR is an invaluable skill that can help save a friends life. Some other beneficial skills and equipment to keep around would be supplying oxygen. This is particularly helpful with diving injuries or accidents to promote boat safety.
Familiarity with First Aid Kits
Beyond learning first aid and having a first aid kit handy, you need to be familiar with your personal first aid kit. Open it up and see what you have and where it is stored. In an emergency you want to be able to respond as quickly and effectively as possible. You can save valuable time by being familiar with what is available in your own kit.
One of the best things you can do is have a trauma plan. It is best if it is written, available, and known to everyone. Leave some room for different situations, but have a plan in place. Identify who is in charge, designate an alternate if that person is unavailable and so on. A great idea for plan development is to make a PACE Plan. Pace is an acronym for Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency. If you have plans in place for each of those you should be okay if there is a problem.
If you are going to be in remote locations you have additional considerations. If there is an issue you will have extended times you may need to provide care. That means additional supplies will be needed as well as additional training. There are a number of different certifications available that can assist with providing extended care in the event of a major injury. Make sure you have a plan in place well before you go on extended range trips. Have a plan to ensure boat safety.
There are several special considerations for safety in regard to spearfishing specifically. Some of these considerations include how you should store your equipment. You may also want to plan for specific types of injuries that are possible in addition to normal boating risks. There are also complications that you may need to consider in how you conduct spearfishing trips.
Proper gear storage is one of the biggest aspects of preventing injuries on a boat. This is particularly true with spearfishing gear. Spearguns, and spears are by their nature sharp. Vertical speargun racks are the best method to prevent injuries with spearguns. The most common mistake is to lay the spearguns down on the deck of a boat. The injury is caused when someone walks by and accidentally kicks the end of a spear. It is very easy to end up with a mini or major puncture wound by doing this. At a minimum you should communicate with everyone how you will be storing spearguns to prevent accidents.
Types of Injuries
The most common injuries with spearfishing are minor cuts and scrapes from fish or the reef. While these are the most common they are not the greatest risks. Be aware of careless dive buddies. The risk of accidentally being shot with a speargun is a real risk, especially with a careless dive buddy.
Other types of injuries can include shark bites. These types of injuries are uncommon but are a contingency you need to be prepared for. Statistically, the number of people that are bitten by a shark every year are astronomically small, but there are other factors at play. You are increasing your risk by being in the water. The risk increases further by putting yourself in proximity to struggling and injured fish. Sharks are often one of the top predators in their environment. They may be scared of you, but they may be willing to risk being near you to get a fish.
Additional Complications – Active Boats
While spearfishing, it is common to have one person operating the boat while everyone else dives. This is particularly common in environments where there are heavy currents. The person operating the boat needs to be competent. They need to maintain position near the divers to prevent other boats hitting them, while also not running over the divers themselves. Boat propellers are easily one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment n a boat. While you operate a boat make sure you are aware of all your divers before putting the boat in gear. Every year there are diver fatalities from careless boating accidents.