Before leaving the shore decide where you are heading, make a dive plan and estimate the weather and the sea conditions
The weather and the sea conditions can change rapidly and it can have a dramatic effect on your diving trip. You should always consider wind, fog, visibility, water temperature, waves, current, swell, distance from the shore, surface traffic, time of the sunset, etc. to be able to make the decision of canceling the trip if necessary
Surface Conditions can effect on the behavior of surface traffic. Low angle sun and a choppy sea can make a diver on the surface nearly invisible and extra care must be taken
You should always have a plan on what to do in the event of an emergency
You should always have a charged cellular phone or a radio transmitter on board to be able to contact other people or the local coast guard in case of an emergency
Never spearfish alone and select your partner
It is highly recommended always to dive together with a partner
Two divers are not usually evenly matched in skills and abilities, you have to know your own limits and your partners capabilities and dive accordingly
Plan the route together with your partner before entering the water and don’t change your plans without discussing it first with him
Decide who will be “leading” first, and who will be “following”
Decide where and for how long you will be hunting
You should always be able to quit the diving session before the planned duration if necessary. A tired, injured or otherwise compromised hunter puts both divers at risk
When hunting is taking place in deep waters, it is highly recommended that you dive in turns and watch your partner
The diver on the surface should maintain a constant 360-degree scan for possible fast boats and such, he should also maintain a visual contact to the diver below when ever possible
When the hunter begins his ascent after a dive, the partner on the surface should watch for any possible signs of distress
If the ascending diver appears to be in distress, or has been down for an unusually long time, the diver on the surface should dive down to intercept the diver and accompany him safely to the surface
Having to wait while your partner is doing his hunting helps you to keep a good surface interval for proper rest and recovery before your next dive
When hunting is taking place in shallow waters with poor visibility, you might consider diving separately from your partner maintaining a safety distance at all times
When diving separately you must understand that there is nobody helping you if you get into trouble underwater. Bottom time should be reduced and extreme carefulness should be followed on every aspect on safety.
On the surface, you should look around for possible approaching threats. You should also know at all times where your partner is hunting. Take a visual contact to your partner on the surface when ever possible to check and signal that everything is in order. Do not dive before you have located your partner!
You should always have a diving plan, which tells you the direction your partner is going to move. You should also know the length of your partners line attached to his buoy to be able to maintain a proper safety distance, (always at least 30 m). You should always move away from your partner during the dive while hunting separately!
Never spearfish without a line attached to an appropriate buoy with a flag
The buoy should be bright orange or red to be easily visible to the surface traffic
The buoy should be equipped with a visible "diver down" flag
The buoy should be large enough so that it will hold a diver on the surface if problems emerge
The buoy should give the diver a safe place to rest and recover if necessary
The length of the line should be adjusted right. The closer you are to your buoy the better chance you have to avoid accidents with the surface traffic. Extra length of the line gets tangled more easily, and makes it more difficult for the hunters to locate each other
When hunting in open water, you should always have a partner on the surface watching after the surface traffic
It is highly recommended to dive close to the shore or a rock pointing out from the water when ever possible. If you hear sounds of a closing fast boat, always surface towards the shallower water
If you for some reason get surprised by a bothering sound of a closing fast boat while hunting in open water, you might consider waiting in the bottom for the boat to pass by. If you have already been there for a while, do not jeopardize yourself with staying down for too long. It is always better to come up with full lungs, with the possibility to immediately dive back down, if necessary. In this kind of situation always surface as close to your buoy as possible
The line serves as safety. A diver who loses a fin or has a leg cramp can use it for help pulling himself up to the surface
In the worst case your partner will be able to find you and pull you up from the depths with help of your line attached to your weight belt, even in the worst visibility
If your line gets stuck in the rocks or into the plants underwater don’t hesitate to drop your weight belt. You will always find it later by following the line attached to your buoy on the surface
You can use the buoy also for carrying useful gear and drinking water with you
Speargun is a deadly weapon; you must always maintain absolute caution on safety matters when handling it
Keep your speargun always pointed clearly away from your partner in every situation
Never swim behind your partner who is carrying a speargun. When swimming long distances your arm holding a spergun gets tired and you might let it go down on your side. In this position your speargun points right behind you, making the area very dangerous to your partner.
Always maintain a proper safety distance to your partner while moving together on the surface
You must always be absolutely sure that there is no one diving inside the range of your speargun before pulling the trigger. If you have any doubt, don't shoot!
Shoot only when the fish is clear from the rocks and stones. If the obstacles are close to you the shaft can bounce back from the bottom with unexpected force and cause serious damage to you
You should only load your speargun under water
You should never lift a loaded speargun out from the water
When swimming long distances you should always unload your speargun
If the line of your speargun shaft gets tangled, you are in a danger or in distress, don’t hesitate to let go of your gun!
Don’t underestimate the risk of shallow-water blackout. It is probably the most serious threat for the safety of a spearfisher
Shallow-water blackout (SWB) is the sudden loss of consciousness caused by oxygen starvation. Unconsciousness strikes most commonly within five meters of the surface, where expanding, oxygen-hungry lungs suck oxygen from the divers blood. The unconscious diver is a highly potential drowning victim.
Do not hyperventilate. Hyperventilation lowers the carbon dioxide level in your body outsmarting the brain's breathing center. It is high levels of carbon dioxide, not low levels of oxygen, that stimulate the need to breathe. Hyperventilating can lead into a situation where your body tissues will not produce enough carbon dioxide to stimulate your breathing center to warn you even though your body would already be seriously short of oxygen
Never exhale forcefully under water or on surfacing. On ascent it causes loss of buoyancy and requires more effort on the surfacing which can lead to SWB. With any dramatic fall in the pressure in the lungs the remaining reserve of oxygen in the blood will go to the lung and not the brain hence causing SWB.
On the returning to the surface after an extreme dive, you should always take your snorkel out of your mouth. A blast clearing of the snorkel nearly invariably leads to SWB if a diver has been close to his maximum
Avoid endurance dives. If you must make a long or deep dive, make sure you have a partner standing by on the surface
Preserve correct intervals between the dives to allow gas balances in your body to return to normal. Be aware of the danger of multiple deep dives, it can severely stress your system and the build up of lactic acid can be dangerous to your following dives
Understand that any strenuous exercise will limit your bottom time dramatically. When you have to exercise during the dive, head for the surface much sooner than usual
Learn to avoid the dangerous situation where your mind starts to focus only on a catch. If this should ever happen you must be ready to drop your speargun and your weight belt, and head to the surface immediately maintaining all the safety procedures while surfacing
Always treat your weight belt and your speargun as a disposable items; if in doubt, do not hesitate, drop them
Do not increase your speed on the last part of the ascent. Economy of movement is essential to conserve oxygen and keep the pulse rate low. Never look up on ascent, neck extension will affect necessary blood flow to the brain and it is also contrary to a hydrodynamic position
Always be correctly weighted. It is dangerous to be over weighted. This can cause some equalization problems on descent and unnecessary using of energy on ascent. A good rule of thumb is to adjust your weight belt so that you will float at 5 meters. If SWB for some reason ever hits you and you are correctly weighted, there is a chance that you will float to the surface where it is much easier for your partner to try to help you.
Learn the basics of CPR and think about adapting them to your diving environment, whether diving from the boat or far away from the shore
Always spearfish well inside your capabilities! A spearfisher should always monitor himself and be aware of his daily limitations caused by his present physical condition and mental state
A spearfisher is not a super athlete every day or on every dive. It is important to understand that every individual has his day-to-day limits that should be followed.
If you want to test your limits or try to go beyond your limits, you will for sure end up with problems or even death if the testing is done all by yourself. Without proper freediving safety preparations and experienced people looking after you during your attempt you are simply playing with your life. Never test your boundaries alone or while spearfishing!
Never dive when you are tired or cold. Cold, tiredness, alcohol and drugs all impair judgment and breath-hold ability and predispose a diver to SWB. The first symptoms of hypothermia, tiredness and impaired judgment, connected together with lactic acid build up in you body can be a deadly combination. As soon as you feel you are cold your breath-hold ability has already been compromised and you should stop diving and get out from the water. Do not underestimate cold!
Never dive when you are sick. If you have fever or your physical state is otherwise weakened, all kind of exercising is always a serious threat to your heart. Congestion caused for example by flu obviously leads to equalization difficulties, which can cause severe pain in the sinuses and great danger of “reversed ear”. (Reversed ear is caused by Eustachian Tube blocking; the pressure inside the middle ear grows on the ascent and can burst your eardrum.)
Never “expose” the flexibility of your eardrum. A burst eardrum in the depths causing extreme vertigo, pain and nausea is a serious risk for your life! Equalize on descent only, well before you start to feel pain in your eardrums. Never force equalization. Never continue after a failed equalization - abort the dive!
It is recommended not to spearfish within 4 hrs of a full meal or two hours after a light snack. A large volume of blood that could be carrying oxygen to the brain is being diverted to the digestive system which will limit your bottom time
You should always drink enough while you are spearfishing. Dehydration, which is caused for example by sweating, greater production of urine, the expelling of water during ventilation and the chemical exchanges needed for energy production, vastly increases the risk of SWB, muscle cramps and equalization problems
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