This is a descriptive piece of writing. The purpose of this piece of writing is to portray an idea of what spearfishing and freediving means to me and illustrates what I think are the spiritual, mental and physical benefits to spearfishing and freediving.
All is forgotten.
As the business of the world drifts away, this new world full of mystery is drawing closer. This is my world. As I submerge myself into this new environment my eyes pick up colours of green, crystal clear blues and ominous browns. The ocean water is clear beyond belief and everything is perfect. I dive deeper and the salty sea water fills my snorkel, seeping into my mouth. I taste the bitterness of this saline solution but it does not matter. This is what floats my boat. The calm and quiet where no sound can penetrate is overwhelming and the anticipation is immense.
Anything could happen now and the unpredictability of my surroundings adds to the excitement and awe.
I spot the spiny red heads of Crayfish waiting for their prey to drift by and the Paua cling to their rock like a little boy clings to his lollipop. Now I see the red stripes of a Moki and the distinct square shape of the peaceful Eagle Ray as he glides, undisturbed along the seafloor.
I spot another fish. But this one is different.
This one is a trophy, well for me at least. The hunt is now on. I spot my prey and slowly maneuver myself onwards, careful not to spook the fish that is covered in shining red and opal. As I pop my head over the ledge of brown rock and drifting seaweed, he spots me, and effortlessly darts away like a torpedo through the water. The red Snapper is well renown for its elusive behavior, making it a trophy for many Spearos like myself. This one got away but there will be more so I am not fazed. The sheer beauty of this rich ecosystem is enough for me. I’m ready now, to give it another go. As I breath up I reflect on my progress so far. I take a deep breath and dive further into the unknown. I spot a different fish, this one is wavy like the kelp and equally coloured, brown and dark green; after years of adaptation the Butterfish has mastered the art of camouflage. I approach the Butterfish carefully and take aim. As I pull the trigger the spring steel shaft shoots through the water, penetrating the fish right through the gill plate, a perfect shot!
A few hours later and I’m still on the hunt, the only difference is that I have a few fish in tow.
As I continue to survey my surroundings I notice the little shiny Kohero are darting about like headless chickens and the schools of juvenile Snapper are diving for cover. I don’t understand, never have I ever seen fish act like this so I look around for predators, hopeful to see a giant Kingfish, the biggest trophy of all. I turn around and nearly pass out. Not ten meters away glides another great predator, a three meter long Bronze Whaler Shark. In an instant calm turns to chaos. The hunter becomes the hunted. Strangely I find myself gawking over the beast’s sheer size and confidence as it swims casually through the water and, after a few seconds I come to my senses and my body goes into hyper-drive. The adrenaline is pumping. I’m Michael Phelps swimming like a speedboat, but instead of Olympic stardom, survival is in my mind. As I approach the shore I throw myself onto the gnarly rocks that line the coast. This whole event is a shock to the system but it must not control me, or haunt me. Much to my mind’s displeasure I find myself slipping back into crystal clear ocean, back into the unknown, back into the unpredictable. I must overcome this fear, otherwise it might overcome me.
Again, I am drawn back into the water, into blue.
For me, the blue is a place of rest, of refuge and of refueling.
The blue is a place where stress ceases to exist and where anxiety is not permitted. Out here, in God’s creation, the beauty is a distraction from the struggles of the world. Out here there is no ability to experience the overload of life. The blue is a place of ignorance of the desperate world around us. A place without famine, without poverty, or conflict, nor oppression, chaos, hate, violence or any other harmful thing that fellow humans might experience in the world we live in. The ocean is a way to feed my family, and an escape. An escape from the reality of the world around us and from the seemingly perpetual battle for the mental health and well being that many humans have the misfortune of struggling with.
My name is Jahmon Wilson (pronounced jar-min). I’m a mad keen spearo and fisho from Nelson, New Zealand age 17. I was born to two New Zealanders (Dad’s from the Naki as Shrek calls it and yes I was born an Aussie but I can’t handle it when the AB’s lose to the wallabies sorry Turbo). But grew up rock hopping, fishing and spearfishing in Esperance, Western Australia (WA) with Dad, as I grew up in Kalgoorlie, WA in the desert, for the first eight years of my life the four hour journey to Esperance was made many times. If you haven’t heard of Esperance you should look it up it’s an amazing place. In places like Lucky Bay and Cape Legrand, Dad used to shoot big blue gropers (PB 15kg with a pneumatic spear which bent the spear to a right angle), queen snapper (blue morwong), snook, boarfish, samson fish and probably a whole plethora of other species. Interestingly he never saw a shark in the water in 10 years of diving there.
I will always remember my first proper dive with dad. I was probably 6 years old and it was in a place called Cape Legrande. I had been caught chilling out with the surfers out back on my little bodyboard as you do at 6 years old (I remember that too and have no idea what Mum was up to). So anyway Dad decided to take me for a snorkel and I still remember the little banded sweep and little rock species darting around, Dad then went down and got some little roe abalone which are also super common in Esperance along with green and brown lip abalone. So that was my first experience diving.
Now for Spearfishing in Nelson, NZ
The shore based spearfishing here is pretty shoddy compared to what I hear you guys are getting. Nelson really comes into its own when you have a boat and it’s pretty common to catch 20+lb snapper and 15kg+ kingis if you know where to go in your boat. Collingwood which is about 2hrs drive north west from me is beginning to be well known internationally for its saltwater flats fly fishing for Kingfish too. I discovered this recently looking on YouTube for fishing around my area looking to see if I could match up land with what the guys are showing. The problem with Nelson though is it’s so far south all the snapper are in deeper, cooler water in the 20-40+ metre range where its sandy bottom and hard to hunt them if you can get that low in the first place. Dad has shot a handful of kingi’s off the shore at a well known spot called the boulder bank but it’s rare you get one over 10-15kg. Butterfish, kahawai (that’s salmon for you Turbo) and blue cod are a bit of a staple for us here but aren’t present in super high numbers unless you go to the Marlborough Sounds. I’m happy if I can get 1 or 2 good eating fish in a couple of hours although when a school of kahawai swims past it’s not too hard to snag a few. As well as these rarer species include Goatfish, Blue Moki, baby snapper and Tarakihi and the odd squid too.
I also shoot octopus which are really good when cooked properly I would recommend any spearo to take one and at least try it to see how you like it as in NZ and I assume Auzzie too they are very underrated. Dad had a Greek-Italian friend in Auzzie who swore by them and you always see the Greek guys collecting them too in YouTube. Probably my favourite spot to go is Kaikoura on the east coast of the South Island. Although you aren’t allowed to take Paua (Abalone) there anymore due to a big earthquake a few years ago which lowered the sea floor by metres. The sea is rich with Butterfish and Kaikoura is the Crayfish capital of New Zealand. Kaikoura literally means food (Kai) and crayfish (Koura). Last time we went was last summer and in two dives I was getting into Butterfish like I never have before. I ended up shooting 8 in the first dive in about an hour before I decided that was enough including my PB 65cm Butterfish. And in the second dive I got back to shore with 7 and no-one else had shot any. I will flex a little more by saying all of these were shot in the head. I’m happy that I’m finally getting a good shot on me with my gun as I have had more experience shooting fish. They fed the three families we were staying with very well. To me there is nothing like the feeling of putting food on your family plate and being able to do that from the age of 14 or 15 its a unique feeling.
The Noob Spearo Podcast
Anyway enough about me, lately I have gotten a job at an apple orchard doing very repetitive work. We are allowed to listen to music and my friend convinced me after a day to stop listening to music (which I was getting very bored of) and started listening to podcasts. I first heard of you through Daniel Mann’s Insta story he shared on a podcast you did on hypoxic squats. I listened to it whilst mowing the lawns and found it very interesting but didn’t really continue on the podcasts. Fast forward to now and I’m hooked! The quality you guys post with idols of mine like Darren Shields and legendary guys like Rob Allen and Chris Coates, guys I’ve been following on social media like Cameron Kirkconnel and one of my favourite YouTubers, Daniel Mann among a few of the spearfishing heavy weights is just unparalleled.
I went for a dive last week off the boulder bank, didn’t shoot anything as it there were pretty heavy swells and not the best vis however me and my cousin decided to give it a crack with the aim of sticking together and taking it slow. We were both trying out our new open cell neoprene wetsuits for the first time. I can say after using a 5, 3mm 1 piece wetsuit that took 10 minutes to put on I am in love. My new wetsuit has a hood and a knife pouch in the arm and leg now so I don’t get a brain freeze down south in Kaikoura and I don’t have a dive knife strapped around my calf which always used to get really loose and flop around. In mid-November diving weather has been pretty bad here. The water is around 17 degrees and I had to let water into my wetsuit to cool me down as well as buying an extra weight for my belt. I swear I’m not embracing my inner Shrek after a long winter it’s the suit haha (that was for you Turbo).
Ended up being a cracker of a decision as I got to swim with 5 dolphins in the water for the first time. A baby and four adult Bottlenose dolphins. This is when I really realised just how smart they are. The first dolphin I saw was alone. It checked me out for a few minutes then swam away only to bring a second with it 30 seconds later. They both checked me out before swimming off and another 30 seconds later brought a mother with its calf to see me. This was an absolute pleasure and just now I’m realising that the mother trusted me enough to take her calf over to see me which was pretty cool. It was really cool because even when you can’t see them when you made a dive you could always hear them clicking and clacking in the water. After they left there was probably 30 minutes of me looking for fish before what is probably my most memorable moment spearfishing occurred, beside probably seeing a big 3-4 metre Bronze Whaler Shark (Bronzie) up near Cape Reinga which was a first for me as we don’t really get sharks where I live. To add to that I saw a shark in the water before Dad which I always have him on about, he has seen one since then however. In the same dive at the boulder bank he saw his first and only Bronzie and shot a Kingfish haha. This big Bottlenose dolphin which by the way dwarfed the big Bronzie I saw swam up from behind me and gave me the fright of my life as it cruised underneath me. I stretched out to try and touch it and if my hand was 50cm longer I think I would have. It was truly breathtaking.
Now back to you legends. Your spearfishing podcast has taught me a tonne about spearfishing. Dad is a pretty ‘she’ll be right’ sort of guy so he taught me the basics but now I am teaching him haha. So far I have been listening to your podcasts for about 30 hours of work, I’m already 25 podcasts down and dreading the day I run out and have to wait a fortnight for each one. I tried listening to some fishing podcasts (won’t name which one) as I’m big into fishing too but it just wasn’t the same as Shrek and Turbo going at each other, pirates vault, fast five facts, the scary stories, funny stories and of course the hundreds of collective years worth of knowledge you guys bring us, but most of the entertainment from Shrek and Turbo you guys do a great job aye. From listening to your podcasts I have learnt so much stuff (that I have taught Dad too) that I probably would never think about. The one that sticks out to me is taking a breath hold. Breathing properly through your stomach first then your chest then a little extra which I think has almost doubled my breath hold. I was practicing it while driving home from work and after the first breath I had to stop because I was getting a little light headed from all the oxygen. Is this a bad thing? I assume not cause its oxygen which is a good thing.
Other things like berleying (chumming) up which I totally overlooked. I have a bunch of Kahawai frames and a Kingi frame from a Kingi I caught with my friend in his boat two weeks ago that would work a trick. Either that or I go down and find some Kinas or have a little fun shooting some Spottie for Berley.
Other tips like fully relaxing, Shrek always goes on about a good duck dive which I need to look up on YouTube or something and just other things, and how being hydrated before a dive. Being a shore diver and not having to travel far to where we dive it is so easy to wake up at 6 be in the water by 7 or 8 and by then all you have has a Milo I tried this recently and it my breath hold already felt easier for longer I could stay on what we call the second weedline for quite a bit longer than usual. I never realised how important diving with a buddy is. The sort of diving I am doing is sort of 5-10 metres so I can comfortably dive down to the bottom and sit there for what I think is a decent amount of time but the risk of shallow water blackout is still very real. You guys drill this into your podcasts which is a very good thing, I was reading this article in a wilderness magazine and the doctors and freediving was ranked as the 2nd most dangerous sport behind base jumping in terms of fatalities and its not certainly not sharks haha. If my memory serves me right that is a banger of a fact to share on the podcast.
Thank you and final thoughts
Anyway that’s it for me. I was just writing this letter just to say thanks for all the tips and entertainment this podcast has given me, and to share my journey with spearfishing. My favourite podcast was definitely the one with the marine biologist from Exmouth. I was listening to that this morning and I found it really interesting. His stories about the spinner sharks, the coral trout behaviors and cycles and the tides and current affected the fish and also the rubbish from Indonesia which absolutely sucks for such a beautiful place like Exmouth and the Ningaloo Reef. I can also relate to his humpback whale story in that I realised just how smart they are and how they can properly communicate with each other and share real feelings.
The more and more I fish and spearfish the more I fell in love with the water, even the beautiful rivers we have in Nelson and the dirty dams we used to catch Yabbies in WA. I love biology. I got a distinction in biology just a couple of days ago at my leavers mass and after a gap year living in Sydney and traveling through Africa (and Mozambique) next year I am planning to study marine biology after that. I don’t really mind that the workplace is hard to get into because if I’m doing something I love that’s to me what counts. I couldn’t stand getting penned up in an office job all day.
Anyways, I hope you guys enjoy reading this little story, I guess you could say article that I wrote up. If you could you try and get Brodie from Youngbloods on the show? Pretty sure he lives in Exmouth and he’s full of energy and yarns or a guy I follow on Instagram called SamInTheWild he travels round doing some amazing underwater camerawork and shoots some pretty nice fish too. But until next time, you guys are bloody legends.
P.S If you feel like doing a little extra reading I have added a piece of creative writing about spearfishing and my first shark encounter. I used this in English for all three senior years in high school and it got really good grades with it all three years. I’m really proud of it (All Is Forgotten – Jahmon Wilson here)