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
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.
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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.
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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.
This episode is a nuts and bolts 101 freediving for spearfishing interview with Pete Ryder from howtofreedive.com. Pete is a freediving instructor based in London, U.K who has developed two online courses for people who want to learn more about freediving. The 10 metre Freediver is an entry level program available online where people can learn the core techniques to help them begin their freediving experience. The 5 minute freediver (that Turbo has recently completed) is a more advanced course for people who are interested in extending their dry breathhold to 5 minutes – this course is definitely not for people who are just starting spearfishing (we discuss a lot more about this in the show).
howtofreedive.com Instructor Pete Ryder
After Turbo reached out to Pete about the courses howtofreedive.com have offered a 20% discount to all Noob Spearo listeners. You can get started for free on either course and see if you like it and if you do, use the code NOOBSPEARO to save 20%. Links and further details below.
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In this episode we discuss;
The episode starts with Turbo and I discussing his personal experience with howtofreedive.com. Turbo offers a caution that both courses do not deal with the unique risks associated with spearfishing and that the 5 minute freediver course is only suited for an experienced spearo.
Turbo’s motivation was driven partially by being out of the water for so long, along with recovering from bad ciguatera poisoning + he had a big trip out to the Great Barrier Reef planned and wanted to make the most of it. So after watching and starting the training for free, Turbo went onto purchase the 5 minute freediver and began the 30 day dry training program. He discusses his experience in some detail along with some of the benefits that came with it.
9:00 Pete Ryder background in freediving. Starting out in Cornwall, U.K Pete Ryder was chasing a rarely seen sea turtle and struggled to get down. This experience triggered for Pete the desire to learn how to improve his freediving. He talks in some depth about his learning and discovery process from there and shares his motivation behind creating the two courses at howtofreedive.com
Pete Ryder about to embark on a super cold looking dive
Freediving for Spearfishing Q&A
16:00 What causes the urge to breathe?
17:30 What is hyperventilation?
20:45 Why should spearo’s train and learn freediving?
23:45 What is the mammalian dive reflex and what does it mean for us?
26:45 What is good breathing technique?
29:00 What do the two courses cover in regards to breathing?
32:30 What are Co2 Training tables, how do you use them effectively and what are the benefits?
35:45 What are O2 Training tables, how do you use them effectively and what are the benefits?
38:45 Should these tables be used together?
39:30 What is your Vo2 Max?
41:00 Can you cover what the two courses offer in a bit more detail?
48:00 What is shallow water blackout? What is going on in the body when you blackout? What are the signs and symptoms?
51:00 What do you do in the event of a blackout?
51:45 For guys that are not going to purchase your programs what is a bit of self training they can do for spearfishing?
Both Turbo and I think that the quality of Pete’s training programs is phenomenal. The 10m Freediver is an affordable option for those that are starting out and is a far better option than the default which is nothing at all for many aspiring spearo’s (Turbo and I were both young, broke and unaware of freediving courses and this is what we did). The 5 minute Freediver is an advanced dry training program for experienced freedivers and spearo’s. This course is definitely not for those just starting out.
If you sign on and use the 10m Freediver the next step after would be to do a freediving course (preferably with someone with spearfishing experience) and a step up again from this would be a Freedive Spearfishing course. Two examples of these are Apnea Australia’s 2 spearfishing courses which are conducted by Simon Trippe and Andrew Harvey or if you are in the USA, FII have developed a freedive spearfishing course.
The 5 minute freediver can compliment other training regimens for experienced divers. This course offers users a well thought out methodical system for getting you into optimal freediving condition. Turbo complimented his 5 minute freediver training with interval training and some targeted gym training to strengthen leg and ankle muscles for lots of finning work that he was expecting for the trip. He has several blog posts planned where he will talk in detail about his regimen and results.
If you would like to read more about freedive training for spearfishing check out this post by Wayne Judge or listen to an interview about freediving safety for spearfishing listen to Andrew Quincoses from Nautilus who goes into some depth.
A school teacher by day and a rampant ‘frothing at the lips’ underwater hockey player by night, Sean Hartley is a passionate evangelist for both spearfishing and underwater hockey. If you don’t know much about underwater hockey and would like to know how it could benefit your spearfishing, then this is the interview for you. We talk about how and where underwater hockey is played, what equipment you need to have a go, the basic rules and techniques and Sean shares how it has benefited his own spearfishing.
Originally from New Zealand, Sean started line (pole) fishing on the Gold Coast of Australia, but like many of us he made the switch to spearfishing so that he could actually catch something. The story Sean shares about how he started spearfishing in Bamaga, North Queensland was very interesting. Learning the art of spearfishing with some indigenous blokes while chasing crays and using a Sea Hornet is a scenario that many of us can relate to.
In the interview we cover sharks pranks, being ‘under’ gunned, spearfishing around crocs, spearfishing stalking technique’s and a little bit about his Under Water Hockey club the Cairns Crays (which you can check out here).
Sean with a Spanish (King) Mackerel
Noob Spearo is stoked to bring this interview to you in partnership with Adreno