Ambassador – That’s a grand title.
Why should we even contemplate forcing on ourselves the role of being an ambassador for the sports that we love? The answer is simple…
Not everyone else loves them as much as we do.
Freediving has for many years now had the outward image of being a sport for superheros…an ego fueled endeavor. Bronzed athletes, strutting and posing for their adoring fans, shooting burning gazes in to the distance, so busy contemplating the dive ahead or the meaning of their own existence that everything else around them fades to grey. All striving towards the image of an idealised water borne soul.
This facade has without a doubt contributed to the slow uptake of what is actually a very accessible sport, more so than SCUBA in reality, with little kit to buy and less danger in regards to decompression.
Thankfully the sport is gaining ground now, and we are seeing more and more people learning to freedive (and spearfish… more on this in a bit). With this increase of popularity we must be even more mindful of its image, both to new participants and anyone watching on (i.e the press).
So, with freedivings current public image in mind, we can see how we may need to act to change peoples perception and how to keep the flow of new participants joining in and not being scared off before they even dip a toe in the water.
Be open, honest, respectful, modest.
These are the traits that we need to display to the ‘public’ when talking about this wonderful sport. No superheros allowed. This not only gives a better, less imposing impression of freediving to those willing to listen, but it puts you as an athlete in an enviable position of genuinely surprising , impressing and most importantly inspiring people, when they finally get to see it being done for real.
Freediving shouldn’t be kept as our little secret, spread the news, share the love! It could even effect the planet as a whole, with more people getting in to the water, they get to see the amazing things that we do…
You have to love it, before you are moved to save itSylvia Earle
Now this is a bigger subject. If freediving has a reputation of being extreme and dangerous, only for the foolhardy, then spearfishing takes that to another level. Its partly due to this that its popularity is soaring, worldwide.
For me, spearfishing is an efficient and eminently sustainable way of putting food on the table. I know that in a world that is becoming increasingly homogenised and pre-packaged, I can take myself off to a truly wild place and gather food that its not only fresh and delicious, but ethically sourced.
For others though, the lure of spearfishing is that it is seen as being the ultimate test, something extreme for only the few that dare, a battle of wits under the waves between man and beast (cue Captain Nemo on the deck of the Nautilus fending off the Kraken with a dessert spoon). Now, I don’t really care if this is what you best associate with, i wouldn’t want to get in the way of your own ego… but think wider, think beyond your own little bubble, think about the sport as a whole.
Most people who are ignorant to the truth behind the sustainable values of spearfishing think of it as a blood thirsty and aggressive sport. They think that spearfishing is cruel, they think that industrial fishing is actually better, they genuinely don’t understand. And its to that majority that we MUST tailor our image, after all the majority will always win. We have already seen it happen recently, with the 3 Bass limit being put on recreational anglers and not the commercial fishing industry. This is not a David and Goliath tale, in this story i’m afraid Goliath will no doubt eventually win (lets just try to avoid Goliath shall we?). Its so easy for the powers that be to clamp down on spearfishing, its literally an easy target, so much easier than the commercial fishing industry. Don’t like that? Neither do I, but its the truth and its not going to change anytime soon. Just please don’t hand the executioner the axe.
Its your responsibility as an ambassador for spearfishing that you belay the publics fears and misconceptions. How can you do this?
- Speak to people, modestly, about your chosen route to putting fish on the table, explain to them the facts, more often then not you can totally change their opinions.
- Avoid, wherever possible, ‘posing’ for photos with your catch. Now I don’t think the odd image of you nonchalantly holding a fish will do much harm, but lets not get in to any position that A: Disrespects the catch or B: Depicts spearfishing in anyway that could be seen as a hyper aggressive activity. I won’t go in to any examples, but you know what kind of thing i mean. Social media is one way we will see negative images shared far beyond our circles to then be seen by those who really don’t understand the context.
- Fish well within current legislation, respect sizes, respect species type, respect conservation zones.
- Think twice about spearfishing at night. Its illegal in many countries as its an easy way of getting lots of fish. Spots in the Med have been fished out by spearos going in at night.
- When entering or exiting the water, do so discretely and without scaring other water users. Spearguns are very scary and threatening things to many people (fair enough really).
We are very lucky in the UK, we have great seas, lots to fish for and dive with and we are under very little legislation. In other countries, where spearfishing has been more popular for longer you need licences for everything. A gun licence, and license to fish for certain species, a licence to fish from certain regions, illegal to fish at night, the list goes on. Now, we don’t want that, do we? I’m sure you would also agree that we live in, what is becoming more and more so, a nanny state, with boring little men in dark suits and horn rimmed glasses just desperate to think of the next thing to restrict and legislate. And unfortunately, I fear they will… lets just try to hold it off for as long as possible, and when that day comes lets have as much on our side as possible.
So, the next time you drape your catch over your shoulders and pose for that facebook selfie… are you being a good ambassador for the sport that you and I love so dearly?
I hope you don’t think this was too preachy. I say it all with the best possible motives, to keep our sports popular, safe and unrestricted. Freediving and spearfishing can offer so much, to so many people, it would be a shame to restrict that through either maintaining a facade of impenetrable perfection or because of mounting legislation.
Be an ambassador!
Dive safe people! x