Spearo to Speara: meet Valentine Thomas
Did you know the term for a female Spearo is a Speara? Possibly not, as there are not many out there – perhaps 1% of us? We’re really keen to challenge this and Valentine will be diving and writing with the team to give you a Speara’s take on our favourite sport. You can read her first post below:
“Coming from Canada which is a cold country where diving is not a popular activity, I had never heard of spearfishing until last year. I did my PADI qualification in a pool, in February 2009, when it was -40C outside and with a broken heater in the building. No need to say that diving hadn’t made a great impression on me!
Two years later, after I moved to London, a good friend of mine convinced me to do a freediving stage in Egypt with Umberto Pelizzari. I fell immediately in love with diving and the sea. In a subsequent trip to the Seychelles, my friend and I had a discussion with few locals regarding spearfishing. When I came back for Christmas, I immediately called them to arrange a spearfishing trip on Praslin Island. I had in the villa a 130 Rob Allen, that even after few hours of examination, I could not figure out how to work! The morning after, I took the ferry at 7am by myself from Mahé to Praslin in order to meet the guys.
After waiting over 2 hours on the beach for somebody to bring us some petrol, we headed out a few miles away from the shore on what I could only call a floating wreck. We stopped next to few rocks where the current was very strong; nobody stayed in the boat, which was anchored near the rocks. We only had one gun between three of us, which was under 60cm in length with a shooting line rolled up on a wooden stick, held by one of the guys (who was wearing an old wetsuit at least 4 sizes too big with the zipper broken). Despite this primitive equipment (the spear bounced off a 5kg jobfish that was less than 2 meters away from me), I managed to catch 3 parrotfish and the other guys a peacock grouper. Proud of my first catches, we came back to the shore, where the boat broke down and had to be pushed to reach the shore! It was only when I sat in the ferry that I realized how crazy and dangerous that first experience was. But the passion arose and I could not wait to do it again.
After hearing about my experience in the Seychelles, my friends who were planning a trip to Ascension decided to invite me. I immediately accepted! I will not say that I was not scared, I watched videos of the island, looked at pictures and…watched a documentary on sharks! I was a pretty nervous as we took the plane from Brize Norton to Ascension Island.
When we landed at 8am, Colin came to pick us up. He dropped us at the hotel and gave us an hour to get our gear together and get on the boat. On the boat, I was very excited and nervous at the same time. We started at Botswain Bird Island where one of the guys taught me how to use a real speargun. After a few lessons and a lot of time rolled up in my floating line looking like a Christmas tree, I was finally familiar with my 130 Rob Allen and ready to go. Next we went to the famous Arienne Ledge trying to find some tuna. The weather got very bad and it was raining quite heavily. The waves were 2-3 meters high and the current was strong. I was sitting on the boat, fins in the water…hyperventilating! The sea looked dark and quite scary. I told myself: “if you don’t go now, your fear would take over you the entire trip, go in the water for 15 minutes just to get confortable and get out!” I took a deep breath, and jumped in the water. I did a dive of 15 meters to play a bit with my gun and get used to it. When I was out of air, I went to the surface and right before I reached the surface I was facing a 10kg black Jack! I stopped thinking about going to breathe and aimed for the fish.
As it swam away, I waited a bit, and as it turned around I shot it directly in the brain. The fish was stoned and wasn’t moving. A bit surprised, I came up to the surface, with blue lips and seeing stars. After I got my breath back, I still had to grab my fish and get it on the boat which was 15 meters away in the strong current. Exhausted and proud, I finally got back on the boat with my catch. It was a heavy first day, but it gave me the strength and motivation to push myself for the rest of the week.
Despite the ridiculous amount of dead trigger fish in the water (I probably swallowed more than 5kg of them during the week) , it was an amazing trip and I cannot wait to go back next year to try to catch a World Record fish with Titus, Tony and Colin next January. The trigger fish die off once in a while due to overpopulation and it was bad luck to arrive when this was happening!
Until then, I will be practicing and discovering the waters off Portland with Titus, Cameron and Rory where I am impatient to catch my first Bass!”