Most of us start spearfishing from shore and still do. It’s inevitable because most of us don’t have access to a boat. Most of your early adventures are going to involve spearfishing from the shore. It’s how the majority of us got started, and for the most part, it is fine. A matter of fact it’s the best way to start, you gradually start in the shallows then work your way to deeper water.
There are many dangers as you start to shore dive. Things like rocks, reefs, corals that you can get washed up on or get tangled on. Currents that can wash you up or out to sea. Sea life can bite you from a hole. Many hidden dangers you can’t see.
Think of these like a set of rules to avoid disaster when you’re spearfishing from the shore.
Have A Plan For The Shore Dive
Spearfishing from the shore involves a huge amount of swimming, as you first need to make it out through the currents and the breakers, before getting to the spot where you actually want to go spearfishing. The first thing you need to do is have a plan.
Know where you’re headed, what gear you’re going to need, and ensure your dive buddy is on the same page and happy to follow your intended route. It’s so easy to start following a reef or a school of fish, only to look up and realize you’re now a couple of hundred yards from your buddy as they opted to swim in another direction.
Respect Mother Nature
It may seem obvious, but when you actually make it down to a location only to find the conditions are a little sub-par, it doesn’t make sense to push it. Spearfishing is a dangerous sport, and when the surf’s a little big, or the wind has blown out your spot, my advice is to find something else to do.
Diving in dirty water isn’t fun as you won’t see anything, and what’s worse is the risk that you’ll get into trouble. Maybe the wind and tides are churning up a current that threatens to suck you out into the bay, or the waves are too strong and they’re pushing you too close to the rocks on the reef. If the weather and conditions don’t look good for spearfishing, don’t push it.
HAVE THE RIGHT SAFETY GEAR
This one I neglected for years as a grommet, because I was a little too cavalier. I didn’t want to spend my hard-earned money on dive floats and fancy equipment, it all went to my spearguns. But after nearly losing my whole setup to a Wahoo because my gun wasn’t clipped to my float-line, I realized just how silly that mindset was.
There is a right way to do things, and basic safety gear is a must. Get gloves for your hands so you don’t shred these on the rocks. Get a flag for your towline so any boaters actually know that you’re diving below. And buy a decent float. I had a small orange one that did little else except tell me where my float-line was. After almost blacking out on a deep dive on an island offshore and having to rest for a couple of minutes on a friend’s full-sized float, I bought a new one for myself that afternoon.
GET YOUR GEAR ORGANIZED
There’s quite a bit of force in a wave, and one of the surest ways to lose your gear is to waddle out through the breakers or to stumble on the rocks and drop it all. I know. I’ve done this more than a few times myself. Instead, you need to get as ready as you possibly can before you enter the water, or start climbing over the rocks.
For me, this means wetsuit and weight belt on, along with my gloves and neoprene socks. I’ve learned to live with the fact my socks get torn up a little when I’m rock hopping, but I’d rather replace these than slice my foot open and have to spend a few days out of the water. My snorkel gets a couple of drops of shampoo to stop it fogging up and I position this on my forehead, and my dive knife clips onto my arm along with my dive watch. I loop my towline around my float and carry both this and my speargun (unloaded of course) in my right hand, so my left is free to hold my fins.
It’s all a bit awkward till you’re in the water where the first step is to slip on your fins, slide your mask down, then grab hold of your gun and swim out and away from any wash.
If I’m swimming off the beach I’ll put my fins on when I’m in about waist-deep water, but often on the rocks, it’s just as easy to put these on before jumping in, and doing a step-out with one hand on your mask like you do when you’re scuba diving. Just make sure it’s deep enough!
KEEP A WARY EYE ON THE BREAKERS
When you’re spearfishing from the shore you’re going to find the majority of the smaller reef fish in along the rocks of the headland or the reef you’re spearfishing on. What I quickly found, was that there were some rather large schools of fish feeding in the 1 to 2 feet of water the waves were pushing over the rocks.
If you decide to chase these schools and are spearfishing in close to the rocks on a headland, you need to keep a wary eye on the breakers. Sets of waves will come through, and if you’re unprepared or they catch you off-guard, you’re going to get washed over the rocks. Often, you’ll feel the swell pulling you back as the waves form, which can give you a second’s notice to duck dive and avoid the main push of the wave, but you’ve got to be quick. Getting washed over the rocks isn’t fun, and I’m still missing one of my favorite fins because I misjudged just how wrecked I would get in a particular wave. 45 minutes looking for it, and it was simply gone. I’m just lucky that I didn’t hit my head on the rocks as I was tumbling over them.
KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GETTING OUT OF THE WATER
This one is especially critical if the weather’s a bit rough, or you’re spearing at a new location. From the water, it can be hard to spot the right place to exit, especially if you’re planning to get in close to the rocks and clamber back up them (following the way you went in). My advice is to map out a path before you attempt it, or to simply swim all the way in.
I’ve found that entering the water with your gear is much easier than trying to get out again at the end of a dive when you’re exhausted and carrying a bunch of fish, so I’ll often drop my bags on the sand instead of trying to climb out over the rocks.
Otherwise, make sure you’ve got your bag and something bright identifying where you need to exit from the water and wait for a lull in the waves before you go anywhere near any shallow water to try and climb out.
Spearfishing from the shore is where most of us start, but if you want to do it safely you’ve got to follow these spearfishing rules. It may seem silly when you’ve got perfect conditions and you’re confident in your abilities, but one mistake or even just the decision to head out when it’s too rough can bring you back to reality fast. Be careful out there. The ocean is a wild place, and you’ve got to respect it.