The Noob Spearo Podcast – Interview with Philip Van Zijl
This episode of the Noob Spearo Podcast – Interview with Philip Van Zijl covers this legend’s spearfishing journey from the jump to competition diving starting in Cape Town, South Africa to New Zealand and plenty of places in between. He’s a champion of the sport, an absolute legend. He’s a major contributor to the spearfishing community, and a big proponent of paying it forward. Something he’s coined “The Spearfishing Mafia”. Our community, sport, and the hobby are niche. It’s even more niche than SCUBA diving. Take advantage of it, and build your network.
Big thanks to Philip for taking the time to “pay it forward” on the Noob Spearo Podcast!
Philip Van Zijl began diving in Cape Town in 1968 at the young age of 16, without wetsuits and just basic gear taking the train to get to where he needed to be. Yellow tail, crayfish, and other good species were some of his earliest accomplishments, always a good feed! A master of limiting out on crayfish during his years in school. He even paid for a year of his time at university from the fruits of his diving! A strong proponent of speargun awareness, make sure you listen to find out why…
Philip personally procured one of his 120cm spearguns from the legendary Rob Allen, what a story! Think you’re bad about keeping old gear? Philip still has his first catch bag he bought in the 60’s.
26:00 Early struggles spearfishing
Personally, rigging your own speargun was a bit more difficult without YouTube…
“If you give out kindness, it comes back to you.” – Pay it forward!
Learning new spots, on your own – pays dividends later on!
Sharing your expertise, and knowledge, doesn’t necessarily mean sharing your spots
Proper weighting, weight secure locations (Harness vs. Belt)
31:35Most memorable catch
His last dive in Tauranga, NZ with a mate who brought him to a secret honey hole. 15-20 meters visibility, perfect conditions. Kingfish, historically uncommon for the area but are making a comeback. He was diving with some friends, stomach started to sour, and then returned to the boat. After viewing a bait ball of Kahawai, he grabbed his gear and jumped back into the water. Viewing a school of Kingfish, he pulled the trigger and bagged a PB weighing in at approximately 27 kilos! To hear his second most memorable catch on a “popgun”, tune in to 35:43!
38:50Favorite species to hunt
Snapper, hands down. A challenging quarry, requiring a combination of burly and stealth. 3-4k tops, but no monsters like on the GBR. Additionally, slow movements, be calm, don’t look directly *at* them, and let them get within target range. Maintain gun awareness so that when the shot presents itself, it can easily be taken. Learned from losing a 6k Trevally years ago. Learn about the duality of the gun safety discussion here!
42:50 Scariest momentsin the ocean
While shooting a Blue Moki, the bugger got off the spear and high-tailed it into a crevice. Meanwhile, a surge came and pushed Philip into a crevice in which he was stuck. Every spearo’s nightmare. Trying to remain calm, he additionally considered that a surge which can push you in, can also pull you out. Going for broke, he expelled the air in his lungs to reduce his physical profile and was able to get pulled out on the next surge out to sea. Probably the scariest moment of his life. Lesson learned – be very careful when working a crevice while fishing for crays or otherwise.
48:00Veterans Vault: The “Spearfishing Mafia”
Giving back to the spearfishing community is as important as the sport itself. Hospitality within the spearfishing community is unique to the sport – PAY IT FORWARD!
Bring your gear as often as possible when traveling so you never miss an opportunity!
Reaching out on social media prior to travel and networking can be an incredible asset
When traveling with spearfishing equipment, keep “gun” out of your vocabulary. Just refer to it as fishing equipment. It can save you valuable time
Cooler bags can be worth their weight in gold when traveling
Sharing spearfishing equipment when mates are traveling can not just save on cost but strengthen relationships
Be a good host – it comes back around; when you aren’t, well then it won’t will it?
How to avoid losing a knife – use some paracord or dyneema, tie it off to a pencil or other instrument, then tie that to the end of the knife. This way, when you drop the knife (not if, but when) it will stay secured
Additionally, catch-bags are a must, saves you from going back to your plat “float boat”. Avoid harassment from sea lions, seals, or the tax man by simply using a catch-bag. Actually, saved a fishing competition by using one as the sea lions were going from float to float getting chubby on the hard work of humans. Carry two knives – one on thigh and one on arm. To avoid losing knives, use some paracord or dyneema, tie it off to a pencil or other instrument, then tie that to the end of the knife. This way, when you drop the knife (not if, but when) it will stay secured.
Describe what the spearfishing experience means to you?
Single best piece of advice ever given for spearfishing?
Most influential person in spearfishing to you?
99 Tips to get Better at Spearfishing!
Had to start all over, what would you do differently?
Who is the best person to go spearfishing with now?
Where can people connect with you?
Any parting guidance or wisdom for the community?
Noob Spearo Partners + Promotions
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Tuesday Ted Talks Freediving – 19 one-hour live Instagram episodes where I discuss a variety of freediving topics and answer peoples question live on Instagram.
Free online courses – How to take a 20-30% bigger breath and how to make the mammalian dive reflex work for you.www.FreedivingSafety.com – Free online safety resource.
Sebastian Kramer is a German born spearo living predominantly in Wellington, New Zealand. An adopted kiwi by choice, Sebastian now trains people about how to freedive and he also takes guided spearfishing trips to various locations in the Pacific including Tonga which is famous for sail fish and dogtooth tuna. In this interview we discuss some practicalities for traveling and spearfishing in remote locations. With personal stories from spearfishing all over South East Asia and the Pacific Islands Sebastian had plenty of examples to draw from as he lays out some practical tips and wisdom for the intrepid spearo. Enjoy!
3:00 Sebastian’s background and a few warm-up jokes. A bit about spearfishing in Wellington, New Zealand and how he became a freediving instructor.
10:00 Biggest obstacle starting out spearfishing. Being anxious about diving deeper particularly in murky, dark waters.
13:00 Memorable fish stories. Bill fish in Tonga. Huge Malabar Grouper and entering line fishing competitions;)
22:00 Favorite spearfishing hunting technique. The zen moment, blue water adaptation. Mentioned is Terry Maas Bluewater Hunting Book found here
25:00 Fear inducing moment – his friend’s blackout and what actually happened to him physiologically
29:00 Veterans Vault: Planning and preparing to travel and spearfish in remote locations
Sebastian has traveled extensively and shares from some of his experiences.
Discussed was a realistic spearfishing first aid kit for traveling. Link to the first aid trauma kit mentioned here
43:00 Funniest moments: Philippines dynamite fishing. Mandatory Poo story this time in South East Asia.
47:00 Whats in Sebastian Kramers divebag (he gives us his coldwater bag and tropical bag). Torelli Gear dominated and HECS suit in the tropics. Also mentioned is the Suunto D4i – check it out here and use the code NOOBSPEARO to save $20
53:00 Spearo Q&A
Most influential people in Sebastians spearfishing journey
If Sebastian had to start spearfishing all over again what would he do differently
Single best piece of advice he’s received
1-3 piece of advice for people starting spearfishing themselves
Adventureman Dan pictured holding up the large New Zealand Yellowtail Kingfish talked about in this episode
Interview with a young American bloke traveling the world spearfishing. This interview comes from a listener request (James Fisher) and Dan was good enough to join us over skype while he was in South Africa. This episode is jam packed with Dan’s stories, adventures and tips for guys and girls interested in taking off on a traveling and spearfishing adventure.
Originally from up-state New York Dan began his spearfishing journey in Monterey, California. His stories about chasing reef fish in the huge kelp forests give us all some insight into his early experiences. Listen into this interview with a natural storyteller and genuinely nice bloke!
Time Stamps in Dan Byrne’s interview
Interview starts off with the usual banter, latest book review and some news before we kick on and hear about Dans journey into spearfishing.
11:50 Early Obstacles – learning the species.
13:30 Spearfishing from a kayak and a cracker Ling Cod
18:00 Cave diving and a few tricks
25:00 Dans favorite spearfishing hunting technique
Mentioned was this video – spearfishing New Zealand part 2
35:00 Spearfishing travel stories. Starting in New Zealand then Australia’s East Coast followed by the West Coast. Following this he chats about his South African spearfishing experience. These stories give you some good snap shots into all of these locations and some of the characters Adventureman Dan has had the privilege of spearfishing with.
61:00 Veterans Vault – Spearfishing Travel
Questions we ask Dan
When you are flying into different countries, what equipment do you travel with and what do you replace when you get there?
How are you carrying your speargun and longer items? SportsTube link here. Hand Grenade Dive weights here, First Aid Kit here
We discuss airlines (good and bad ones). How to declare your equipment.
What equipment can be helpful and what Dan considers crucial.
How did you go about networking with spearos in different countries?
Dan also lays out his own budget/money technique for traveling around the world on the cheap.
How to be a good bloke on boats and build good relationships.
76:00 Fast 5 Facts For Noobs
Listen to Noob Spearo Podcast.
Just get out there – do a road trip and find your own spots.
Have a dive knife accessible on your hips.
Always try something new, challenge yourself.
Mentally prepare for your dives with visualization
Watch some of his vids here (Check out Spearfishing NZ part 1 below)
90:00 Dan’s Call To Action!
Dan is planning a West Coast spearfishing tour of the USA starting in Alaska and he would like a travel buddy! He’s planning on getting an R.V or caravan and heading south from Alaska for a 4-5 month trip of a lifetime. Get into contact with him here!
If you enjoyed this interview please leave us an honest review wherever you listen!
For people interested in spearfishing travel listen to;
Kimi Werner is perhaps the worlds most easily recognizable spearfishing personality. Her video Variables has been viewed nearly one million times and for good reason, its sensational. In this interview we explore some of her experiences traveling the world spearfishing. From diving in the frigid waters of the Arctic to taking down an 84lb Wahoo miles off the Texan coastline. Her stories are compelling and her enthusiasm is contagious. After watching Kimis’s TedX talk and some videos from her YouTube channel, I was still unprepared for many of her stories and practical tips. Listen into a person who passionately shares about reconnecting with our food sources and encouraging people to develop an awareness of the environment’s in which we live.
Kimi Werner. Image Perrin James
For Fast Reference through our interview with Kimi Werner
3:00 Kimi’s background, all about spearfishing in Hawaii. Following her Dad around in the ocean and observing the art and craft of harvesting food from the ocean.
4:00 Octopus hunting
9:00 Kalai Fernandez and Wei Hayashi were both mentors for Kimi
14:00 First Memorable Fish – Bluefin Trevally with a Pranger + a Texas Wahoo 84lb (Ono)
23:00 Favourite Spearfishing Hunting Technique. Observation before selecting a technique. Kimi talks about mimicking the environment. Not showing interest for the fish and she uses a very funny analogy:)
27:00 Scariest moment. 5 Meter+ Great White Shark in Mexico. Kimi talks about dealing with fear and not responding to your first reaction.
Preparing for a Spearfishing Trip, 4 Unusual Things I Did
My preparation for this trip was a little different to my others due to the nature of the preceding months. Firstly I had just recovered from ciguatera poisoning andI had only been diving twice in about 5 months. I was down on weight (65kg) and I had bugger all strength, breath hold or any dive fitness therefore I needed to focus on getting my body right as best I could in my short lead up time. I didn’t focus too much on spending money on gear though I did buy a Roller Power Head conversion kit. I ‘m of the mindset that there’s a lot of personal improvement to be done to get the most out of your equipment, your body being one of these things. I had about 5 weeks between being well enough to start pushing my body and setting off for the trip. So here’s what I did, perhaps this will help you when preparing for a spearfishing trip.
No.1 Strength and Conditioning
Normally I would get stuck into cardio training before a trip. Hill runs and stair sprints usually with some kettle bell in there as well but this time I hit the gym. One of my major issues with diving is my poor finning technique and fatigue in my legs (compounded by ciguatera and lack of diving) which Wayne Judge has identified before (it’s on camera and it looks ugly). Some of this I put down to weak ankles and leg muscles. I have the common tendency of rolling my ankles inwards when I fin and it gets worse when I’m fatigued. As my ankles roll inwards so too does the blade of the fin and therefor doesn’t catch and channel water down the length of the blade but spills off the blade making for inefficient technique. On top of this I tend to bend my knees too much creating drag which decreases efficiency. I have an excellent set of Penetratorcarbon fibre blades that I’m not utilising to their full potential due to poor conditioning and lack of strength.
I visited my strength and conditioning coach and she prescribed me a simple but effective routine to give me some ballast in my lower quarters (nautical pun intended Arrrrrr!). She also worked out my top half for a bit of cleavage when getting glamour shots with fish and swimming after and man handling big Dog tooth tuna which never happened.
Twice per week, two sets of 10 each, with 1 minute 30seconds rest between each set. Keep in mind I’m a gym novice and she kept this very simple for me.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Dumbbell dead raises
I have to say apart from the cleavage bit the gym work did wonders for my diving. The extra strength definitely helped with the finning and I felt I could dive repeatedly for several days or longer. I had practically no ankle fatigue and so that was effort well spent.’
No.2 Static breath hold training
I used the I Hold Breath app to create custom O2 and CO2 tables based on the five minute free diver.
When preparing for a spearfishing trip I would normally I would link up with Wayne Judge and his training squad (Brisbane Bullsharks) to get some pool training in but due to time constraints, health and work commitments I just couldn’t get there. I stumbled across the five minute free diver course by Pete Ryder and committed to the one month challenge of a five minute breath hold. The course concentrates on oxygen tables (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) tables as well as sprints for Vo2 max. Training initially starts out with CO2 tables to improve carbon dioxide tolerance then switches over to O2 tables to improve oxygen utilisation efficiency. Throughout the entire month interval sprint training is interspersed to improve Vo2 max. Over the month the intensity of the tables increase and really begin to push your limits.
I maxed out at 4:45 the best breath hold I’ve had in years. So how did it improve me in the water? The breath hold training really came into it’s own when trying to coax emperor species within range at the Swains Reef. The extra bottom time when laying on the bottom crunching sand was crucial to spearing these fish and I thoroughly recommend some sort of free dive and breath hold training. I still couldn’t manage a big eye sea bream on this trip but I’ve since got the inside word from Wayne Judge at Adreno. You can find out more about the five minute free diver course here or listen to our podcast episode on it here.
Our trip to the Coaral Sea was not chartered. We took our own boat, our own supplies and relied completely on ourselves for everything. That meant we needed enough food for four blokes for two weeks. With my Ciguatera poisoning just clearing up before we left I couldn’t take the risk of relying on just fish to eat. Fortunately my family has a farm and we run cattle and sheep, so with ice boxes in hand it was off to the farm for some meat. There is something satisfying about the complete cycle of paddock to plate. Spearfishing too has this appeal and puts us squarely back into the food chain and connects us to our food. I think the disconnect between our food due to urbanisation is a major problem within our society and a driving force behind waste and pressure on the environment.
We called the farm butcher in and killed eight lambs and a steer of which we took a whole lamb and some beef. It doesn’t get better than grass fed meat fresh from the paddock and it feels pretty luxurious steaming through 3m swell with a roast lamb in the oven.
No.4 One gun to rule them all.
Roller Power Head kit
I wanted to try my hand at a Roller Gun setup so I converted my 1.2m Rob Allen into a 1.1m roller gun. I only had the one opportunity to use it once before we set off for the trip. Normally I wouldn’t recommend unproven equipment when preparing for a spearfishing trip. Having the one gun meant I had to stick to my gun and weed out all the teething problems. I think there are a couple of early hurdles with Roller guns and people don’t take the time to adapt. You can read my post on my first impressions of the roller gun during the trip here
Face Shields, no-brainer for saving on wind and sun burn
While I am talking about products that help out on big trips, these Face shields have been phenomenal for cutting out wind and sun burn, check them out here – SA Faceshields
So there it is, four things I wouldn’t normally do when preparing for a spearfishing trip. Would I do them again? you bet I would. Improved fitness, breath hold, gun and bulk meat in the Coral Sea…. PERFECT!
Jaga Crossingham joins us over Skype from Fiji and shares his insights with us about planning and preparing for spearfishing charter trips. We also cover how to hunt Dogtooth Tuna and Wahoo and he has a tonne of great information. Jaga is a spearfishing guide and charter operator with Freedive Fiji who has been guiding successful spearfishing trips in Fiji for over 6 years. You can follow Freedive Fiji on Facebook here and see some of the fantastic fish that their customers have caught.
A bit about Freedive Fiji, Heather and Jaga Crossingham
Fiji can boast that they have some of the best spearfishing locations in the world. With the expertise of Jaga Crossingham, his team and extended networks all over the islands around Fiji, spearos and game fisherman that book trips with Freedive fiji are positioning themselves to catch that fish of a lifetime.
On our first interview (we had some tech dramas) Jaga talked with us about how Freedive Fiji deliberately move around a large area in order to ensure there is no overfishing. With a lifetime spent in and around the water with 6+ years there in Fiji, Jaga has a huge respect and understanding for sustainable fishing practice. Freedive Fiji have undergone numerous trips to build relationships with local villages and secure access to some their nearby fishing grounds. Nearly all of the fish taken go to each of these villages which has helped to build strong relationships.
Noob Spearo is stoked to bring this interview to you in partnership with Adreno
For all your Spearfishing equipment needs go to www.spearfishing.com.au or visit their stores in Brisbane and Sydney.
Use the code NOOBSPEARO to take advantage of this exclusive special.
You get $20 off every purchase over $200, this is a discount code just for listeners of the Noob Spearo Podcast!
Check out Australia’s largest spearfishing range at Adreno Spearfishing Brisbane and Adreno Spearfishing Sydney or shop online
For fast navigation through Jaga Crossinghams interview;
1:00 Starting out on the Southern Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Early Mentor Simon Latter and chasing blackfish, bream, flathead and in the wash-holes – the much sought after Jewfish
4:00 First Memorable Fish, Jewfish and the mistake that came good in the end
5:00 Jagas Spearfishing Hunting Technique; Learning, understanding and applying the correct technique for a target species. He shares a fair bit about Wahoo spearfishing technique including the exhale dive
10:00 Veterans Vault; Planning, preparing and making the most of a spearfishing charter trip. We talk equipment, communication, dogtooth tuna systems, liveaboard charters for 5+days and the kinds of fish you encounter while spearfishing in Fiji. Jaga encourages good preparation and asking questions early, he recommends booking 2+months in advance for the longer trips to work optimally with moon phases and weather. This is a good deep dive into planning a charter spearfishing trip.
20:00 Funny Story; the Sydney boys with the sex doll dogtooth tuna float
21:00 Fast Five Facts for Noobs
24:00 Crucial Kit for Noobs; Masks + How to De-Fog DIY video link here! Jaga also at our request takes us through his current personal spearfishing arsenal in warm water. Hatch Amero spearguns were mentioned as Jaga uses a 140 model with reel for lots of his spearfishing.
27:00 We ask Jaga for his list of Personal Bests and wow has he shot some epic fish!!
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If you are just starting your spearfishing journey and want to get some good guidance and experience in pristine conditions, Freedive Fiji can help you out as they are one of only a few charter operators that cater to the inexperienced. Just give Jaga a message on facebook here.
Here is some further information from their website “Freedive Fiji is more than just a regular charter operator. In addition to providing our guests with the very highest standards of service, we aim to make our dive trips educational, informative and fun. Our mission to focus on social and ethical responsibilities in our community is maintained by building lasting relationships with our customers, employees, and partners in the travel industry. Our guides have over 15 years experience so you can relax knowing that all your needs will be exceeded, your charter will run smoothly, and that the instruction from the training arm of Freedive Fiji is second to none.”
If you enjoyed this interview with Jaga then you will enjoy our interviews with Chris Coates and Dwayne Herbert, both prolific spearfishing hunters