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Tragedy at the U.S. Nationals Spearfishing Tourney

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donmoore

donmoore

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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

There were some great ideas and powerful memories in this the thread, but I had to comment on this quote. All though I know fuzz and agree with 99% of things he says, I just feel I need to voice a different opinion here, because of the importance.

The idea of the buddy’s depth ability has been popularized before, but I believe this reasoning is in error. The chances of a diver not making it up a substantial way is very slim compared to the chance a diver blacks out at or in the last 25 feet from the surface. Having a buddy who is only capable of diving 40 feet, is about a 100 times safer than no buddy at all!

Anything that promotes buddy diving in both tournaments and recreational diving is good. There are still plenty of opportunities to find solitude in freediving even with a buddy watching. In fact the knowledge that somebody is watching makes it easier for me to find that solitude.
don
 
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efattah

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2001
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Even a buddy who can't dive at all is helpful, because most of the time you reach positive buoyancy before you black out, so you'll make it to the surface conscious or not. Now, it is true that many spearos dive excessively heavy, this is unfortunate, perhaps the organizers could try to enforce a 'neutral at 10m' rule?


Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
 
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sturgeon

Well-Known Member
Feb 1, 2002
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I have to agree with Don and Eric F. on this one. Of the 6 blackouts I've seen (including my own), everyone of the divers broke the surface before sinking back under (hence Eric F.'s comment about spearos usually being too heavy). Luckily for me I blacked out after taking the PFD clinic and so was diving much lighter than usual. It's the only thing that saved my life because I blacked out in a depth that me and my friends consider shallow (60 ft) and therefore had nobody watching me. It was a big fish and a malfunctioning reel gun (this is one of several reasons why floatlines are much safer) that almost got me. I was fortunate enough to have gotten half a breath in me before the fish yanked me back under, causing me to lose consciousness. When I woke back up a couple seconds later I was floating face up on the surface minus my buddy’s $350 gun. That crap about dropping your weight belt is a fallacy. You may do it all the time when you feel close but I can pretty much guarantee that when you really do blackout, you won't know it’s coming and you won't think to drop your belt. That's why it's so important to dive light. I use 5-6 lbs with a full 2-piece, hooded 3 mm wetsuit on.

I like the idea of a safety as long as there's someway to make sure the diver's the only one diving and shooting fish.

Scott
 
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mjacobs

mjacobs

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Apr 27, 2003
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Originally posted by sturgeon
I like the idea of a safety as long as there's someway to make sure the diver's the only one diving and shooting fish.

Scott

The safety guy could shoot video with the camera tethered short to a float so it could be dropped without fear of loss. I'd keep the tether to 10m or less to preclude deep video temptation by a safety diver. Any thoughts on that? I would also encourage every diver to take a class like Kirk's. I plan to do it again, hopefully with my kids.
Mark
 
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sturgeon

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Feb 1, 2002
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There's a couple problems with the camera thing: 1) this year you would've had to have 93 of them (plus housings) and 2) whose going to review 93 cameras with 7 hours each of diving video on them (that's 651 hours of video to watch and have it done by the awards ceremony for the next night or worse yet by the half hour after weigh-in deadline when formal protests must be filed by). Another problem with the safety thing is just the sheer numbers of divers it would generate. Like I said, this year there were 93 divers which equals 93 kayaks. Now double that (186). Where are they all going to come from (most must be rented for out-of-towners) and where are they all going to fit both on the beach at the launch and in the small tournament zone itself. It's crowded enough as it is.

Scott
 
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fuzz

Hawaiian transplant...
Sep 9, 2002
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my 2 cents...

Originally posted by mjacobs
The safety guy could shoot video with the camera tethered short to a float so it could be dropped without fear of loss. I'd keep the tether to 10m or less to preclude deep video temptation by a safety diver. Any thoughts on that? I would also encourage every diver to take a class like Kirk's. I plan to do it again, hopefully with my kids.
Mark

Okay, now a video camera? We're getting carried away here... Our councils barely have enough funds to put together a good competition much less providing a video camera & housing for every diver.


Scott, since you've dove a lot of different areas through your Nationals experience - could you see diving the kelp in Carmel, CA with a buddy following along? I have difficulty seeing the feasibility of this in competition, especially since you now have these additional factors:

1) The buddy would have to paddle right next to you the whole time meaning they'd have to be in equal/greater kayaking shape than you to keep up. They'd also have to be able to get their anchor up & hop spots at a moment's notice. Any discrepancies could cost you lots of time.

2) Lots of movement(Carmel) is done swimming under the kelp canopy. It's hard to keep track of people & follow after them. In addition, some fish(perch, olives, blues, sometimes blacks) are sometimes shot in mid-water in quite bad visibility. If your buddy were to trail after you, he/she may scare away your fish & be at risk for an errant shaft(I sometimes see fish watching me, turn & shoot). Again, after you're done playing follow-the-leader under a thick canopy of kelp, your buddy would need to be back on his kayak, anchor up, ready to go when you've decided to move on.

3) Nationals - come on. In Hawaii, it turned out to be quite expensive for me to go & I stayed with my family. To expect or try to find a buddy to go for each of your teammates would be a tremendous expense that would not be feasible for many. Maybe in Hawaii or Florida where the culture is different, but here in Nor Cal, we don't really have that many divers to begin with. I sure as heck would have a hard time getting someone to fly across the country, ship their kayak, take vacation time, & put up with me just to act as a safety diver.

4) In the end, a lot of your success will be dependent on how good your safety diver is & how much he/she would be able to keep up and remain unobtrusive. A bad one will severely hurt you & a good one will leave you at your normal level - almost like a handicap system.


The buddy idea is a good idea in theory, but there are many other factors to overcome. In certain situations (i.e. diving off a boat in clean waters), it'd be feasible. In other situations, it would meet great opposition. I think Paul V's idea of kayak proximity is far more attainable as a proposition & a solid starting point.
 
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fuzz

Hawaiian transplant...
Sep 9, 2002
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Originally posted by sturgeon
There's a couple problems with the camera thing: 1) this year you would've had to have 93 of them (plus housings) and 2) whose going to review 93 cameras with 7 hours each of diving video on them (that's 651 hours of video to watch and have it done by the awards ceremony for the next night or worse yet by the half hour after weigh-in deadline when formal protests must be filed by). Another problem with the safety thing is just the sheer numbers of divers it would generate. Like I said, this year there were 93 divers which equals 93 kayaks. Now double that (186). Where are they all going to come from (most must be rented for out-of-towners) and where are they all going to fit both on the beach at the launch and in the small tournament zone itself. It's crowded enough as it is.

Scott

Pretty much my point. I was confused as to why you were supporting the buddy system when you knew it wasn't feasible in a lot of situations. :confused:


edit - my comments pertain to competition diving. In recreational diving, I agree that while not using a safety diver system, we should all watch & take care of each other. When diving deep or on particularly challenging species, we always do a "one up, one down" rule.
 
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donmoore

donmoore

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It seems that two man teams with one gun would be the most practical. More guns could be stored in the boat or kayak, just one in the water at a time. Whatever the buddy wanted to do, be it take video, etc., is alright as long as he is close to the diver on the surface. The buddy would not follow the diver under the water; that would take away from their usefulness in SWB, which is really ascending blackout.

The kayak issue could be handled by two-man kayaks. As with any team sport, success is partially depended on teammates. A non-shooting buddy may give a person more time to shoot, but would take away from the total bottom time of a team verses a team with two shooters.

Not saying there would be difficulties, but that’s the game of competition – taking what you have and using it to overcome the difficulties better than the competition.

If organizers can change rules to make safety more inline with winning strategies then the sport and our love ones are better off.
don
 
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donmoore

donmoore

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There is no reason individual scores could not be keep as well. In most team sports they keep individual scores and sometimes individuals win things too, but the overall competition is won by the team.
Just some ideas,
don
 
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efattah

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2001
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A rule often quoted in competitive deep diving is simple: if you can't hold the competition up to proper safety standards, then don't hold the competition. So, if you can't accomodate XX number of divers, then accomodate only the amount you can. If there were 93 spearos this year, that means there could have been 46 competitors each with a safety. If that doesn't fly with the spearos, then cancel the competition.

You could even make a rule that you can only compete once for every time you have safetied. i.e. you safety one year, dive the next, or vice versa.


Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
 
Alison

Alison

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Mar 6, 2004
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My apologies on this thread to, Ive had a bit to drink tonight.
I think that with the best intentions in the world, safety divers, team mates or whatever, if you SWB out at sea without a good hard deck and good help etc then the odds are against you. The best safety belt for all spearo's are their own self discipline. Competitive freediving is a very different kettle of fish, thats all about fine lines but spearing is not IMHO. its all about landing fish and going home safe at night. Diver safety to me is something that should be drilled into us all at all times, to be second nature, a natural instinct to surface without coming to close to our limit! Catching fish or winning a competition should never be at risk of death. If you really want a second opinion, then go and ask Gene's widow and orphan!
I really believe this, drunk as I am. Of course there's no denying a saftey diver's usefulness.
Aloha Gene
Rest in peace, may god watch your family
 
Shadowkiller

Shadowkiller

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Jul 30, 2002
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Originally posted by donmoore
It seems that two man teams with one gun would be the most practical.
And thats how the NZ guys run some of their comps. Maybe the US association can contact someone like Reid Quinlan (Bluefins) for more info?
 
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fuzz

Hawaiian transplant...
Sep 9, 2002
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Originally posted by Shadowkiller
And thats how the NZ guys run some of their comps. Maybe the US association can contact someone like Reid Quinlan (Bluefins) for more info?

I believe they already are - I saw an email from Reid on the freedive list talking about this very soon after the event. :)
 
Shadowkiller

Shadowkiller

Digital Hunter
Jul 30, 2002
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ahh... for some reason I no longer get the freedive list emails... its still working, right?
 
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fuzz

Hawaiian transplant...
Sep 9, 2002
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Yeah, it's still up... but I'm getting tired of deleting emails, so considering getting off of it...
 
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sturgeon

Well-Known Member
Feb 1, 2002
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Here's an email that was sent out to Clubs/Councils from USOA Freedive Director Bill Ernst:

Hello All,
As I stated at the Nationals Banquet, I think it
might be time that we thought about diving pairs in
some of our tournaments for safety. Sure, it would
cut down on our catch, but if everyone does it, the
best divers will still win. Some things to think
about are: A lot of countries are going to a 4 man -
two paired teams. Either one float, one gun in the
water, one diver on the surface etc. The top
individual would not be as clear cut as two divers are
diving together (maybe 'top two' individual trophy?).
That would be the same problem for world team
individuals. Maybe we could go to something like the
top 4 man team goes or the top two, 2-man teams go.
Something to think about.
I would like to get all the e-mail address of all
the divers who are interested in discussing this
topic. I don't mind putting together rule changes if
a majority is in favor. I need your imput and I don't
want to waste my time if there is no interest. E-mail
me back if you are interested in this discussion. If
I don't hear back from you in 2 weeks I will assume
the address is bad or you have better things to do and
you will be deleated. If you know of other
divers/clubs/councils who might be interested, please
forward this letter to them. Thanks for your support.

Bill Ernst
Director Skindiving, US of A

There have been many responses (too many for me to post here). Some go to the extreme of suggesting tethering the divers together, others don't want change at all and some brought tears to my eyes such as the one from Dennis Haussler talking about seeing Gene's 2 year old son playing on the beach at the end of the tournament with no idea that his dad wasn't coming back.

It looks like something will be done or at least voted on.

Fuzz,

You're right about certain locations not being conducive to this or any other system but in places like the east coast of FL and Hawaii (IMO, the 2 most dangerous places) I could see the 2 men/one gun thing working very well. I know my earlier post was confusing, I guess the point I was trying to make was that having a safety would be great but realistically it's probably not a reality.

Alison,

By your post I gather you have a limited understanding of freediving and have never seen anybody blackout. Like I said earlier, I've seen 6 and each one upon being caught and brought to or held at the surface woke up in a matter of seconds (too quick for a boat to have made it to them, never mind drag them up on one). SWB happens so quick it's hard to believe it's even happened, even if you are right there watching it, but fortunately the recovery is typically just as fast (as long as somebody's there to keep your head above water for a few seconds).

Scott
 
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sturgeon

Well-Known Member
Feb 1, 2002
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Everyone,

I pulled this post off of Spearboard (see below). I hope the link works just from copying the post and then pasting it here.

Scott



There is a memorial T shirt for Gene with 100% of the profits going to his family if anyone is interested.

http://www.e808.com/storeProduct.as...2893&categoryID=415&tCategoryID=414&t=9023148

I've been re-reading some of my old Hawaii Skin Diver magazines where there are pictures of Gene and some articles and advice that he wrote. It wasn't until this Nationals that I realize just how good the Hawaiians are (they are always winning....even when not in their own back yard). Not only that, they are very genuine and humble guys. I wish that you all could all meet them and experience the spirit of aloha. For example, Jose Santeiro told me today that when they were over here competing in Florida in 1999, the Hawaii team (Gene and Wayde and Wendell) invited the Miami team over and cooked dinner for them, even though they were rivals for that tournament. The Hawaii team ended up winning, even though they stopped early to help Tony out when he got hurt.

Gene was one of the most loved and respected among them, and his loss hits them all especially hard. As you can tell, they would be the type to help us out if we lost one of our own.

The message on the T shirt is: "The brotherhood of spearfishers will always remember."
 
Cingene

Cingene

Will Dive for Food
Mar 4, 2003
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Just the thing I am looking for. Thanks Sturgeon.
 
Roan

Roan

Deeper Blue Wayfarer
Jul 12, 2003
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I bought one last night.

All good discussions here on a painful subject. Perhaps Pez was on to something: what if everyone were required to wear something like a D3? At the weigh-in everyone's dive profile were analyzed, then people who are making several consecutive 50' + dives with too little time at their surface intervals would be penalized or disqualified. Perhaps that is one of the problems at competitions: divers going gonzo and making repeated deep dives with too little surface time in between. In the middle of all these dives they shoot a monster fish and it holes up, setting up a dangerous scenario.

PS: I don't mean to suggest at all that that is what happened in Gene's case. I just know for me, proper surface intervals are important to being able to safely dive deep.
 
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icarus pacific

icarus pacific

Human-in-training
Nov 7, 2001
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Bingo.

Originally posted by efattah
No safety freediver? No registration.

Mark Labocetta and I both agree on this one- this is the one thing the Euro's have got right, and to those that cry that they don't have the wherewithall to incorporate this, go hold more car washes, rather than spend the thrown-together donations after the fact on flowers for the bereaved.

An observer is the only way to ensure the diver's safety; a D3 or camera isn't going to be able to jump in, get the diver face-up, and administer first aid. This is getting awful close to reducing the individualism that is competitive spearfishing, but I can see the insurance companies running like terns before the wave away from these events and then where will we be? I like to see my CenCal and USofA dues used for education and events, not litigation. That my long time friend Bill Ernst said it MIGHT be time to think about diving in pairs is a real headshaker... he and I both know better- the time has long been past.

Thanks for putting up the link, Scott. My ducats are on the way for a shirt... does anyone know if there is a local institution there in HI that is collecting for a trust fund?
 
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