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freediving as a fad...

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icarus pacific

Nov 7, 2001
Hello to all.

I'm both amused and heartened at the "newest" interest in freediving, and the degree that it's become gear and numbers driven. Gear in that the amount of equipment solely for freediving and utilizing composites and designs from "pros". Numbers in that the deeper, and longer, the better.

Now I can appreciate the fact that it's human to want to go faster, higher, deeper, longer, etc. and that freediving has always had a core of deep seekers for bragging rights, if nothing else. But now that it has become accesible and indeed fashionable to sport long fins and "go apnea" I find myself wondering if the sport can withstand the influx of interest that sports such as tennis, mountain biking, SCUBA, have suffered through.

There will always be those, and I count myself, that will want to push their own envelopes of performance. But as happened on a very recent trip to the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, I witnessed individuals that had no business being geared up with several thousand dollars of Picasso, Riffe, Omer and the like, with no idea of the what's, why's and how's. Not to deny anyone their first time, but I am reminded at the posing witnessed in the 80's with bigger rackets, bikes with more gears and shocks on the bars, etc. Has freediving become the next fad?

And as a fad are we, the diver, the retailer and the corporation, inviting a public to come and place themselves and the resource(s) to a very real and often deadly party? I'm reminded of the law tangle that has caused motorcycle riders here in California to be required to wear hemets from the amount of fatalities caused by reckless behavior and accidents through no fault of the rider(s). Will freediving experience such growth that we will be mandated to depth and time limits, to gear restrictions and ultimately closure?

I invite comment to my answer to questions about "How deep?" and "How long?", which is that I've seen and enjoyed more in the first 30 feet and 1 minute than 100 feet and 3 minutes. I've no reason and even less business doing more.
Hello Icarus,

I agree with you to the some level. Free diving is already pushed in to «the weel» where the big companies started to direct the fashion even in this area. On the other hand it's not all about going deeper and longer. New equipment also add to the safety and comfort in free diving. I myself never pushed too hard to reach my limits but after trying the carbon fins I couldn't go beck to my old polymers simply because carbon fins are uncomparable more confortable to swim and dive with and they bring extra security in the case I stay to long at the bottom. Also, if I have to choose between new Picasso suit which is warm, soft and confortable (and also fancy and expensive) and some old and cheap model in which I cannot move freely I would go for the first one.

Depth and time limits

Icarus wrote:

"Will freediving experience such growth that we will be mandated to depth and time limits, to gear restrictions and ultimately closure?"

As a person who evaluates and communicates about risk for a living and who works with others whose specialty is litigating risk, I have to admit that I find much of the discussion on regulating freediving amusing, but also perplexing in its lack of sophistication. . . not that Icarus's post was either - he asks the right question. However, I have noticed that discussions related to this subject inevitably get to a perplexing, and even aggravating point. So before they do, and before someone cries "we must regulate, and now that I've said it again, go ahead and flame me", as if disagreement were flaming, let me try to offer some thoughts about risk assessment and risk management to point the discussion in a different direction.

First, there is the subject of defining the risk. I posted a question about quantifying and comparing risks a few weeks ago and got not one single reply sighting a freediving death (although I know of a few myself, and I know that others do as well). Interesting.

Yet, when the subject of SWB is broached, we hear that many deaths have occurred and that the solution is clear, i.e., that freediving should be regulated and that only those who have the proper training and experience should be allowed to dive. To a person, the "solutions" have come from those who perceive themselves to be among the properly trained, or at least among the insiders.

We then hear that safety information should be withheld to protect the newcomer, but again, the information comes from the holders of the information, some of whom charge for dispensing it, or from insiders who feel they already have it or have the means to obtain it.

These observations are not meant to criticize anyone, but simply to take an objective look at what is said and who is saying it, without getting into the motivations behind the statements (ergo, no one need get on a high moral platform to defend against these observations - just think about it for a few minutes.)

From a risk professionals' viewpoint, the sport needs to first quantify the risk so it has information to consider rather than simply offering opinions and emotions regarding "potential risks," regardless of how experienced or knowledgable the person with the opinion. It also needs to hold off on proposing solutions to problems it has not actually defined, quantified or thought through on the basis of hard data.

The sport needs to ask how many persons freedive, how often and how many deaths have occurred and how many hospitalizations? It then needs to ask who is dying or getting permanently injured and under what conditions does this occur. Then, finally, solutions appropriate to the data should be developed and considered. These solutions could be very different depending upon the data and depending upon the overall philosophy of mitigating the risks.

If the sport decides that it prefers a regulatory philosophy, then from a professional risk management viewpoint, restrictions should fit those at risk. For example, if predominantly beginners die or are injured, then some training requirement and certification might be considered. On the other hand, if it is advanced freedivers who get into trouble, then restricting the equipment that allows them to attain depth might be considered. If both, then both. This is analogous to automobiles and motorcycles where we restrict both . . . we require a minimum certification based on knowledge and skills, AND we restrict the size and speed of automobiles - even Jackie Stewart can't drive a formula one car around town.

Just for the sake of illustration and to provoke some thought, let's take a look at the hearsay information that has appeared on this forum, in books about freediving, and on other sources on freediving. Although this is in no way complete or statistically analyzed data, those that I have heard about whom died were mostly experienced freedivers, not beginners. Spearos have died from sharks, elite competitors or spearos from blackout either on ascent or at depth (most recently, the tragic death of Loren Maas - my sympathies and prayers are with his family), and I know of a freediving instructor who died in the pool during static apnea training, with a lifeguard on hand!

From a risk management viewpoint, certification and instruction would not have prevented these deaths because those who died were experienced and some were the very holders of the keys to supposed safety information about freediving. Instead of requiring training and certification to advance skills and knowledge, one would seek to restrict the acquisition of advanced skills and their practice.

One would consider restrictions on equipment to prevent freediving to the extremes that could increase risk of death. Restrictions on fins might be in order so that divers could simply not go as deep; restrictions on size of spear guns & equipment might be in order so that hunters could not hunt large prey that live in deep waters far from shore. Weight belts might be put under the same restrictions as compressed air (although this would be meaningless because of the ease of making one's own weight belt- but you get the idea.)

One would also consider restrictions on training courses that aim to advance people's skills at attaining depth and length of dives. One might also ban freedivers from charter dive boats to help prevent divers accessing deep water.

On the other hand, if the sport prefers a philosophy of improved information and dissemination as the mode of solution rather than regulation, it would go a different route. More books would be published, more training videos filmed, more instructors trained and more courses offered and the price of training reduced. The targets should be those at highest risk, but also would be broad based and seek to inform and improve all levels, from beginner to advanced. The goal would be for everyone to become a keyholder of the best information.

The experience of the cave diving community could be considered in this context. Sheck Exley (the all-time greatest cave explorer) pioneered not only the development of safety techniques and communication about those techniques, but also sided with the few who felt that disseminating information about the location of caves and their layout was preferable to keeping the information a secret among the elite. Books are available on the subject, giving full details about risks, advanced techniques and safety measures and equipment. Training was also expanded in the context of regulated scuba diving, but there is no restriction against cave diving without the training, although for liability purposes, owners of boats or sites may impose their own restrictions.

As it turns out, the risks of cave diving are now widely undusted and appreciated, even among non-divers. Cave diving fatalities have decreased dramatically among the untrained. Cave and cavern diving popularity boomed but has now plateau at a high level. Of course, perhaps regulation would have produced even more impressive results than information and training availability, we'll probably never know.

[Unfortunately, Sheck Exley died attempting a world record depth in 1994 . . . more certifications and training would not have saved him.]

Thanks for your patience with the long post.

Very nice commentary and explanation. I think I agree with you when I say that "education is the key" to safer freediving for all. Be it courses, clinics, forums, pamphlets, bumper stickers, etc.

Having knowledge of the risks and hazards is most important. I used to teach instructor level trimix, rebreathers, etc. One lesson used to say that "once aware of the hazards and risks, then you can go and kill yourself as you see fit".

I don't mean that to sound ugly, but I think unfortunately most who have died didn't fully understand the implications of their actions or thought that it couldn't happen to them? Just because you've been a spearfisherman or casual freediver for a dozen or so years, doesn't mean you really understand the full complexities of the sport your practicing.

I see it all the time in my clinic. First thing I always ask is 1) Who here has experienced a hypoxic problem? 2) Who knows someone who's died freediving? 3) How many of you routinely freedive alone? It absolutely astounds me the responses and at least a third have experienced some minor form of hypoxia, at least a third know of someone who's died freediving and more than half routinely freedive alone!

It isn't until the first 5 hours of the clinic that a harsh realization of their previous actions sinks in. I'm always amazed at the very big change in attitudes towards safety and buddy supervision for the better. Till then it was simply something crazy or WAY beyond what they practice why the "other" guys got in trouble and why they wouldn't.

You ask a very good question regarding the statistical data of freediving fatalities. I would like to know how many died without direct and proper buddy supervision? Same ocean, same day doesn't count as buddy supervision either :>)

If we had the budget for an advertising campaign to bring awareness to one simple fact would you agree that it's "Never freedive without proper buddy supervision"?

I think Jim Hamilton has done some work on freediving fatalities and in the med alone last year 83 people died spearfishing/freediving, etc. Please don't quote me on this number.

Becauase of all these concerns for at least the minimum of proper safety. supervision and problem management skills we are introducing a one-day clinic soley for this aspect of freediving. If you don't want to learn good technique and knowlege and least learn the safety aspects and be aware of the hazards and risks and how to manage and avoid them if nothing else.

Maybe I've agreed with you or not at the end of this long email. Maybe there was nothing to agree about, but I was very glad to have read your post.

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Just to back up what you've already said Kirk.
I was one of those people he was talking about. I had been diving for many years and have never had a hypoxic incident. I also did almost all of my freediving alone.
During his clinic I got a chance to see some people samba. I had never seen it before- let alone one right after another. It has changed my attitudes about things.
I now only freedive when I can be watched. I have to admit I don't get to do it as much as I did since before the clinic- due to self-restraint.
I wish I could freedive more, but I have too many other things going on that I wouldn't want to jeopardize my health and safety. So, I dive when I can, mostly during U/W hockey, and go to scuba when I need to.

Thanks for your kind remarks on my post.

I tried not to bias my discussion in either direction because the main point was to stimulate critical thinking, but like everyone, I do have biases, and I tend to think the informative approach would serve freediving the best.

Not only am I impressed by the example that Sheck Exley and the cave diving community set, but practically, I can't see how one would regulate freediving (aside from wondering why one would want to). I just can't picture the beach patrol or the coast guard actually checking the length of your fins against your certification card.

However, I am open to hearing cogent arguments on all sides and would change my mind based on better information and stronger reasoning.

Whatever an individual's personal bias, I hope everyone reads your post and notices your insistence on raising the level of awareness of the risks among the experienced and inexperienced alike. An ad campaign for the proper buddy support would be a great start. What is the first step?

On another topic, I would volunteer some time in helping to analyze and communicate risk data for freediving if others can help collect it.
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I'm heartened that such articulate responses have come from my query. I am in complete agreement that education and training are vital to those that enter the sport as well as allow those of us already involved to further our experiences.

The trouble is that I've witnessed these same concerns in other facets of diving as well as other sports, often preceded with the moniker, "extreme" and have watched those sports become regulated, politicized and banned, often through and by those ostensibly looking out for the sport. I point to the development of CenCal, the Central California Council of diving clubs, originally as a voice for diving access in California. Today it is little more than a mouthpiece for a few self serving individuals that who themselves haven't been wet in years, yet propose and dictate for the betterment of UW hockey, commercial fishing closure and pet committees. Freediving is too beautiful and as the new fad in diving, too exposed in the public's uneducated eye to depend on the same individuals I spoke of in the original posting, accepting their responsibilities as freedivers, new or not.

Equipped with the latest and newest gear, I was embarassed to see the number of juvenile fish including protected species like Garibaldi taken. I was also shocked to see the tangles, snarls, and loaded weapons brought back. While I don't want to task the retailers and operators with more responsibilty, how are these clowns getting out of the storefronts!? Last time I heard you had to show a cert to get a fill, though I'm embarrased to remember the last time I had too... maybe that's the problem- that the regulatory levels we have in place aren't doing the job.

I'm not for adding to the bureaucracy; I'd just like to see more pressure applied by those of us in the know to make what's in place work- before more doors are thrown in our faces. Shouldn't we police ourselves as a means of generating public acceptance and then enjoying those spoils associated with it, i.e., legitimacy?
Re: Depth and time limits

Thanks for your patience with the long post.

Thanks for taking the time to write so well on an important question.

My reply is from a personal outlook, with lots of opinion! Please understand that before reading.
I don't like the "Extreme" badge either, for a few reasons...one is that there is now a restaurant called "Extreme Pita" down the block. Give me a break. It's food, for Christ's sake. What the hell is so "extreme" about it?
Freediving is the opposite of "extreme" in so many ways, which is what draws me to it. I love the performance challenge, I love the personal challenge, but most of all, more than anything, I love the spiritual aspect. By that I mean, the aspect of it that connects me to my self and my environment. Certainly there are record breakers who are driven to exceed limitations, but I doubt if even one of them does not feel something very similar when out in the Blue, Green, or Grey(in my case)just being there.
As for idiots with money and gear, they will always be there. Spearos unfortunately have to bear the brunt of the prejudice against us, since an idiot with a gun can't help but get stupider when something comes into range. Overall, I think spearos are probably more environmentally minded and educated than most, but when someone walks up on the beach with a Garibaldi on his belt, that's what people will remember.
When it comes to regulations (not including fishing), I agree that it would be impossible and I believe, unethical to attempt it. Education and good modelling by divers is the only answer. Speaking freely on forums, teaching safety and teaching ethically are important parts of the equation.
I'm not too worried about the "fad" aspect of this pastime....it takes too much effort and focus, something lacking in the masses. I don't mean that as an elitist comment; I would love to live in a world where the majority of people had a desire to relax, concentrate, admire the beauty, hunt honestly, and look inside themselves. It's much easier to put on an aluminum bottle and crawl over the reef, heart pounding through plaque filled arteries, and do the "regulator to cigarette exchange" as soon as you're back on the boat.
Hopefully, good exposure and education could bring people to the sport for what it is.
Another comment, one which not everyone might agree with....this is a pastime with risk, and we accept that risk whenever we descend. If I go too far one day, and don't come back, is that not my choice? If I die doing something I love, should you weep for me? Maybe grieve my leaving, but don't think for one minute that I did not choose my own path willingly and with open arms. Sheck Exley died doing the thing he loved, we grieved, but I believe that he knew the risks, his family and friends knew his passion, and accepted it. I'm not making light of death, it's just an acceptance of death as inevitable...when my day comes, it comes!
To me, freediving is about freedom. If idiots choose to be idiots, the best we can do is try to avoid creating more. But ultimately that is their choice.
Erik Young
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Yeah, how many times have I seen things I screw around with for fun suddenly become yuppie fixations and all these johnny-come-lately preppies start doing it up with superior equipment and jargon. Remember raquetball? Fly fishing? Sea kayaking?
But I discovered an upside to it all: those twits lose interest quickly and suddenly there is a lot of super equipment, much of it quickly developed and improved solely for that hot market, available used. Where do you think I got my spiffy sea kayak? In a year or two, I assume I´ll be able to score some great low valume masks, titanium spear guns, etc.
So don´t dis them yuppies too much...they are a sort of enzyme that allows the economy to develop top goods to marginal buyers at good prices.
If they just wouldn´t be so damn smug and pretend they´ve been doing it for decades.
Yuppie Enzymes

Yuppie Enzymes have been at work everywhere.

I got into windsurfing when I was twelve. My first board (13 feet long and 25 lbs!) and rig cost me $60 and I learned the hard way--no one to teach me.

A few years later, I had found some windsurfing buddies and I bought a "super-duper carbon-kelvar, foam core sandwich" shortboard and a "fully-cambered, monofilm race sail with all the bells and whistles" and all of a sudden I was drag racing at 30 mph over beautiful Georgian Bay. In those days, some boards were good and some were horrible.

Now, since I've been away from windsurfing since I've moved to Vancouver (go figure! :hmm no wind in the harbour!), I picked up an issue of Windsurfing Magazine with the annual board and sail reviews for 2001. It seems that you're in good hands with any board on the market. Now it's just a question of matching boards and sails to ability and sailing conditions. Buying good gear is too easy and a little mind-boggling when it comes to narrowing down to a choice.

When I was in Maui a few years ago, the mecca of windsurfing, a 14-year-old girl whipped past me and did a forward loop, landed it and then kept on going with a smile on her face that outdazzled the sun. She has the yuppie enzymes to thank, I think, and perhaps the oldtimers of the sport who kept it going until it attracted the interest of the gainfully employed.

I pray that a day will comes when I can spend hours on Deeperblue comparing the fine points of ten different monofins that are all excellent and then I can go to the dive shop and buy the one I like for an affordable price. And who knows what cool gear and technique advancements are on the horizon....:D

freediving: a fad?

I agree with you whole heartedly Erik. I think one key point in all this is not to be caught up in this explosion. If this is just a fad then it will die out. I don't go out and buy the latest fins, mask, speargun,ect just because its the shinest and someone tells me I need it to reach my maximum potential. Granted they may help, but its the person in the gear that has the most potential. I may not dive with the newest gear but mine is high quality and works for me. Maybe later when my bank account will allow I'll get all the latest gear and try it out. I think the serious freedivers use the gear to enhance their performance while the others use it to make up for lack of ability. In a perfect world they would evolve from the latter to the former.
I dive and deal with dive gear as part of my job, anything from tanks to recompression chambers. It's so relaxing to grab my mask, fins and speargun and just go out and enjoy the experience with out all the extra gear I normally use. For me it's about the ability to hold my breath, dive to the bottom or anywhere in between and become a part of the eviroment. I guess you could call it esoteric. If I get a fish thats great but if not it's still just as good. I've probably sorted out or gotten a better perspective on more of lifes little problems while freediving than any other time. It seems to me when someone goes out with the sole pupose of getting the largest fish, the deepest depth, or the longest time the focus of the dive becomes so narrow that alot of other things are missed. Not that any of these things are wrong in themselves but if thats the only reason you get in the water then I believe people miss out on alot more. I think thats what has and will always seperate us from the weekend warriors or yuppie fad divers.
It's like what my friend told me when I asked how he could stand to go so slow on a sailboat and be at the mercy of the wind. He said, "It's not where you are going but how you get there." Or to coin another phrase, "Lifes a journey not a destination".
As for regulating the sport I also think it would be nearly impossible to do. I got into this for the freedom it allows and I really hate to hear of anyone even suggesting regulations. Education and people taking responsibility for their own actions is what we need, not rules. There's too much information out there for someone to say they couldn't find an answer to there questions. It's not the responsibility of the people with the knowledge to seek out those that need it. Those that need it should come to them. Whether they have to pay for that knowledge is another matter which I'll leave for others to discuss. I will say there is tons of free info out there. Just my opinions.
the real reason...

Bravo Jay and Eric for recognizing and expounding on the real reason, (well it's the reason I freedive, so it must be right, right?), behind this pursuit, avocation, lifestyle. It is the reason I so vehemently defend and thus want to maintain my access to it.

That said, what can the freediving community and the diving community in general do ala the NRA with hunter's safety courses at schools, driver's education seminars, etc., to advertise, and advise the public about the joy's and risks associated with frrediving, and thus at the least getit into the public's mindset that freediving is quite like any sport and you take the risks that accompany it? (I know I'm going to catch some grief with the NRA example, but you get it...)

Then begs the question do we as a community even want to expose the sport to additional participation, like SCUBA where you are hard pressed to go to a destination and not see above and below, others flailing away? Most of my most spiritual and thus enjoyable experiences have been out there, alone. Is the sport going to stay status quo where a new diver approaches the sport by hanging around the shop, soaking up the vibe, or by advertising and making it available to the masses, after which time all the "yuppie"gear is up on ebay if not on the beach to be scrounged by cabo with his kayak atop his BMW?

regulation freediving.... that sounds alot like trying to regulate mountainbiking(my other sport)

well i do agree that you could try to regulate it, mind you it would be a tough thing to do..
however i really dont think that it would be the best way to go about and try to help the sport. yes the sport will have to grow(alot) if there is any hope in a very effective educational system that will target all of the freedivers. No offence to the freedive clinics that are already there its just we need more of them.....

however i do, strongly, believe that spearguns should be regulated. Kind of like normal handguns and rifles, and even bows are regulated if you want to go hunting.
the problem is that when someone buys a speargun they have no idea how to properly hunt for and shoot a fish or what fish to shoot for that matter.
the solution would be to make a manditory spearfishing course to be allowed to buy a speargun this would be the only way to regulate the use of spearguns and only let qualified people use one

but i must say that yes in the future, probably near future, the sport will die off a little bit and then the equipment will still be there and then only the dedicated will remain and the people will see us for what we are, for the most part a environmentaly concerned group of water enthusists
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This may or may not be relevant, but I watched the effects of sudden "hipness boom" in 12 Step Groups. Groups that had been stable for years suddenly increased in population, excitement level, and intensity...then it all went away. Some of those groups ended up going out of existence, unable to cope with the influx, then ebbing of interest and bodies.
My feeling is, you´re right, you just keep doing what you're doing. Try not to get pissed off when MTV Extreme Sports glorifies a bunch of punkassed kids doing what you´ve been doing for years, but maybe better. Like Cabo Kid says, scoop up some cool gear on the want ad market. Keep on divin´
One thing: there´s a difference between basically solitary nature sports like diving and competitive games like underwater hockey or drag racing or whatever. In the latter, it´s of benefit to have more competitors, and all the people rejoincing in the growth of their sport have reason to be happy (especially if its something you can sell tickets to). But in diving, as in climbing, etc. hordes of new converts are not necessarily a good thing for the activity.
Always the case

It almost feels like a catch 22...

More newbies = more people involved with the sport = higher profile for the sport = more idiots = more accidents

However, without new blood coming into the sport - it is impossible for new research to be done, new equipment manufcatured or the sport to grow in general.

In the end it comes down to making sure everyone involved is properly educated, either through courses or through public domain information.
regulate this...

In reply to thin air, at first mention of the idea of regulating or registering spearguns, I understandably went into instant "knee jerk mode" and thought "No way!" However after thinking about it, there is some validity to the idea...

If as I and we(?) agree that education is to be our savior and key to public legitimacy, is requiring new divers and those new to spearfifshing not a bad idea? You have to do it with firearms and the like, so why not spearguns? And it's not like training organizations, especially PADI wouldn't appreciate the chance to add another specialty course to their litany. (Yo quero $$?)

If the "newbie" then have to go through cert's and registration, what about those of us that have been active, and moving forward on our own? My initial knee jerk kicks in here, as one of the sports main attractions to me is the relative freedom from registrations, regulations and the like. Does my SCUBA cert grandfather me free of this?...

As an aside to Stephan, don't fall into the usual mindset of nothing happening in an area if no new members are joining...
I have direct experience and knowlege that most if not all improvements in spearfishing gear anyway is being done by those with some time in... but your point is noted.

icarus pacific

i think i see where you are coming from...

the only way i see that could be fair would be if all of the spearo's, including the ones that already have been spearing for many years, would have to take the course.

however i do think that the agencies (especially padi) would have to keep an open mind and only let the people qualified enough teach the course

from what i hear aquilles and andrsn would be qualified enough, no offense to anyone else i think there are many people that would be qualified i just dont know there name off hand...

or (another of my crazy ideas) i believe that there is enough intrest to start a world wide organization for spearfishing and apnea that would focus more on the recreational side of the sport..

sure i have enough respect for the existing agencies but they lack alot on the recreational aspect of the sport..

an agency dedicated to the recreation side of the sport would draw a great many more people then one only geared to competitive folks..(although i respect those guys for pushing the limits of the sport)

using the accumulated knowledge of the people on this forum we would have more then enough people to form the leading body of the sport...

if the association had affiliate stores and the it could develope a network of freedive recognized store that would benefite the public snorkeler/freediver. if these stores were to have a at least one person qualified enough to take freedivers out on freedive only trips maybe to less frequented reefs, then the freedivers past the novice stage could find a boat that has only freedivers.

well theres my 2 cents (looks more like10 cents but hey..)

Lets take a step back for a minute and think about this. What would regulating this sport actually do? I think there are several issues that have to be looked at from a practicality stand point and a general common sense view.
First, no matter how much regulation is in effect you still won't eliminate the idiots. I don't even think you'll cut down on them porportionately.
Second, who will make the rules and enforce them. Although I've been freediving/spearfishing for many years ,because my style and gear configuration may not meet the "standards" does this mean I will become an outlaw everytime I get in the water?
Third, the possibility of decreasing the number of newbies because of additional cost and certification classes. Alot of people, myself included, get into this for the freedom and individuality. With this taken away what's the difference between this and any other organized sport?
Finally, although we are a realatively small community, are there actually enough deaths or stupid actions going on to impede or destroy the sport. Since I've started freediving I've heard of more deaths than I would like and yet the sport still grows. And if it is the more experienced divers that are dying, can this be stopped by certifications? Will there be levels of certification? For spearfishermen, a blue water, a reef, freshwater, kelp forest, ect. or perhaps a depth rating also, 10m, 20m, 30m, ect. you see where this is going.
I guess you can tell I'm for less government not more. If someone wants to start a sport it's their job to learn as much about it as possible. There is plenty of information out there and plenty of people willing to help. It's good to make suggestions and give pointers but we should think very carefully before we make them into rules. Again just my opinion. Take care all.
There oughta be a law!

Practical or not, desirable or not, in societies where the rule of law is followed, the tendency will be to attempt to right all wrongs, correct all flaws, equalize all unfairness, etc. through regulation and litigation. Such matters are often driven more by politics, economics, bias and emotion than by information. Unfortunately, regulation often puts the greatest restrictions on those who least need to be regulated.

This is why I think it is important to gather objective information about risks, to present that information clearly and to distribute it widely. When people can make clear choices, the argument for regulation is reduced.

In the last week, I believe I have seen two posts that mention extreme risks associated with freediving; Jay's post earlier in this thread in which he mentions the number of freediving deaths that have occurred, and, I believe, Andrsn's post in another thread where he stated something to the effect that we all know freediving is one of the most dangerous hobbies out there (if it was not Andrsn, I apologize for the mis-attribution). I trust there is significant validity in these statements, but in order to make choices for myself and my own situation, it would help to have more details.

The perception of risk does not always match the magnitude of the risk. For example, many people are terrified of flying these days, but quite comfortable driving their cars. On the contrary, the data would suggest they still are far more likely to die driving than flying, and they are also far more likely to be permanently injured in an auto accident.

We need to define both the incidence and the severity associated with freediving accidents. Is death the only risk from freediving, or are there also other less severe risks? Risk managers often refer to a grid with #1 in the upper left, #2 in the lower left, #3 in the upper right and #4 in the lower right.

1) Low probability, low severity
2) High probability, low severity
3) Low probability, high severity
4) High probability, high severity

People often fear category 3 the most because the event is both unfamiliar and catastrophic. In fact, categories 4 and even 2 may do more damage to people, but because those events happen often, people tend not to fear them. We tend to ignore the familiar.

I'd like to know where freediving fits into this grid, and I'd like to know based on data (no disrespect intended to the highly informed opinions expressed on this forum - I know they are based on the best assimilation of 'data' that exists at this time).

Once I know about frequency and severity, I'd then like to know how freediving risks compare with other risks I take on a daily basis? Under what conditions do these accidents occur? Are there methods of freediving or subsets of freediving activity that are associated with less risk? Are there ways to reduce risk, short of quitting the sport?

When we can disseminate this type of information, I think we will have made progress in providing people a basis for making informed choices, and greatly reduced any perceived need for regulation.
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alot is actually two words...

thanks for your takes on the issue, ta and jay, and yes, I get that you're in risk assessment, cjb...

Relative to the registering spearguns thing, the more I think about it the more feasible it sounds... scary eh? I mean, here in California you'vre got to have #1, a general fishing license for salt water, then an abalone stamp, as freediving for abs is the biggest draw, at least here in Northern CA. If I want to dive in So CA, then I need an "Ocean Enhancement" stamp. Here's the rub... Now the fees for these stamps are ostensibly for research and the betterment of the species, i.e., abalone monies go to abalone, etc. Trouble is that the funds go into a general fund and from there who knows if it's going to research, or even to an ocean or fish and game purpose? For all I've seen the monies get pissed away on some study that develops nothing more than ill wil towards the biologists and the political faction that engages them. I'd not be surprised to find out that the funds go to pot hole repair!

Would I be willing to sit through a half day seminar on spearfishing, ala a hunters safety course, where safety, game identification and conservation is outlined? Well if it meant that I could legally spearfish... sure. Trouble is who's going to teach it and and where? And is the money generated by a spearfishing stamp going to fund it sufficiently?

Personally I'd rather see that the same bureaucracies charged with the management and enforcement of the game laws do their freakin jobs! Which get's to my point, that there are agencies tasked with these very reponsibilites; NAUI, PADI, SSI, etc., should be letting newbies know what the deal is, if by having a sub-course or dedicating a greater amount of time to exposing the fragile nature of nature. The game agencies should be granted their funds generated through license sales and those funds be used solely for enforcement. If enough people get slammed for shooting endangered fish, believe me, the word'll get out. It worked for this site...

Not that I'm dismissing the importance of statistics as cjb goes on about. The trouble with the gathering of this information and as importantly the dissemination of the information, is that it's often under funded, less than complete, often biased, then almost always given short shrift by thoe agencies reuesting it. I point to Cen Cal in it's original role as maintaining and enlarging diving access, to now where it is the small domain of a few wannabees with their own bents, none of which is access. I've participated in too many focus groups, informational seminars and volunteerism to not be jaded about another info gathering exercise. The State of California tried to ascertain how many abalone were being taken by having the stamp holders send their punch cards in for counting. It's a joke among many that they didn't send their cards in for lack of the State not providing the postage. And so the State is setting policy on the next season(s) with flawed and incomplete info. As I said, I'm pretty much willing to do whatever it takes to go freediving and spearfishing, but am getting a bit leery of the gross bruising we're going to be getting if we don't try to adhere to the basic standards in place, let alone invite more and probably tighter prohibitions.

cjb- 7 deaths; 5 from swb, 1 from stupidity (getting washed over a rock in weather nobody had any business being in, and 1 from as yet unknown causes, as the body has never been found. Average age 37.8 yrs, yrs diving avg. 18.7, all male, all cert'd by nat'l agencies. all missed.

PS... anyone know where the deals are on Picasso carbon fins, size 48?

Smile all.
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