Getting Started Spearfishing | Understanding Freedive Spearfishing Risks

When you tell someone that you freedive spearfish, people will often ask two questions.

“What about sharks?” and “How long can you hold your breath?”.

Both of these questions identify risks that we need to understand and manage.

SOMETIMES though sharks and blackout are not the only risks and they are often not the risks you need to prioritize the highest.

Briefly here are a list of common risks involved in the pursuit of spearfishing. Following this risk list there are instructional videos and points to minimize each threat to your safety. Carefully consider the risks and identify the three highest potential dangers to you and your mates where you spear fish.

Risk Factors in Freedive Spearfishing

  • Boat Traffic

Freedive spearos often share the ocean with other users such as Jetskis, Powerboats, Sail Boats and more. If you are diving near a shipping channel or near a river mouth, boat traffic could potentially be the most dangerous aspect to diving safely.

  • Shallow Water Blackout (SWB) | Hypoxic Blackout (also Loss Motor Control (LMC), Samba)

When you hold your breath underwater there is risk involved. The most common danger to holding your breath when spearfishing is Shallow Water Blackout (SWB). A SWB or Hypoxic Blackout often occurs within the top 5-6 M (20ft) when a diver is returning to the surface. The main reason for a SWB is a spearo will hyperventilate (or over-breathe) in order to flush carbon dioxide from their body and remove/reduce their urge to breathe (makes them ‘feel’ more comfortable). The main problem is that the urge to breathe is your friend! A SWB will cause your mate to lose consciousness (faint) and if you are not there to grab him and return him to the surface, he drowns.

  • Sharks

When we enter the ocean we become part of the ecosystem and as such the risk of a shark attacking you needs to be considered. Sharks can be erratic and unpredictable so assessing the risk they present at different times should be an ongoing consideration. They are fast, big and have a mouth full of teeth however thankfully most of the time are not interested in us.

  • Being shot by a Speargun

Spearguns shoot 7mm steel shafts under power. A shaft can go through a person just like it goes through a fish. While it sounds like a silly mistake, this one is more common than you think. Sometimes it’s swimming with a finger on the trigger, other times it’s misidentifying a person on the bottom in poor vis. The spearo see’s movement and squeezes the trigger, bang he just shot his dive buddy. At other times it can be hunting a fish in a big school on the surface and not paying attention to your mate who is behind the fish. Finally, speargun trigger mechanisms have failed in the past.

  • Knife Wound | Major Trauma

Pulling in a big struggling fish, subduing it with a hand in the gills and then positioning the fish in a way so that you can reach down and grab your knife is an acquired skillset. After you get your knife out though is when the risk increases


How to Conduct a Basic Rescue | Recovering A Spearo In Distress

Step 1 – Remove Gun from Spearo

Step 2 – Get the Diver to the Surface

Step 3 – Remove Their Mask

Step 4 – Tell them to Breathe, say their name

Step 5 – Go home, do not dive anymore that day


Shallow water blackout overview


Correct Breathing Technique for Freedive Spearfishing


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