Ordinarily success is considered to be prosperous
progress in any field. Success means different things to different
people in different positions. What about success in spearfishing –
it’s also different for each spearo.
In this article of explain an equation derived by
Piet Van Rooyen (Diving and Spearfishing in South Africa) back in
the 1980’s. I then proceed further to alter it and explain the
is success in spearfishing. It is equal to the terms on the right
hand side of the = sign. Add those up and it could be possible to
predict the success of a spearfisherman with fair accuracy. Imagine
if you could predict your success in spearfishing outings – it would
take a lot of the hit and miss out of the hunts.
S = A + B x C + D + E + F + G
In the equation A is the availability of fish, B -
bottom time, C - times down, D - experience, E - marksmanship, F -
fish sense, alertness and instinct, and G is luck. These factors all
have an influence on a spearo’s success. If we can find out what
influences each factor we may be a big step closer to predicting our
success, or the lack of it.
A: Availability of Fish
The difference between greatness and
mediocrity is often how an individual views a mistake -
The first term, A, is availability of fish. Getting
to know the availability of fish in any area you dive is probably
going to have a large influence on your success as a spearo, fish
photographer or even if you are just a nature loving freediver.
A - Availability of fish is affected by:
Good quality reef - often produces good fish but
not always – here you need to either discover excellent new
reef(undived), or you must know exactly when to visit that reef
– find out what makes it fire and go then – normally these times
are not extensive i.e. narrow windows of opportunity.
Previous exploitation reduces the number of
residential or semi residential species, and some learn what a
spearo is – making them much smarter. On heavily exploited reefs
you must be fully aware of conditions that boost success and
advanced spearfishing techniques that can enhance performance.
Thermocline, fish do not like extreme
temperatures and fast rising cold water may increase the
presence of fish.
Observation is also important – knowing where
and how to look is important. You will also benefit from knowing
where and when not to look.
B: Bottom Time
You miss 100% of the shots [dives] you
don’t take - Wayne Gretzky
Term B in the equation is bottom time which depends
Lung capacity - it is said that we cannot change
lung capacity. Well I am not 100 % sure of that. Your diaphragm is
the "pump" driver – if you can improve the function of your
diaphragm then it is quite possible to increase the amount of air
Lungs can be compressed by a technique such as
Relaxation is very important – you need to be
relaxed, calm and extroverted.
Equipment is also very important – for example
switching from thermoplastic to carbon fins you may get an increased
depth range of say five meters on you operating depth – typically
one can add this five meters onto a 20 m depth thus giving a 25%
Training improves ones capacity to perform –
especially in deep or rough water where greater exertion is
C: Number of Dives
Times down or number of dives done (C) depends on:
Before everything else, getting ready is
the secret of success - Henry Ford
Water temperature which is one of the single
greatest determining factors of a spearo’s success. Factors that
influence water temperature include the strength and direction of
wind and current, season, air temperature, and in shallow areas
swell size(mixing thermocline and upper layers) and tide. Cold water
also slows up your work rate and even your mental processes if your
obviously affects your dive rate.
Other factors that heavily influence times down
include – current, depth and swell and the species of fish being
hunted. For some species one dives to the bottom and must wait for
40 seconds while with others one may shoot while still descending.
Factor D is Experience which depends your age and
frequency of diving. Whether you get the fish or not depends on how
we act on the sea floor or in midwater when a fish show up – certain
behaviour and body language will inform the fish of your intentions.
Violate these and you will probably not see that fish again. Often
in spearfishing you need to get a nice specimen of a certain type of
fish to "get on a roll" with that species – all of a sudden you get
them regularly while before you never had any success.
Success is the result of good judgment,
good judgment is the result of experience, and
experience is often the result of bad judgment - A
Marksmanship (E) depends on concentration,
visibility and equipment. Snipers did not become snipers by going
out into action and learning to shoot by knocking off enemy. Often
the great snipers of the wars were farm boys who spend many a day
traipsing through the woods or veld with a rifle slung over their
To get good at shooting you must shoot and shoot and
shoot some more with a good quality gun. You will need to be able to
concentrate, control muscles and steer your gun. Also you will need
to predict spear trajectories and distance. Judging of a fish’s
speed and direction will affect marksmanship.
On occasion you may have to judge the viability of a
shot and may purposely take a "poor" shot to permit penetration.
Marksmanship is a subject best learned at sea with a good gun after
brief review of physical phenomena at play.
Visibility also plays a role – you may need to shoot
fish which are out of sight at the time that you pull the trigger.
In such conditions you predict their swim route and shoot where you
expect the fish to be.
Term F consists of Alertness/instinct/fish sense
Fish sense is a spearo’s instinct that directs him
to the fish. There is also a logic component to fish sense - e.g.
the crackling of the reef can tell of the structure and hence
likelihood of getting fish in that direction. There are techniques
you may use to enhance your concentration and peripheral vision. It
is even possible to enhance your sixth sense that is capable of
alerting you of danger and make you aware of opportunity.
The final term, G, is the mystical Luck factor
What is luck? It’s defined as "good fortune". So, is
Donald Trump lucky? How about Bill Gates?
Do consistently successful people always have good
luck? Can one arrange things so as to bring about good luck?
Over the last 17 years I have spearfished and always
kept an eye on what influences my success, or the lack of it. I
sensed something was missing in Piet van Rooyen’s equation. What
factors push some divers far ahead of the pack, what brings "luck"?
Having been a keen student of personal development for longer than I
have spearfished I had a little insight into what was missing.
I think luck is the ability to recognize
an opportunity and the ability to take advantage of it -
To me something was missing in the equation. Having
thought about it on an off for 17 years I eventually altered the
equation by mixing into each term a powerful factor, M.
Mathematically it would look like this:
S = (A + B x C + D + E + F + G)M The whole equation
is raised to the power M
M is your Mindset and refers to:
desire to be successful,
In addition to these we must consider the leverage
factor. This is the ability of you, the diver, to achieve
efficiently by the use of reason to give you an edge. It is
synthesizing a winning combination.
It may involve activities such as doing variable
ballast dives to get fish in very deep water or "dry scouting" for a
competition using Garmin blue charts; or tapping into local
fishermen’s knowledge for a competition and much more.
Rubidge holds four South African spearfishing records
and represented SA as Springbok spearfisherman in 2007
in Spain. He is an author, holds a doctorate in
analytical chemistry, has done over 1300 dives and spent
more than 6000 hours at sea in the last 17 years.
Alternatively you may sit on shore while others dive
long and hard (inefficiently) for few fish because you know after
that after the wind has blown for two days in a certain direction
there will be an ice cold thermocline sending herds of awesome fish
onto reefs you know. From your dive records you distilled a model
for success and can apply that to future dives.