Category: Education

Wally Gibbins

A touching presentation speech for the Wally Gibbins Trophy read by David Birch at the 2015 USFA Awards night.

Walter Hammond Gibbins was born January 16th 1930 in Sydney. In the early 1940s he harpooned leatherjackets from the jetties of Sydney Harbour to feed his family before entering the water with his  homemade mask, snorkel, belts, a scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) system and speargun to chase bigger game so successfully that most speargun manufacturers use his speargun design even today.

Wally Gibbins - 68lb (30.8kg) Fairy Bower 1952
Wally Gibbins - 68lb (30.8kg) Fairy Bower 1952

Wally’s adventurous aquatic life was often compared to the leading French marine explorer Jacques Cousteau. He was a pioneer diver who spent thousands of hours exploring fish, shells and underwater salvage sites. He filmed many of this exploits for TV or films along with a team of high-profile names, including Ben Cropp and Ron and Valerie Taylor. Wally pioneered the trigger mechanism still used today in many guns.

He caught his first shark, a wobbegong, at Middle Head in 1947, and shot and landed the first man-eating shark in Australia - a bronze whaler in 1950. The capture of a shark by a skindiver (rather than a man being caught and eaten by a shark) created headline news. He also caught with a spear a 400-kilogram tiger shark at Sykes Reef near Heron Island in 1963.

In 1948 he helped form the Underwater Skindivers and Fishermen's Association at Long Reef , winning spearfishing competitions for the next 10 years, as well as the 1952 contest between anglers and spearmen. Wally single handedly caught more fish than all 37 anglers who had fished from the shore or boats. The rest of the spearos that turned up that day, may as well have stayed at home! Continue reading Wally Gibbins

The first South Coast Spearfishing Championships

From Australian Skindivers Magazine April 1964

Wollongong Carnival of Sport Spearing Championships

A proud moment for Judy Sorrenson (Port Kembla) with her trophies.
A proud moment for Judy Sorrenson (Port Kembla) with her trophies.

The Port Kembla Club certainly turned on a well-organized competition on March 14, in conjunction with the City of Greater Wollongong’s 3rd Annual Carnival of Sport. This club showed many of the larger metropolitan clubs that when they said we would have an enjoyable day – they certainly meant it! And the prizes – wow! Never ever have the NSW Executive seen such a line-up of really valuable trophies. No silverware or tin cups but sensible (if not rather too expensive) products including Electric Frypans, TV Lamps, Tea Sets, Sherry Decanter & Glasses, Toasters, Record Players, etc. Over 100 pounds worth of goods all purchased (not donated) by the organizers – the Port Kembla Skindiving Club.

Unfortunately the water was not the clearest although John Black and Brian Raison from Sans Souci Club scored over 300 points each. Bill Lewis caught the heaviest fish (a 25 lbs. Blue Groper) and took home a valuable trophy – a box of pilsener glasses. Continue reading The first South Coast Spearfishing Championships

USFA Press Release: Illegal Spearing of Grey Nurse Shark

Disturbing news is emerging tonight with reports and photographs on social media of two men with spear guns confronted on the beach at Mona Vale, Sydney with a speared Grey Nurse Shark on Sunday 2nd August 2015. The Underwater Skindivers and Fisherman’s Association (USFA) do not condone any illegal practise by NSW spearfishers who do not comply with Fisheries regulations and laws.

The juvenile 1.2m Protected Shark had been shot twice in the head and from an angle that denotes a deliberate act and not a result of self-defence.

When confronted the men feigned poor English and then said the shark had “tried to kill them” before throwing the dead shark back into the ocean along with the rest of their catch.

The two men fled the location in a champagne coloured Nissan Patrol 4WD still wearing wetsuits with numberplates being seen by a few and forwarded to Fisheries.

The Underwater Skindivers and Fisherman’s Association (USFA) would like to remind all spearfishers that every time you pull on a wetsuit you are representing not just yourself but the entire sport, that at all times you must uphold the highest level of ethical standards, abide by all laws and adhere to the USFA Rules and Regulations.

The USFA has also developed the Code of Conduct for Grey Nurse Sharks to assist spearfishers with their interactions with GNS.

This code represents the minimum standards of behaviour and actions required when Spearfishing in proximity to Grey Nurse Sharks. The code is part of the membership commitments to the Underwater Skindivers and Fishermen’s Association (USFA). It also serves as the default standard for all NSW Spearfishers.

Code of Conduct for Grey Nurse Sharks

When spearfishing near where Grey Nurse Sharks congregate:

  • Keep a minimum distance of five (5) metres at all times.
  • Do not knowingly allow sharks to steal catches.
  • Refrain from all forms of flashlight photography of sharks.
  • When sharks move to within five (5) metres discreetly retreat avoiding the projected path of the shark. If the sharks appear agitated, move out of the area.
  • Assist in any scientific research in conjunction with NSW DPI personnel.
  • Maintain and share records of shark populations to be able to ascertain whether they may be increasing or decreasing over periods.
  • When operating in Grey Nurse Shark locations, try to limit direct interaction.
  • Educate other spearfishers who may not be aware of, or otherwise regulated by the USFA code.

The Underwater Skindivers and Fisherman’s Association (USFA) would like all members to assist in any way possible to identify these men so that their details can be forwarded to Fisheries. Report illegal or suspect fishing activities to your nearest Fisheries Office or use the Fishers Watch Phone line on 1800 043 536 or complete the online report form. http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/compliance/report-illegal-activity
The USFA can also be alerted to assist via our Contact Us page. Please address the Secretary
Peter Walsh
USFA Vice President

Equalisation when diving

After conquering a few mental fears equalisation is normally the biggest obstacle that most spearfishers will encounter.

The reason we need to equalise is because it bloody hurts you if you don’t. How’s that for a good enough reason?

Seriously, hydrostatic pressure (10m ocean depth is equivalent to 1 mile high in the sky. We take approximately 10 seconds to arrive at 10m).  That’s why we need to equalise.  As you descend the water pressure increases hence the pressure increases inside your ear canal, hurting your tympanic membrane (ear drum) – you have to “equalise” this outside pressure by matching it with air pressure that you have inside you. Equalising maintains pressure balance between the middle ear space, the rest of the body and surrounding water.  The Eustachian tube comes into play here, this tube runs from the back of your nose to the air space of the middle ear. The tube is generally collapsed, opening when the “clearing” (equalising) process eventuates. When you experience the “crackle, pop” sounds you are equalising, relieving the pressure on the Tympanic membrane and sinus cavities. Correct technique and equalising before you experience discomfort is the key to comfortable spearfishing, and ensuring there is no chronic damage to your eardrums.

Middle Ear Pressure
Middle Ear Pressure

Continue reading Equalisation when diving

Submarine Spearsman – The Queenslander – 1 July 1937

Submarine Spearsman

1937       1 July 1937

The possibility of spearing fish under water is queried by “H.V. In doing so, he challenges the traditional manner of fishing employed by the almost amphibian Torres Straits Island natives. Armed with long spears, Binghi in these parts ventures down several fathoms in search of the finny quarry, and disappears from sight for minutes on end to emerge with a wriggling fish or crayfish impaled on the spear point.

In this submarine venture Binghi wears a pair of “swim glasses” or water tight goggles, which protects his eyes from salt water irritation and permit some yards of under sea vision.

Binghi’s spear thrusts do not have to depend on chance for a success, as they are the result of a perfectly developed marksmanship. So sure of his prowess is the native that on occasions he is able to transfix the brain box of the fish so that it dies instantly, instead of stampeding the rest of the fishy school by its death flurry on the spear point.

LAETITTIA

From:   The Queenslander 1 July 1937 Pg. 2

Spear Fishing – Cairns Post – 1940

Spear Fishing

1940       13 May

Spear Fishing is rapidly becoming a leading sport amongst the youth of Innisfail. The spear employed, unlike the four-pointed spear used by the aborigines, consists of a length of iron with a sharp barb at one end. The swimmers, who wear water glasses, enters the water and submerges to await the fish. When a fish comes near the end of the spear the swimmer makes a jab, and if successful, immediately raises the point to prevent the fish from escaping.

From: Cairns Post 13 may 1940, pg. 6

Angles on Angling

Angles on Angling

1947       9th May

24 years old Alf Rowen, who conducts a bootmaking establishment in Crown Street Wollongong, has a natty fish catching device.

None of this old-fashioned sinker and line business for Alf – he has a “sear-gun” that fires a 4ft. 6in. stainless steel shaft UNDERWATER!

He dons goggles and a lead – weighted belt (to keep him steady on the sea floor), shoulders his “spear-gun,” takes a deep breath and dives into the depths.

Usually, Alf hides himself under a ledge, or in a hole, and lays in wait for some large, unsuspecting fish.

He claims he never worries about the small ones and during Easter, at Sussex Inlet, the average weight of 80 fish caught was 1 3/4 to 2lbs.

Alf will be ‘shooting’ them on Sunday morning between eight and eleven o’clock, just off the Wollongong Continental Baths.

DAVID HENWOOD

From:   Illawarra Mercury Friday 9 May 1947 pg.1