It has been a busy couple of months with competitions! The Curtis Coast Skindivers Club (C.C.S.C) held a very successful interclub competition in August. Attended by 37 divers from various clubs on the East Coast, the 1770 competition went off without a hitch and was a great success for both divers and sponsoring businesses, including Adreno. It was a fantastic opportunity for spearos from various clubs to meet, compete and share a few drinks and laughs afterwards. New friendships were formed and the Sunshine Coast Skin Divers (SCSD) and CCSC have even travelled to dive with each other since then.
Following the success of CCSC’s competition, the Bundaberg Skindivers Club (BSC) quickly began organising a similar competition for September. The event attracted much attention, with divers always looking for any excuse to dive the beautiful Bunker Group of the Great Barrier Reef.
Sadly, an unfortunate weather prediction meant that the planned date for the BSC competition was postponed in accordance with AUF regulations. The competition was rescheduled for the following Saturday, and then rescheduled again for the Sunday, but many spearo’s had other plans resulting in smaller than expected numbers. My club, SCSD, still managed to send a group up, with Tony Heugh, Ben, Karl Reece, Mark Holland and myself all keen for a weekend away and not phased by the tired day we would have at work on Monday after a 6 hour drive back! John and Woody Falls of CCSC also signed on and, having dived with Woody at the last CCSC competition, I was looking forward to being on their boat again.
Seventeen divers from the three clubs attended the Saturday night briefing and a 5am push off was decided upon. Unfortunately, CCSC and SCSD were a little caught up and it was a late start for us, getting on the water at 5.45am.
John, Woody and I headed straight for the reef, with Tony’s boat and crew, the rest of my club members, deciding to hit the reef also. It was a slow ride out, with more wind and waves than predicted but we made it into the water by 8.45am.
With only three divers in our boat and a full moon current, we needed a boaty at all times. This meant two hour stints for each of us (although I think John ended up doing more!). The first drift was short lived though, with Woody quickly rounding us up saying that Tony was about a kilometre away letting off flares! With his divers still close to us we guessed he was having motor problems.
We got to him just as he managed to restart the motor and bring in the anchor. After a quick chat we discovered he didn’t have the correct radio for being 25 miles out at sea so letting off flares was all he could do! It was just lucky that we had stuck together and we decided we’d dive close by for the rest of the day.
Our couple of hours in the water wasn’t too eventful, but it was good to be out there as always. I managed to land my first Australian Kingfish of 7.5kg and Woody got an 8.5kg Kingy, a coral cod and an Australian record Hussar. Before we knew it it was time to head back in. The wind had all but dropped out completely and we sped away from the reef in glassed out conditions.
After about 5 minutes however, Woody looked back to Tony’s boat to see black smoke billowing high in the sky. We raced back to find Tony sitting on his esky trying to work his fire extinguisher, and the crew bucketing water onto the motor – now engulfed in flames. Fueled by oil though, the water did little to ease the raging fire and Woody quickly threw them our fire extinguisher which did the trick in seconds – phew!
Tony and his crew asked John to just tow them back to the reef, where they would be safe to anchor for the night or until VMR could get to them. John wouldn’t have a bar of it though and insisted on assisting the crew in towing them back. We piled Tony’s daughter, Karl and Mark into our boat and Ben, Tony and Tony’s dog stayed in the other – and so began the long trip in!
We left at 1pm but by 4pm we had run out of oil. We waited a couple of hours (with Woody, Karl and I attempting some freediving in 33m of water to pass the time) before VMR brought us some oil out, before racing off to another job. It quickly became cold as the sun sank in the sky and by 6pm the full moon was shining brightly and a few of us were sprawled out on the deck with inflatable floats as pillows.
It was nearly 9.30pm by the time we pulled up to the boat ramp and, with BSC forgetting to call any of our next of kin numbers that we provided, our guys had some explaining to do to worried and distressed wives, girlfriends and mums.
At 10pm Woody, John and I managed to get away, but we were quickly called back by Karl who said BSC had been nice enough to allow us all to weigh in our fish despite our lateness! We quickly returned and weighed in, with Woody’s Hussar being announced as a new Australian record.
SCSD members took out some great places in the competition with Ben placing first and Tony coming a close second with his 29kg Spanish Mackerel. I was notified on Monday that my Kingfish had won the women’s division and a new gun would be heading my way – bonus!
Unfortunately, BSC later recanted this decision and the committee instead disqualified John, Woody and I as a result of being MIA during the first 15 minutes of weigh in – an unfortunate decision considering the circumstances.
Despite a couple of hiccups, it was a fantastic weekend anyway with plenty of lessons learned – most importantly, always have a working radio and fire extinguisher!
Many spearo’s scoff at the idea of spearfishing competitions, and I respect that view. However, to me, and most competitive spearo’s, competitions are just an excuse to travel and dive new places, develop new friends, and of course pitch our skills against others in a safe, selective and sustainable way. Everyone should give a spearfishing competition a go at some stage, whether it is a social club competition or a state title, it is a fantastic opportunity to support local clubs, businesses and the sport we love in general.
I've put together a quick video of the weekend filmed on my new Contour Camera so keep an eye out on Monday when we post it up!
Pictures by: Karl Reece and Woody Falls