From September 15-19, the beautiful Greek Island of Syros in the Aegean Sea, hosted the biennial World Confederation of Underwater Activities (CMAS) World Spearfishing Championships. Australia sent a team of 3 divers and a team manager.
75 of the world’s best spearfishermen from 25 countries to hunt in the crystal clean (up to 40m visibility) and warm (23-24oC) waters of the designated competition zones over two days assigned for the fishing competition. The very high fishing pressure that the region has seen, meant that this competition was going to be the deepest and most dangerous of any of the world spearfishing championships held to date. Divers suffered from decompression sickness, shallow water blackouts and lung squeezes from breath hold diving down to 60m or more in order to bag an eligible grouper and other species.
Image: Author hunting at the interface of the Posidonia oceanica seagrass
The competition rules are very strict and each diver is assigned his own boat, with a skipper and a ‘commissar’ (judge) to ensure that the rules of the competition and fisheries are followed. The competition was very tough with a number of divers not managing to shoot any fish at all, not to mention many eligible (fish above a given weight) during the competition.
Fish that are shot, which are well below the minimum weight, attract a penalty and if any bag limits are exceeded, then the competitor risks disqualification. Most of the top divers managed 3-4 fish per day, with the norm being around 1-2 fish per day of 5 hours of competition. Australia originally placed 17th, but penalties on day 2 saw us drop to 22nd position. The competition was won by the Greek team, with Italy second and Cyprus placing third.
Image: Team members Gunther Pfrengle, Graham Carlisle & Emanuel Bova (left to right)
This is the pinnacle competition for spearfishing, with the added honour of being able to represent your country. Thus, there is a very high level of organisation, commitment, preparation and profile associated with the competition by both the athletes, the competing countries and hosting association. All of which requires a lot of time and money to prepare and compete, but with great reward. I certainly enjoyed the experience and would like to thank Recfishwest and Bluewater Freedivers of WA for their support and assisting me with the opportunity to represent my country in this fantastic sport.
Graham Carlisle (Member of 2016 Australian Spearfishing Team)
Image: The team with non-competing support readying for the opening parade