Brandon Hendrickson is known throughout the spearfishing world for his expeditions and the big fish he shoots on these expeditions. What many people don’t know is his ability and passion for spearfishing deep and just how quickly he improved his ability for spearfishing deep. In fact Brandon is now a world title freediver as well as a spearfishing world record holder. In this article we look at how Brandon has become so successful at spearfishing deep.
1.Spend money on improving yourself
“Rather than spending a thousand dollars on another trip to be unsuccessful. I spent a thousand dollars on a training camp. Knowing that my next trip is going to be more probable of being a success was worth it.”
Brandon is a big believer in self-development and a big believer in educating yourself to be a better spearo. It’s hard to argue with a guy that that holds two IUSA world records and is a recent bronze medallist in Free Immersion at the world champs.
2.Breath ups are key to spearfishing deep
“My breathe up’s are no less than twice the length of any dive and very often three to four times that length.” So if I’m going to do a two and a half to three minute dive. I typically try to aim for about an eight minute breathe up between those dives to err on the side of safety but also to err on the side of I’m going to have a more effective dive”
3.Expect to make fewer dives when spearfishing deep
“You have to realise you’re going to have less dives in a day. You’re not going to punch one hundred and twenty dives to 120ft a day. If you’re an animal you might be able to punch fifty dives a day.”
4. Conservation of oxygen
“You’re trying to minimise the amount of kicking and movement you’re going to be doing. Beyond sixty feet you’re going into sink faze around sixty to seventy feet and you’re coasting and either relying on the bottom or you’re relying on your sink rate to control the length of your dive”
You will often see footage of freedivers streamlining and sinking to the bottom without kicking. Brandon uses the same technique when diving deep. It conserves precious oxygen needed for the aspetto and the return swim to the surface.
5. Focus on your return to the surface
“Go ahead and let go of your gun. At depths, nine times out of ten you’re not going to be shooting anything on your way up. Less drag, less weight for you to bring up and take your time coming up. Spend as least amount of energy and be efficient”
Brandon focuses on improving his ascent. The less energy he uses on the way up the better his recovery will be and potentially the more dives he can do in a day.
6. A safety diver is a must for spearfishing deep
“We don’t do those type of dives in poor visibility, that’s something for everybody to keep in mind”
I want my dive partner to be able to see me and I want them following my float line even if I go beyond visibility but if you can’t pick me up by the time I reach about sixty feet and be able to either meet me at depths or meet me at the surface then I’m not going to take the chance of making that dive. So it’s a conversation for every diver to have with their dive partner. I always start those conversations in the planning stages of my trips”
Listening to Brandon it is clear that self improvement through education and freediving courses or simply self reviewing ones technique is important for spearfishing deep. Both myself and Shrek have done freediving courses or some kind of routine training to improve our depth, particularly before a big trip. I personally recommend the courses athowtofreedive.com (use the code noobspearo).
I hope this helps you in some way to become a better safer spearo.
In this interview we learn why freediving courses are essential for spearo’s
Erez Beatus from Apnea Australia joins us to give us a great overview of what you can learn on a freediving course. An Israeli born Australia based instructor of the highest caliber, Erez speaks about his background, experience and the benefits to doing a freediving course as a spearo. His knowledge of water and human physiology is phenomenal so this is definitely an important interview to listen to!
Erez Beatus Interview Important Times
4:00 Erez’s background and a brief overview of his history
9:00 Conditions and how they effect a freediving spearo
14:00 Entangled in a fishing net + some practical takeaways
17:00 Most memorable fish
21:00 Favorite Freediving Technique
25:00 Three bad phone calls
30:00 Freediving Courses – are they for spearos? What you learn and how it can benefit you and your crew
Bills is a renown Australian boating, fishing and bar crossing teacher with many years of experience in the marine industry. A little known fact about Bill is that he also used to spearfish and play underwater hockey.
These days Bills regularly runs coastal bar crossing courses and the occasional fishing charter. Bills passion is helping guys to get the most out of their boats by teaching them all of the fundamental skills that every boat-going waterman should learn. Managing a bar crossing with all of the variables like swell, tide and wind requires a definite skill set that must be learned.
Diver Down and Alpha Dive Flags (Image borrowed from boat-ed.com)
Bill takes us through run out tides, big swells and even drunken blokes on a fishing charters. We talk about basic mistakes that many of us make and hear a few stories about what can happen in dangerous situations. There is a huge section and discussion about swell speed, using your throttle on the way in and on the way out, positioning the boat appropriately, using angles to soften landings and maintaining your nerve!
Listen into this episode if you use or want to use a boat to go spearfishing!
(Unfortunately we lost a bit of sound quality with this interview so our apologies!)
Bloody cracker interview with Niall Cameron, a small charter boat operator in South Africa. Niall is a tonne of fun and he’s exactly the type of bloke I love to go spearfishing with. Fresh from an Ascension Island trip chasing and landing Yellowfin Tuna with a bunch of experienced Kiwi and Aussie spearo’s, Niall shares some of the valuable tips and wisdom he has picked up over the years. As a regular listener to the Noob Spearo Podcast himself Niall comes prepared with stories and information to share with you. Listen in to find out about hunting the White Mussel Cracker, the advantages to buying your first boat and a truckload of tips from diving in thermocline to disregarding bad advice!
A bit more about Niall Cameron
Niall has lived on the coast for most of his 52 years of life. Growing up in Northern Ireland he wast first inspired by a treasure hunting Irishmen (listen to the show for more info) before making the move to Cape Town in South Africa. He also spent some time in Fort Lauderdale, Florida USA, the Caribbean islands, before moving back to South Africa where he now lives on the beach in cannon rocks (near Port Elizabeth where there are many 17th and 18th century shipwrecks).
Niall runs a small charter business fishing and spearfishing. His passion is facilitating a good time for clients and finding fish along with telling funny stories.
He loves boats and shares several hilarious stories in the interview about some interesting times out at sea.
If you are ever in Cannon Rocks, South Africa look up Niall Cameron and head out with him on his Big Blue Charter boat!
Niall Cameron (pictured left) with some happy spearo’s
4:00 Niall’s journey getting started spearfishing in South Africa. Irish unorthodox role model Thor Hamilton. Early obstacles include equipment availability/suitability. Riding a motorbike 26kms to the beach!
13:00 Boat diving and starting to find regular fish in much better conditions + early boating adventures and mishaps (Mush and the case of the missing chest hair).
[Tweet “The whole (spearfishing) world opened up to me when I bought a boat” – Niall Cameron]
23:00 Memorable fish story
31:00 Spearfishing Hunting Technique. Planning and preparing because the hunt starts at home when you are watching the weather. Thermocline spearfishing tips and info.
39:00 Toughest situation Niall has faced in the ocean and what he learned from his experiences.
46:00 Ascension Island Trip with some Australian and Kiwi characters.
Niall Cameron with 98kg left of tuna fro m Ascension Island
54:00 Veterans Vault – the white mussle cracker! Tips, cooking, curry and more.
67:00 Funniest Moment
78:00 Spearo Q&A
This Noob Spearo Podcast episode is proudly brought to you in partnership with …
Here are some actionable tips to increase your bottom time. Don’t try to implement everything at once, focus on one or possibly two tips at a time. Get each technique dialed in before moving on. If you have some tips of your own, share them in the comments below.
Before you even get to your dive spot, do some full breathe-ups to stretch your lungs and prepare your body for diving. On the surface, close your eyes and concentrate on releasing all muscle tension. Hold your gun lightly in your hand and breathe slow, deep and even. If you can, go with the current and use the boat to put you on the right spot.
Relax on the surface. Take the time to breath up and focus.
While you are taking your last 3-4 slow full breaths, pre-equalize. This will give you a chance to complete your duck-dive without having to reach up and equalize immediately. And remember when equalizing, early and often is the golden rule and doing it like this will help you to be more relaxed when you hit bottom.
Think hot knife through butter – be smooth. Here is a good video showing a sweet duck-dive.
One way to make this actionable is to make it a specific focus for your next dive day. Don’t try to improve everything at once, just nail your duck dive – it will make a huge difference.
Water is more viscous than air so hydrodynamics play a huge part in increasing your bottom time.
Streamlining is important to making efficient dives. Here Jamie Lough has his gun tucked in close to his body. He is about to level out so is arching his back and beginning to take his head out of the tucked position.
Make sure you get your head position right
Tuck your head in slightly towards your chest. This will help to minimize drag and increase glide efficiency. This position also positions your airways for easy equalization.
Wings in on the way down, lock your elbows into your body to minimize drag. Some divers have a blessed ‘hands free’ equalizing ability which saves them this trouble but if you’re like me then keeping those arms in as close as possible while you equalize is the best technique. Maintain early and often equalizing practices because big forced equalization efforts are worse for clearance and oxygen consumption.
5. Gun tuck
Picture a soldier with a rifle beside their body – this is the way to maintain minimal profile in the water. Reduce your profile as much as possible, anything sticking out is energy and therefore oxygen wasted. Keep your knees straight when kicking, this will minimize your profile and its also the most efficient finning technique.
Use your eyes to scan the surrounds and turn your head less. This not only saves oxygen but spooks less fish! Relax your body and make sure you are right on the bottom before you start hunting (hovering just off the bottom keeps fish wary).
Image courtesy Daniel Mann
Maneuver on the bottom using smaller muscles
Research the Aspettos spearfishing hunting technique and you will learn about spearo’s using smaller muscle groups to maneuver around on the bottom. This helps them to conserve energy and oxygen which extends their bottom time! For application; once you are on the bottom use one hand to grasp a rock. From this position with one hand you can pull yourself forwards or turn in place. Focus on minimizing movement and you will quickly see the benefits to your breath-hold.
Embrace meditation techniques
Turbo regularly warms up with the lotus position, scarlet dragon and other renown Yoga positions including his own custom pose “the gas release”. He insists that this is what helps him to maintain 10-15 seconds on the bottom while in incredible depths of 20 feet. Epic Turbo, thanks for the tip…. While I’m not sure about Yoga I do rate meditation highly. My reasoning for this is that your brain is a huge consumer of oxygen. Learning to maintain a ‘soft’ focus and how to stay in the moment can ensure you are making efficient use of your mental faculties. Surely this can help to give you some extra time on the bottom. While this is not strictly one of the tips to increase bottom time, meditation has lots of scientific evidence proving that it provides significant benefits. If you want to learn more about meditation (and see if it works) try the HeadSpace 10 day challenge here.
Image, Breathless Productions David Ochoa. Spearfishing Teamwork makes sense
Next Steps For The Advanced Diver
For those of you who are serious about improving your breath hold while learning more about your body we recommend that you check out the 5 Minute Freediver here. Its a 30 day dry training program that combines the use of CO2 and O2 tables to extend your dry breath hold to 5 minutes. Pete Ryder, a UK based freediving teacher has put together this effective video course to help people extend their breath hold while learning from the comfort and safety of dry land. Get started for free here and if you purchase the training program use the code NOOBSPEARO to save 20%.
Next Steps For The Brand New Spearo
Pete Ryder has also put together a fundamentals course called the 10 Meter Freediver. As the title suggests the goal is to give you the information you need to freedive to 10 meters on a single breath. You will learn equalizing, relaxation, the full breath, basic physiology, how your body deals with pressure, effective finning technique, streamlining and more. The 10 Meter Freediver is an easily accessible (and affordable) resource for those wanting to learn the basics of freediving before committing to a full Stage A Freediving Course. To get started for free and explore some of the Video training go here. If you think the training is right for you, use the code NOOBSPEARO to save 20% when you decide to purchase.
I hope these 6 tips to increase bottom time will help you to slowly extend your breath-hold. However, getting longer bottom time is not a simple magic bullet. There is no one thing, one time fix all solution. Its slowly making small improvements over time and you will gradually begin to increase your time on the bottom. Remember, its not a race! Enjoy your spearfishing and slow down.
In this interview with Immersion Freediving Instructor Ted Harty we do a deepdive into equalizing. Ted also shares a bulletproof buddy protocol which is simple but foreign to many spearo’s. Its the best buddy technique I’ve heard and I know it works when implemented. Some key takeaways from the interview for me were; longer surface interval = longer time on the bottom, looking at and reviewing the data from a dive watch can help you to see the surface time/bottom time correlation and make buddy diving a priority. If you would like heaps of practical advice about freediving, equalizing, improving bottom time, being a better buddy and more then this interview is for you!
A bit about Ted Harty
Ted Harty became interested in freediving when he was a Scuba Diving instructor. After several years of trying freediving on his own he completed his freediving instructors course with Kirk and Mandy from Performance Freediving. After several years instructing for PFI, Ted branched off and started his own Freediving business called Immersion (link here). Ted is super passionate about reducing spearfishing fatalities and his courses are highly recommended. I really enjoyed this interview, partly because Ted shares candidly about mistakes he made himself early in his freediving. Mistakes such as; dangerous statics, suicidal CO2 tables and 101 Hyperventilating (listen in to the interview to get a full explanation on these and how grateful he is to be alive). Kick back and enjoy a cracker interview.
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Fast Times – Interview Navigation with Ted Harty
4:00 Ted’s background getting started in the underwater world. Being sold on the SCUBA Diving Instructor lifestyle
9:00 Spearfishing experience. First speargun and his first memorable fish. Speargun lessons and an underwater speargun shooting range
13:00 Ted’s tip for improving your bottom time. Suunto D4i here (advanced/complicated watch) or go for the Mares (here) or Beauchat (here) basic bananas versions. Use the CODE NOOBSPEARO at checkout to save $20
17:00 Scariest moment freediving. Weighted statics unsupervised. Hyperventilating and other no-go’s. CO2 tables weighted on the bottom and other near misses!
22:00 Veterans Vault – 101 Equalizing and a 101 Bullet Proof Buddy Protocol.
Everyone’s a leader so designate a leader and a follower in every buddy pair. Leader gets to go wherever they want, follower has to follow right behind. No discussion needed.
Be close enough to grab when your buddy surfaces. Ted says he could get rid of 100% of spearfishing fatalities using this.
[Tweet “Everyone’s a leader so designate a leader and a follower in every buddy pair – Ted Harty”]
Ted Harty reading Spearing Magazine in the pool
Check out Teds Tuesday Tips Videos here. Videos include proper weighting, buddy protocol, seasickness, and more
We ask Ted about Proplugs
How to find a good Ear Nose Throat Specialists (ENTS)
Frenzal vs Valsalva – pros and cons
A few other common tips to overcome equalization issues
Ted also talks about why Valsalva doesn’t work for freedive spearfishing. Also discussed is how do you know what technique you’re actually using.
[Tweet “why Valsalva doesn’t work for freedive spearfishing “]
99 Tips To Get Better At Spearfishing – Amazon E-Book featuring more than 100 actionable tips to improve your spearfishing with help from more than 40 spearfishing experts and authorities from around the world.