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Tragedy at the U.S. Nationals Spearfishing Tourney

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S

sturgeon

Well-Known Member
Feb 1, 2002
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Don,

I've actually done one of these type of tournaments before. They are a lot of fun and very effective safety wise because the diver waiting his turn to dive is right at the diver's side who comes up with the gun so that a quick exchange can take place and the next diver can dive. If it works right, 2 divers can dive all day with almost zero surface time (except when a fish is shot of course) because as one diver dives the other one recovers/breaths up and then goes almost immediately upon return to the surface by the diver who was just down. It can be done either where the non-diving member carries the float and float line while the diving partner uses a reel gun and then each get swapped or the good old standard system can be used where the gun is hooked to a float and float line and the entire unit gets swapped after each dive.

Scott
 
Mark Laboccetta

Mark Laboccetta

Supporter
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Aug 16, 2003
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A sad day for our sport

Stugeon and Fuzz, it was nice seeing you guys in Hawaii last week and I just wish the play of events would have gone differently. Fuzz, sorry I couldn't spend more time talking and shooting the ***** I wanted to, but you saw how hectic things were the day of the expo. It was such a positive event with so many great people in a beautiful location that it was very sad to wittness what happened. My whole team of guys were all like zombies even though they tried to hide it and we were still in disbelief, my wife was even crying and she didn't even know him. We try so hard to project our sport to the public as the wonderful sport it is, a brotherhood, a tribe sharing the same passion, and then something like this happens. Why? for what? What could have been done to prevent it?

I just hope that if anything maybe it will teach us the hard way another valuable lesson. Gene's death prooves that no matter how experienced a diver is (he was 99' Team champion in the florida keys Nationals) this could have just as easily happened to anyone of us who practice this sport. Just like Terry Maas's poor son. These were great people loved by their family and peers who we all respected and the last people we ever thought would be the victims of their own passion.

Maybe now we will start to look at trying some rule changes in the formats of the tournaments, maybe it will prompt us to be more self conscious when we dive about what we are about to part take in, maybe his death will save another life one day. If something like this ever happens in my tournament in Hatteras it will be the last one I ever organize. It was impossible to try to enjoy the event after the accident. The anguishing face of that poor mother of two small kids standing on the beach waiting for her husband to paddle his kayack back after everyone else was alerady in was enough to make anyone cry and feel her pain, you guys take care of yourselves, your loved ones, and dive safe,

Mark
 
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feign

Well-Known Member
Jun 30, 2003
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This must be very difficult for all those people involved. I think all of us in the freedive/spearing community feel compassion for the family and sorrow for this loss.

I had a question about the possible rule changes. The 1 gun rule, is it switch after every dive? In a competition I thought this may cause some disagreements, like one guy takes longer to breath up/dives longer etc. so actual shared gun time is very one sided. Maybe I'm wrong and a one dive/switch method is effective. As an alternative though, could they switch every 30min or something. Or another method as Pezman mentioned, the combined fish of two people wins, kind of like doubles in tennis?
 
F

fuzz

Hawaiian transplant...
Sep 9, 2002
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Nice meeting you guys Scott & Mark. Congrats Scott, you put on a good showing. I agree with Mark - the setting of this year's Nationals was nice, ... then an occurrence like this turns things 180.

feign - 2 person/1 gun teams as mentioned & used in various tournaments are an alternative, but would have many oppositions. Some examples:

It would be okay when swimming from shore or boat diving, but kayaking(all of the nationals except Florida) makes it a bit more difficult to stay together.

For nationals, I took 4 guns & 2 extra shafts. I used 3 of the guns & 2 people from my club lost a shaft in the first couple hours. Different situations require different tools. To go from that to sharing 1 gun just isn't practical for a lot of situations.

Fish sharing is against the rules right now & theoretically doesn't occur, but if someone wanted to place high individually, it'd be easy enough to have someone willing to give up their fish as a partner & almost impossible to enforce.

It's a great concept & can actually be quite effective - since as Scott mentioned, you could have almost 100% bottom-time as a team. In blue water, one person can work the flashers while the other dives down & vice versa. Despite these advantages, there are also many shortcomings that would not allow it to be readily accepted in national level competitions.

Sorry if I'm incoherent - I'm still trying to recover from the trip & the immense backlog of work that resulted from it.


Pez, don't know who gave you neg, but I sent you some positive for openly speaking your mind.
 
F

feign

Well-Known Member
Jun 30, 2003
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fuzz,

I can see the dilemma when you want the flexibility with multiple guns & shafts.

I had another thought, maybe not practical though. What if in competitions the divers bring a safety diver with them. The competitor has a buddy/friend that stays with the float and gear, while the diver goes fishing. The competitor could keep as much gear as he wants and since he is the only one diving he has total flexibility to use it at will. The safetyman is kind of akin to a golf caddy or the cutman in a boxers corner, he could even load a different gun or shaft on request etc. I guess there would be no way to regulate the safety/support person from not spearing a fish and adding to the competitors stringer though. Maybe I'm off the wall on this, but I don't see that it is that different from freediving competitors & their safety divers. For a freediving competitor going for a deep dive, he may have multiple scuba and surface safety personal just for him/her.
 
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E

efattah

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2001
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Bringing around a 'safety freediver' with you is a great idea, it is sort of like the requirement for a boat to follow you in ultra distance open ocean swims, or the requirement to have a car follow you during some ultramarathon runs through the desert.

No safety freediver? No registration. Seems it would work.


Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
 
Alison

Alison

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Mar 6, 2004
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Originally posted by donmoore
Incredible words Scott! That is a must read post for every spearfisher person!
don
I said someting similar on another forum yesterday, I can only add further that tragic as it may be let Gene's sacrifice be the ultimate lesson to us all. His loss for most of us is purely sad but for some it is a deep loss. my sympathy to those, especially his wife and son, they must be wondering now what its all about. For the rest of us I think his name should be remembered every time we dive, so that we may all arrive back safely at the surface! I think both Gene and his family would want to see this for us all. None of us can bring him back now, remember him and all those who have perished the same way by coming home safely after every dive.
To those who knew him, my thoughts are with you.
Love Ali
 
P

PaulV

New Member
Jul 9, 2003
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My first writing since Sat...

Gene's death had a deep effect on me. I had trouble with enjoying any of the activities after 3:30 pm on Sat. The first impulse reaction was "what a stupid sport" to cause the loss of such a great guy and friend. This sport to which I've dedicated so much time and money.

The sport remains a dangerous one, and this has again highlighted my own beliefs:

While I have mixed emotions about competitive spearfishing in its current format, I still love the comraderie which I have not enjoyed in any other area of my life. I used to race yachts at a high level, and the level of bonding was nowhere near what I experience with fellow competitors. I truly mean competitors and not just recreational divers. It must be the understanding of the shared risk that forms intensely strong bonds. I would not trade that with anything.

I would not push another person (especially my kids, Scott) into the sport. I would educate them about the realities and let them make educated decisions, but never say "you should do it - you'll like it!!" A mishap as a result of this action would be horrific for me.

As far as the pairs diving, it would help but not to the extent that I think most believe. In the NW and NE it would not help much at all due to the low vis. Would help in FL (keys) and HI. The first step would be to remove the individuality from the sport. As long as we recognize individual ranking, there will be no way to truly embrace a team mentality. I've always been very picky on who I dive with, and I've heard plenty of ridiculous stories of individuals who scout singly and have no care for the team position, only their own place. I say this with mixed emotions, as I've never taken top individual national honors (best was 6th), but feel that this is a necessary ingredient on the road to a buddy system.

One potentially visibly enforceable rule would be to require a team's kayaks to be within 50' from each other, while divers are in the water. This at least forces a team to dive together.

This topic will take a lot of discussion to resolve, at a time when competition spearfishing is at risk anyway due to environmentalists and international politics.

P Verveniotis
San Carlos, CA
 
Bill

Bill

Baron of Breathold
Oct 17, 2001
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>What if in competitions the divers bring a safety diver with them.

They tried this a few years ago for the old guys. It was well accepted and seemed to work OK. Maybe my safety was the best, but he never got in the way and was always close when I surfaced. Setting it up for a big tournament might be a lot of work though.
Aloha
Bill
 
Roan

Roan

Deeper Blue Wayfarer
Jul 12, 2003
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I just came across this sad story. Like Mikko, I've seen Gene throughout the pages of Hawaii Skin Diver. We all feel how difficult it is to express, in words, our sorrow at such a painful loss, but some of you have done so eloquently in this thread.


:(
 
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uluapoundr

New Member
Mar 21, 2003
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Gene's dealth is still ringing around the state. Even those who know totally nothing about spearfishing are asking about the sport and SWB. My diving buddies, who always seem to dissapear when we enter the water, are a lot more conscious about staying within sight. Many spearfishermen realize that if Gene was vulnerable, so are we. If anything good can come from this, it would be to educate spearfishermen and hopefully, save some lives. One more life lost, is one too many.

Gene unselfishly gave his time to help others like myself in the dive community. Whether it be tips on adding an open muzzle to choosing speargun rubber lengths, Gene was always willing to give helpful advice.

On a more positive note. It was nice to have the Nationals held in Hawaii. It would be nice if we could have more events, even if it isn't the Nationals. The Expo was cool too. Mark was a hit with Omer's mimetic line of gear. My partner went to Hanapaa today to buy a 110 T20 Mimetic and reel after selling two of his guns. What a sweet setup. Fuzz, nice to see you too. Hope you enjoyed your short trip back home.
 
F

fuzz

Hawaiian transplant...
Sep 9, 2002
995
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Originally posted by uluapoundr
Mark was a hit with Omer's mimetic line of gear. My partner went to Hanapaa today to buy a 110 T20 Mimetic and reel after selling two of his guns. What a sweet setup. Fuzz, nice to see you too. Hope you enjoyed your short trip back home.

Too short... not enough time spent with family & friends. Is this the infamous "chinaman" that you're a gun broker for? Let me know how it shoots ;)

On a sad note, I do wish that I was still in Hawaii to attend the memorial service. As you mentioned, Gene's death has a very profound effect on a lot of people that many do not realize the depth of. :(
 
mjacobs

mjacobs

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Apr 27, 2003
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Let's not let the "safety freediver" idea go. I think being a "safety diver" would be a great way for newbies to learn about spearfishing and also an incentive for accomplished spearos to provide sound safety instruction for their spotters. Everybody wins. I'm under the impression that the Cuban spearfishing culture emphasizes safety more than some others and the up-and-down-a-line guys certainly do. Maybe we can learn something here. How many guys on this list use a safety diver for spearfishing? I have not usually done so, but am willing to encourage by example. Maybe the safety could even run a camera tethered to a float so it could be dropped at will.
Mark
 
F

fuzz

Hawaiian transplant...
Sep 9, 2002
995
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Originally posted by mjacobs
Let's not let the "safety freediver" idea go. I think being a "safety diver" would be a great way for newbies to learn about spearfishing and also an incentive for accomplished spearos to provide sound safety instruction for their spotters.

I understand the point of your post, but your quote immediately throws up some red flags - if something goes wrong on the bottom, a lot of newbie divers would have difficulty reaching the depths of more experienced divers & additional difficulties trying to provide aid at those depths. As Paul V(great guy & excellent diver) mentioned, the helpfulness of this system also decreases substantially in the NE or NW where visibility can be abysmal.

Not intending to be a downer, just providing any insight I can :)
 
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mjacobs

mjacobs

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Apr 27, 2003
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I agree that the safety should be fully competent, Fuzz. That point is key. What I meant to say is that a lot could be learned by acting as a safety to a better spearfisherman. The basic freedive and rescue skills should be prerequisite. The right to act as safety to a top level spearfisherman should be earned and deserved, sort of like scuba angels at a freedive competion.

I also agree with Paul's observation about bad viz. I spearfish in 3' or less viz in Maryland and Delaware and know exactly what he's talking about. Most of our diving is relatively shallow and very dark. A spearo would have to stick close by a spearo's float and that spearo would have to use a floatline to his gun or his person if the safety were to have any chance of being effective at all. In shallow water the safety would be in the way much of the time. I just dive alone and don't push it up here. There are local competitions most Sundays during the summer and everyone dives alone, some for over 50 years. I don't think that will change. It seems to me that a designated safety would work in clear water, though.

Thanks for helping to clarify this thought.

Any insights on bad viz safety? My kids dive with me and I spend some effort keeping track of their floats. I just trust them not to push it for the most part. That has carried over to clear water diving and I want to develop a better system. I like the team concept a lot.

Mark

Originally posted by fuzz
I understand the point of your post, but your quote immediately throws up some red flags - if something goes wrong on the bottom, a lot of newbie divers would have difficulty reaching the depths of more experienced divers & additional difficulties trying to provide aid at those depths. As Paul V(great guy & excellent diver) mentioned, the helpfulness of this system also decreases substantially in the NE or NW where visibility can be abysmal.

Not intending to be a downer, just providing any insight I can :)
 
Oldsarge

Oldsarge

Deeper Blue Budget Bwana
Jan 13, 2004
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The big game hunting community also lost a brother two weeks ago when a Canadian guide, hunting in Africa, was ambushed by a buffalo while stalking kudu. From the accounts, there was nothing anyone else could have done and he had an armed Professional Hunter with him. But at least he wasn't alone! I've hunted with the same guy for more than 25 years. We work the same way whether on dangerous game or cottontail. One shoots, the other backs. Of course things can always go wrong. Sh*t happens and Murphy rules but perhaps if we started thinking like the other social hunters of the world, like wolves, lions . . . or orca . . . instead of sharks we'd be safer and who knows, maybe even more effective. I'm off for Africa again, see you in 3 weeks . . .

very sobered and grieving,
 
icarus pacific

icarus pacific

Human-in-training
Nov 7, 2001
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I count myself as being ridiculously fortunate to have had the opportunity to know and dive with Gene, and the phrase, "Gene's da man" is appropos now as it was then. The Sea is richer for having him as are those whose life and diving he touched.

Gene demonstrated his diving excellence over here in the cold, green that is NoCal, and though I never had the chance to see him in his native waters, I can be very fine in seeing his mastery here.

The children of divers, nay, true watermen are blessed and I believe know innately that the sea is in them as they are in it. Though dying doing what you love is cliche' and innappropriate in the moments after a loss, it seems comforting that Gene is truly now "in the Sea."
 
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fuzz

Hawaiian transplant...
Sep 9, 2002
995
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Next Thursday, Gene's ashes will be spread out to sea & divers in Hawaii are welcome to swim/paddle out with their floats/kayaks.

9:00 in the morning at Waialee
 
W

w3ac

I should be working
Nov 8, 2002
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"In a very odd way, this thread gave me some little measure of solace."

Yeah man.

Brad
 
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