Always keen to add unique experiences to the site, this week we’ve introduced a brand new and exclusive spearfishing experience in Cornwall and Weymouth! To find out a bit more about this instinctual sport, we spoke to Tony who runs the courses. Read on for tales of 18-foot tiger sharks and world record sailfish…
1) Hi Tony, thanks for agreeing to this interview! Please start by explaining your journey as ‘Spearfishing Ltd’ so far.
You could say that Spearfishing Ltd has been a by-product of my obsessions and journey with the sport as a whole, including the amazing places I have been and some awesome people I have been lucky enough to meet. The ethos behind the company is that I want it to represent the very pinnacle of the very best of everything relating to the sport. From the finest equipment, the most extreme holidays on the planet and the best courses by the best people I can find. I have zero interest in selling mediocre products on the site because they are cheap and easy to push – there are enough of those sites out there already. It’s also safe to say I have no interest in running a cost cutting, corner cutting operation. We supply the best products and services at the price it costs and that’s that.
In realty this came really easy to me, because I only use the very best gear, I only go to the best places and I’m fortunate enough to hang around with incredible spearo’s. You could say the company is a retail representation of my passion for spearfishing.
The challenges for the company are the usual operational ones most companies experience I guess. Dealing with manufactures and couriers etc. The people we train always seem to be awesome which I think is rare for any company working with the general public. Spearfishing naturally seems to attract generally awesome people from all walks of life – this makes every day unique and exciting. If I didn’t enjoy it I simply wouldn’t do it but the days doing tuition really are the best days of my week. We always seem to end up having a great laugh and having crazy adventures one way or another. We call these experience days ‘free pint generators’, as they always seem to create great stories you can share with your friends at the pub afterwards.
2) Sounds like fun! What makes your experiences exciting and different from others?
There’s nothing out there that comes close to what we do. You’ll feel like a navy seal on operations as soon as you’re in your stealth black / camo wetsuit loading your 1 meter long Rob Allen railgun off to hunt something for the BBQ. Free diving down into the depths where 99% of the population will never dare to go puts you firmly in the 1% of badass. The truth is everyone could do it as long as you’re relatively fit and healthy. The biggest battle is in your mind because it feels so alien and extreme to be hunting while holding your breath 10 meters underwater.
The rewards are immense. Huge Sea bass that will make you laugh at everyone paying £5 in the supermarket for something that looks more like a sardine. Fresh lobsters, squid, scallops etc it’s sportlicious!
3) Sportlicious, what a great word. Do you have any exclusive information you can share with us?
The best thing you can do in the run up to an experience day is work on your breath hold. The more comfortable you are holding your breath the more fun you will have. Wanting air is the sucky bit to the sport as everyone loves their air and don’t like to be without it 🙂 I’m not interested in how long people can hold their breath for while sat down and relaxed, everyone can do that. What people need to work on is holding their breath while doing light exercise, like walking. Remember when we are in the ocean you will be kicking your legs, paddling etc, so it’s important we replicate this as much as we can.
Try going for walk in a safe place like on the beach or a grassy park and start holding your breath. You don’t need push yourself too hard. Rest for 2 minutes after each breath hold then repeat the process about 6 – 8 times. Do this 4 times a week for a couple of weeks before the experience day and you’ll be putting the rest of guys to shame. There’s far more information on the website about this and it’s well worth doing.
4) (Holding my breath whilst typing)… Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you’d like to tell us about?
Personally I’m going for the world record sailfish next year. I already caught it once but I didn’t realise so it ended up on the BBQ before I could claim it. I fully intend to right that wrong!
We are also going to start doing group camping weekends were we hunt by day and BBQ everything in the evening. We’ve got loads of kayaks and normal fishing gear to so it’s a real mixed bag. It’s a far more laid back approach to learning with everything geared at having fun and creating some great adventure at the same time – I think these will be a fantastic opportunity to meet new people and learn from each other.
I’m not really fussed about competitors, what will be, will be. I think people are sick of budget low quality offerings and naturally gravitate to us because of that reason. The passion we have for the sport shines through our site, products and services. If we get beaten on that front then we deserve to be out of business.
5) Camping sounds like so much fun! I bet you’ll get loads of people interested in that. What would you say is your most frequently asked question?
It’s always about the guns and gear, what’s the best beginner gun, what’s the best size for the UK, is carbon better than aluminium. People love their toys, hell I know I do, and they want to make sure they are making a smart choice because it’s costing them a lot of money they have worked hard to get. I understand that completely and have been known to spend hours on the phone helping people with orders. It’s all good I love it all.
In the water it’s always about how deep do I need to go and how long do I need to be able to hold my breath for. The answer is a bit of a fortune cookie response but if you’re focusing on those two elements then you’re focusing on the wrong things. Ultimately spearfishing is about the hunt, reading the signs and tapping into your hunters instinct that has been ingrained into your DNA through 6 million years of your ancestors winning the survival of the fittest contest. You have to learn to trust your gut and act accordingly.
6) Very instinctual. What’s the craziest thing to ever happen during a course?
We were at Kennack sands in Cornwall on day 2 of a 2 days course. We were round the back of point chasing bass and the vis was about 5 meters. I think was talking about the difference between bass and mullets when a couple of huge dorsal fins appear 20 metres away heading in our direction. The group went silent, followed by some panic, followed by the realisation they were basking sharks. They swam right at us and then turned away about 2 meters away, it’s was amazing. These things are massive and although gentle giants the whole experience is still very heart in mouth.
Basking shark visits are not unheard of on the courses but normally I know if they are around so this unexpected surprise was a real event. I was totally stoked for the guys, most people are lucky to see that sort of thing on the TV never mind in real life.
Next year I’m taking a blind guy spearfishing. He’s an amazing individual called Dean Dunbar and he runs a site called Extreme Dreams aimed at showing other people with difficult circumstances that anything really is possible, by undertaking crazy challenges. He’s an inspiration to me and I can’t wait. I’ll be free diving down with him and tapping on his shoulder to give him targeting directions. This guy’s completely insane so we get on great and I think he’s going to smash this challenge.
7) We know Dean, we’ve worked with him before! Any other information you’d like to add?
During one of my earlier holidays on Ascension Island me and my mate Titus Bradley were targeting tuna using a technique called drifting. Basically we had a RIB which is a fast inflatable boat, the type you often see the coast guard use. Then we had about 20 meters of rope floating behind it with an underwater sail deployed at the end of it. The idea is we hang on to the rope in the water and the sail stops the boat drifting too fast. We drift over these crazy under water ledges that drop off into the abyss as you get all kinds of monsters coming up feeding on the shallower fish.
Now it sounds a bit Darwin, but the way we attract the big fish is to chum. So me and Titus were both latched on to this rope cutting chunks off some blackjacks we had shot earlier, a nice meaty fish. We had been in the water about 30 mins and had created a giant blood slick with bits of fish sinking down into the blue. We were both total pumped as we knew were in a tuna hot spot and there was a great chance of raising a big shoal. I turned towards the boat to look at Titus just to see if there was anything going on his end then all of a sudden I see his eyes widen slightly and then feel a large amount of light being blocked from my prevail view. About 3 meters to my right is a 18 foot tiger shark. I had never seen anything like it in my life; it was truly ginormous and felt much bigger in real life compared to videos I had watched.
The tiger shark is pretty famous for being in the top 3 type of shark you don’t really want to be around alongside great whites and bull sharks. In micro moments I’ve assessed my situation, I’m floating in a giant pool of blood and guts next to a ginormous pelagic predator holding a half chummed fish – the diagnosis largely one of regret…
The problem both me and Mr Bradley faced was that it was between us and boat, it was checking out our flasher which was tied onto the rope near the boat. A flasher is just a load of shiny things dangling about 6 meters underwater that catch the light and attract fish – clearly working.
In a moment of heart stopping life in front of your eyes Hollywood worthy action, it did a 180 on the spot and turned straight towards. I couldn’t believe such a humongous creature could turn so quickly in such a small turning circle. With one flick of its tail its enormous body of meat and teeth glided straight forward us. About 3 meters away it flicked its tail again and slightly adjusted its course heading for the sail.
That was all the time we needed, walking on water we were back in the boat with seconds. Neither of us had ever managed a quicker water exit before and it would probably take another giant shark to replicate it.
Looking back we spent about a minute watching this shark shred our sail to pieces, it was awesome. I’d never seen such effortless raw power. As the adrenaline started to subside I looked down and noticed I was still holding a half chummed blackjack in my hand. In all the excitement I had forgot to get rid of it! I must have thrown that thing about 30 meters when I realised.