What is Spearfishing?
Any Spearo knows what it’s like trying to explain Spearfishing to their friends. They always end up with this idea that you sit on a rock by the shore throwing sticks at fish. But as cool as that sounds, that isn’t what Spearfishing is about. So, what is Spearfishing? Spearfishing is an extreme sport, and is the act of hunting fish underwater by free diving (breathe hold), with the aid of a projectile spear (Speargun or pole spear). As Spearos, we enter the water with the intent of catching fish. Also, Spearfishing is arguably the most sustainable form of fishing there is, as we are able to pick and choose the fish we take from the oceans. So, if this sounds like something you want to have a go at, keep reading for the different things you’re going to need to get started.
What Do You Need To Get Started:
Spearfishing is a very top heavy sport. Meaning that to get started there is a lot of Spearfishing equipment you will need to buy or borrow. In essence, the equipment you will need to get started is as follows:
- Mask & Snorkel,
- Spearfishing Fins,
- Weight Belt & Weights,
- Float/Buoy with Dive Flag,
- Fish Stringer,
The wetsuit is the first thing you’re going to want to look at getting to start Spearfishing. It’s pretty self explanatory, but the wetsuit is your shield from the elements – and can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful start to life in Spearfishing. This will also most likely be the most expensive part of the ensemble. You can easily pay between £100 – £300 for a wetsuit that’s worth a damn! But to start off, i recommended you look towards the cheaper end of the spectrum. As you will most likely want to upgrade from this after a few years of use if you’ve gotten hooked.
Choosing A Wetsuit:
There’s a lot to look at when choosing a wetsuit. Whether you’re looking at a suit with Neoprene or a Smooth Skin material. Whether it’s an off the shelf size or made to measure. Or whether your mates will laugh at you all suited up in that pink camo your girlfriend told you looked nice! But try not to get too carried away with it all. Get yourself something that fits. Something that you like the look of, and isn’t too heavy on the wallet. With this being said, when you’re buying your first suit I’d say the most important things to think about are wetsuit size and thickness.
Wetsuit Thickness refers to the depth of the material used – in millimetres (mm). So basically the thicker the suit, the warmer you’re going to be. But the thicker the suit, the less mobile you’ll be in the water. For UK waters, which will typically range between 10 – 18 degrees C in Spring to Autumn/early Winter, I would say 5mm – 7mm wetsuit is needed.
After suit thickness, you need to think about the size of the wetsuit. When looking at a particular suit there will likely be a size chart showing you the dimensions and how it fits. Always look at this before you buy a wetsuit. And don’t just leave it up to chance. Measure yourself against the measurements of the suit and make an educated decision. With all of this in mind, I have found a few suits from manufactures that I personally trust which are worth taking a look at:
Mask & Snorkel:
There isn’t too much to say about Masks and Snorkels. If you’ve ever done snorkelling on holiday or at your local beach, you’re going to be familiar with these. Choosing a mask can sometimes be tricky. All of our faces will have a slightly different shape, meaning one mask will fit someone perfectly, and another will struggle with water breaching inside and filling up the lens. From my experience, the way around this is trial and error. 99% of masks will fit you fine, it’s just a case of finding one that feels right and doesn’t rub against the bridge of your nose.
Choosing a snorkel is purely down to personal preference. Some people (like myself) prefer a simple snorkel. Which is basically just a tube with a mouthpiece. Other people like snorkels which have anti leak tops which can help to stop water entering from the spout of the snorkel. These can be beneficial for anyone not used to diving or using a snorkel in general. But they aren’t essential.
Here are a few examples of masks and snorkels below to take a look at:
Diving Gloves are an essential part of your equipment for Spearfishing in the UK. Gloves offer valuable protection to your hands from both the cold of the ocean, and the abrasive rocks and sea bed you’re going to be clinging to. These will most likely be made from neoprene, and will come in different sizes and thicknesses. In terms of size, gloves will typically follow the S, M, L convention. But keep in mind that these sizes may vary from manufacture, so reference any dimensions or size charts you’re given if you’re unsure of whether you’d need a medium or a large for example. You’ll typically find that diving gloves vary between 2mm – 5mm in thickness. For UK Spearfishing i’d recommend getting yourself a pair of 3mm gloves. Here are some examples of gloves worth taking a look at:
Like the gloves, the boots are just extremely important if you want to stay nice and toasty in the water. They’re also very good at making sure you’re feet aren’t getting chaffed by your fins as you kick. Once you start to shop around, you’ll notice that some are made with thick soles built in. These are great, as long as the foot-pocket of your fins allows for the extra room they’ll take up. These essentially remove the need to have any surf shoes (or throwaway trainers) to use to walk down to the beach in, so that you don’t damage the soft neoprene of the boots. Like gloves, boots will often follows the S, M, L sizing convention – and come in a range of thicknesses. These can vary from 1mm – 5mm typically. For Spearfishing in the UK i recommend going for a pair at 3mm. Here are some examples:
A good pair of Spearfishing fins is often the secret to a successful shore dive. There’s a distinct difference between Spearfishing (or diving) fins and the ones you’d have probably used whilst snorkelling around the med. And that difference is size. Spearfishing fins have much longer blades to help combat strong currents, and to enable you to move further in the water whilst expending less energy.
When you’re buying your first pair, there isn’t all that much to worry about. All you need to do is make sure you get the right size foot-pockets. The foot-pockets for Spearfishing fins use the European shoe size contention 90% of the time. So all you need to is check your size against the manufactures specs, or use a conversion chart. With this in mind, it would be a smart decision to go for a foot-pocket that is 1 or 2 sizes bigger than you’re actual feet. This is because your boots are going to add to the size of your foot, and could make squeezing into your fins an unnecessary challenge!
Once you start to shop around, you’ll notice that the blades of the fins are mostly made of plastic. However, you will notice that there are Carbon and Fibre Glass options if you’re looking in the right places. Carbon and Fibre Glass bladed fins will cost you a lot more money than a set with plastic blades, but they come with huge performance boosts. They are simply much lighter and much more reactive. Meaning you expend far less energy to complete the same action as you would wearing plastic bladed fins. For a beginner, i recommend going for a set with plastic blades due to the cost. But if you do decide to go for a nice fancy pair of carbon blades, you won’t regret it! Here are some good products to start you off:
Weight Belt & Weights:
With the correct amount of weights, you will be able to dive comfortably and easily. Weights are essential to freediving in general, as your bodies buoyancy, with the additional buoyancy of your wetsuit, will prevent you from diving as much as it can. Our bodies are naturally buoyant so that we don’t drown every time we enter some water. This also means that without the correct weighting, you will be terribly uncomfortable on the surface. With this in mind, the purpose of the weight belt and the weights aren’t to get you to the bottom of the ocean (but they do help!). They are in fact there to make sure you’re neutral in both position and depth. The thing that gets you to the bottom easy is correct duck dive technique, but that’s something for another time.
The weight belt is just the vessel on which to carry the weights – simply put. There are other ways of carrying weight to help with weight distribution such as weight vests, but a weight belt is a cost efficient way to start. They are mostly a once size fits all type of deal, which gives you one less thing to worry about. You will see that the material of the belt can vary between rubber and woven nylon. I would always recommend choosing rubber as it is much less likely to slide up your body when you’re diving down. The sacrifice of this is that woven nylon belts tend to last longer as the material is just more durable than rubber.
The most important thing to look into when choosing a weight belt is the actual buckle. I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to your safety that your weight belt can be released as quickly as possible. If you find yourself making your way to the surface and realising “Hey, it’s a lot further away than i thought” and you start to struggle with your breathe hold – do not hesitate to release that weight belt and let it sink to the bottom. Your safety means more than the cost of that belt and lead in every possible scenario. To make sure you’re able to do this effectively, choose a weight belt with a quick release buckle. And do not make a knot with the extra rubber sticking out. Trim that another time if you have to. Quick release buckles come in various forms. The two most common types can be seen below:
The weights themselves come in all shapes and sizes, but most commonly they will be square to sit comfortably along your weight belt. The actual weights of which can vary from 0.5kg to 3kg (just from what I’ve personally seen). I recommend using 1kg weights as they are a comfortable size and its very easy to work out weight adjustments when needed.
Calculating The Weight You Need:
There are just so many factors involved in deciding what the correct weight for you is. Factors such as body weight, fat/muscle density, wetsuit thickness, how deep you’re diving and so on. Strictly speaking, if you want to maximise your diving you could adjust you weight in the water depending on how deep you are. But that’s really not necessary and a lot of extra hassle.
To get a general idea of how much weight you are going to need, it’s simply a case of trial and error. However, there is one little trick you can use, but it will take a bit of fiddling around to get right. Firstly, put an amount of weight on your belt, say 6kg to start with. When in the water relax, breathe out, and look forward at where the water line sits on your mask. When the water line is just above your eye line at the top of the mask, the weight is good. If the water line is above and is somewhere around the top of your head, you are using too much weight and need lose some. If the opposite happens and the water line is at the bottom of your vision, you need to add some weight. This is a very tedious and lengthy way of doing it, but it is what i have found most accurate in practice. As i mentioned earlier, this will change depending on how deep you want to dive. But by using the depth as an indicator you’ll spend you’re whole day swapping weights in and out!
To purchase weights for your belt you’re going to have to find a specialised Spearfishing equipment retailer as they aren’t typically something a generic retailer like Amazon would supply. Search this site to find the article regarding Spearfishing equipment sellers and specialists to find the right weights for you.
The diving knife is a crucial piece of your spearfishing equipment that is often overlooked by novice divers. Having a knife with you whilst diving can simply be the difference between life and death (not to sound too dramatic!).
Why the Knife is so important:
You will see many Spearos’ using their knife to dispatch fish when the shot hasn’t made a clean kill. But this is not the primary reason for carrying one. It is there in case of emergency. Whilst spearfishing, it is not uncommon to find old fishing nets or ropes from old buoys long lost at the bottom of the ocean. Where there is nets and ropes, there is also the possibility of you getting tangled or tied up in them. This is where paying £30 for a knife becomes invaluable and gives you the chance to cut yourself free. Unfortunately there have been tragic circumstances where divers haven’t had this chance. Hence why education around this is of the upmost importance.
Where To Position Your Knife:
You’ll often only use your knife a few times per dive if you are using it to dispatch fish. If not then you’ll probably never use it, and i hope it stays that way. But in case of emergency, the position of where you’re carrying your knife can be crucial. Over the years I have seen Spearos’ place there knives in all sorts of places. On their weight belts, arms, legs and even on their float (do not put your only knife on your float!). The most common place to position your knife is around your leg using the holder and straps provided, and is what I recommend you do. Attaching it to your weight belt is fine. But I’ve always felt there is more opportunity for snags with it sticking out from you waist. And plus, if you’ve had to drop your weight belt you’ve mostly likely lost you knife with it. With it position on the inside of your leg it is tucked away, flush against your leg and most importantly of all, easy to access.
Here are some examples of knifes to take a look at:
Float/Buoy With Dive Flag:
The float is arguably the most important piece of safety equipment you’ll have at your disposal, and an essential piece of your spearfishing equipment. And like the knife, is often overlooked by novice Spearos’. The float is a signal to the surface world that you in that spot (or at least close to). This signifies to onlookers and most importantly, boats, that there is a diver in the water and they should not approach. There are many different types of floats in all shapes and sizes which are each better for certain scenarios, but that’s a topic for another time! For your first float you should look at some simple Torpedo floats, in-which examples will be shown at the end of this section.
All diving floats/buoys will come equipped with a dive flag (or at least the facility to carry one). With this in mind, there are two types of flag you’ll commonly see being used in the UK. The first being the Alpha Flag, which looks like this:
The Alpha flag is internationally recognised and only not used in the USA, Canada, some Caribbean states, and sometimes Italy. This flag is a symbol indicating to boats and other vessels that there is a diver in the water and they should slowly avoid the area around the flag. For Spearfishing in the UK this is the recognised flag for divers in the water, and the flag that should be used on your floats.
The other type of flag you’ll see is the Red and White diver flag:
The Red and White diver flag is the recognised convention in the USA, Canada, some Caribbean states, and parts of Italy. These flags are common to see in the UK as a lot of spearfishing equipment manufactures are based in Italy, who will ship them with floats as the default flag. Because of this, most of the floats you see online will come with the Red and White flag. But it isn’t difficult to find an Alpha flag attachment if you look in the right places. You can use these in the UK and most people will recognise them as a diver flag, but I still recommend using the Alpha flag if possible for complete assurance.
Without some line to keep hold of your float, it’s just going to float away. To stop this, you’re going to need some float line. The way you set up your float line is completely up to you, and I’ve countless different method successfully applied. As long as it gives you a way of keeping hold of your float whilst you’re diving, it’s good enough. For this you’re going to need the line itself, a line winder, and a few D clips to clip everything together.
The material you use for your Float Line needs to be strong and reliable. This can simply be some gardening wire, or some treated rope. Commonly, the float you buy will come with a length of rope or string that is intended to be used for this. There are plenty of options on the market, and you’ll basically get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean you should go out buy the toughest, most expensive line you can find. For Spearfishing in the UK. For example, this Apnea 25m float line from SpearfishingStore.co.uk will absolutely do the job. Just click the image to take a look:
As well as your line, you’re going to want a Line Winder as well. This is something that easily stores your line so that you can ravel/unravel as much as you want for the depth you are diving. Take a look at the example below to get an idea:
Examples of Torpedo floats to consider can be seen below:
A compass is a crucial health and safety feature that all divers should have with them in the water. It doesn’t take very long for fog to materialise at sea, and it can often be unpredictable. When heavy fog descends you can lose sight of the shore. By having a compass either as part of a dive watch or having one physically strapped to your float, you are able to navigate safely back to shore. See below for some examples of compasses to use:
The Fish Stringer is where you put your fish once you’ve caught and dispatched them, making it integral to your spearfishing equipment. The best way to describe a fish stringer is to simply call it a small spear attached to a line that you can attach to your float. This allows you to pass the stringer spear through the gills of the fish and store it for the remainder of your dive. There are different way to string up certain fish to ensure they do not come off somehow, but that’s for another article. There have been many dives ruined by a fish stringer left at home, and i’m sure there will be many more to come. Here are some examples of fish stringers to take a look at:
The Speargun is what makes Spearfishing, and is the primary piece of you Spearfishing Equipment. You could easily spend hours sifting through the vast range of spearguns on the market, but knowing which one to pick for a beginner can be tricky. Spearguns come in all different shapes, sizes, materials. There are even three types of Speargun on the market today. These being the Banded, Roller, and Pneumatic. The specific details of which is for another article, but for a beginner i would recommend sticking to banded spearguns. They are generally easier to use, easier to maintain, and cheaper than the other two types.
Speargun Lengths And How To Choose:
When choosing your first Speargun, you’re going to have to choose what length is going to best suit your needs. The length of the speargun simply refers to the length of the barrel. Now, this can be very difficult especially if you’re not familiar with your local dive spots and what terrain you are going to be fishing. This is because different sized spearguns’ suit different areas and water visibility. For example, rocky and boulder terrain suits shorter spearguns, and more open terrain suits longer spearguns. To combat this, experienced Spearos will have a selection of guns at different lengths so that they can choose what they need based on where they are fishing. As a beginner you’ll probably only buy one Speargun as you’ll most likely not want to burn a hole in your wallet for a sport you’re just starting out.
Typically, the length of Spearguns are measured in centimetres (cm) and usually increase in 10cm increments, but this is not a definitive rule. For UK Spearfishing, the lengths most commonly used are 60cm, 75cm, 80cm, 82cm 90cm, and 100cm (1m). Although this is quiet a range, a few of these options are used as opposed to each other. For example you wouldn’t take a 75cm, 80cm and an 82cm speargun out on the same dive because there is very little difference between them. Same as you typically wouldn’t take a 90cm and a 1m speargun for the same dive. In my experience, a typical range of spearguns you would want to consider is a 60cm, a 75cm and a 90cm.
With all of this information in mind, as a beginner i’d recommend buying either a 75cm or an 80cm speargun. These are considered the core lengths and are apart of everyones’ gun bag. Although i can’t link to some examples of spearguns directly via Amazon, take a look at the site linked below. They are local to the UK and used by a ton of Spearos!