Much of the south African coastline is rugged and exposed to wind, swell and surf from both the Indian and Atlantic ocean and to reach the reefs swimming in from shore one has to negotiate these elements.
Our coast does not have the pristine conditions found in the tropics or meditteranean and really calm settled seas are found only for a few days of the year mainly at the beginning of winter around May and in summer around January/February. for the rest it is constant surf unless in the sheltered bays or peninsulas along the western cape side.
Physical fitness and good light weight equipment are both pre requisites especially a good pair of fins when entering through the surf line and exiting after the duration of a dive.
Generally the swell and wave size averages 1,2 -1,5 m along our eastern shores but peaks from 2 -4 m in rough seas and these type of conditions are definitely not recommended for beginners. In fact anything over 2m is downright dangerous.
For guys new to the sport of spearfishing or cray-fishing here are some important things and safety factors to bear in mind when doing an entry and exit along the shoreline :
- Preferably dive with a buddy and learn an area from a more experienced spearo or cray diver as well as as much information as you can from a local as to where the reefs are in proximity to the shore line and best and most safe spot for your entry and exit.(In reasonable conditions)
- Have a plan for your dive taking into account you may have to exit at an alternative point if conditions change during the duration of your dive which they often unexpectedly do (Current may change, tide ,wind etc)
- Pick a spot with the easiest point of entry for swimming out like an outgoing rip or sandy beach with not too many rocks to negotiate on the way out and likewise your point of exit which could be the same spot but preferably an area of sandy beach close to your entry point or within a few hundred meters of it. A rocky shoreline can present a hazard so look for a bay both north and south where you will possibly have to swim in.
- Windguru gives a reasonably accurate prediction a few days ahead in swell or surf size.
- Take the time to watch the sea and wave movement for a good few minutes before you decide to enter which you and your buddy should agree on, If your gut feel tells you “No’’ then rather choose a day when you feel more comfortable or a calmer sea.
- Surf usually appears smaller than what it is from a distance and comes in sets (With calms in between) for this reason it is important to asses it properly.
- I usually consider the swimming out through surf more difficult than the return swim in.
- Wear fin guards, it is easy to lose an expensive fin or both should you get dumped in the surf zone- the rubber Y straps are still the best and reasonably inexpensive when compared to a set of good long bladed fins which these days are seldom under R1000.
- Be aware of where your buddy is when swimming out and try to time your entry both together- this way you are less likely to be separated and also link up once you are behind the backline before proceeding out deeper.
- Keep your bouy line of the speargun as short as possible on both the swim out and back in, it can be wrapped around the speargun or tied in a looped bunch secured at both ends – this lessens the drag on the bouy which bears the brunt of the incoming breakers as you dive beneath them, similarly swimming in and especially with a few fish on the bouy against (If you happen to encounter) an outgoing rip will create additional drag if the bouy is too far behind you.
Once you have completed your dive behind the surf zone or a reef a few hundred meters out and have decided to swim in, confirm with your buddy, swim up just before the backline, wrap up excess bouy line, rest up for a few minutes, let the bigger swells pass ahead of you and tuck in behind a wave aiming at your desired point of exit on the beach. Look over your shoulder now and again, duck a bigger breaker or two if they come in behind you and let the smaller foamies assist in pushing you in whilst still swimming. Look out for rocks as you approach the shallows and walk backwards up the beach facing the sea.
Should you find yourself in a dire situation either swimming out or in- never panic and the weightbelt should be ditched in an emergency where the wetsuit will provide adequate buoyancy and also acts as a ‘life vest’
These are a few general important pointers.
Article kindly provided by Darrell Hattingh