Despite warnings on hyperventilation given by spearfishing clubs and their state association, the NSW Underwater Federation, near drowning from the practice still occur in spearfishing contests.
After making six deep dives during the Australian Spearfishing Championships at Ulladulla last Christmas, Ray Johnson, 18, of Kingsford, hyperventilated for about 45 seconds before making a seventh descent.
He swam down about 70ft. As the fish were “Spooking” – shying out of range – he decided to explore a cave, a rash act at that depth.
“I saw something at the back of the cave and tried to get a better look,” Johnson recalls “but realised I had been down too long”.
It was New Years Eve in 1995 when Mark Colys and Zane O’Brien phoned me up. They were camped at Park Beach Caravan Park, Coffs Harbour, for their annual holidays with family. Mark and Zane were keen for a dive on New Years Day.
I had met Mark down at the National Titles in Eden in 1994, one year earlier (which he won). It was over 1,000kms drive each way to the Aussie Championships, so I talked my good mate Wally Gibbins from Sawtell into accompanying me for some companionship.
I was living at Sandy Beach, NSW, and the long drive to Eden was one never to be forgotten with Wally as Co-pilot, and Ted Lehman from Sydney also. The stories that Wally told us in great detail of his adventures in the Solomon Islands - how he salvaged all the scrap bronze propellers he could from wartime wrecks, to how he and the natives collected tons of both live and dead ammunition from the sea floor for sale – seemed to be both adrenalin filled, and endless. Wally was to spear-fishing, what Zane Grey was to game-fishing – a pioneer sportsman, avid storyteller, and adventurer the likes of which we may never see again on the planet.