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    Inter-Pacific Spearfishing Competition Hiva Oa 2022

    November 11, 2022 29 min read

    Inter-Pacific Spearfishing Competition Hiva Oa 2022

    Trevors Tale, words by Trevor Ketchion

    It all started for me in mid-July 2022 when I received a phone call from Adrian Wayne asking me if I might be interested in being part of the Australian inter pacific spearfishing team as one of the previously selected members had to drop out due to other commitments. At that stage of my life, I had neither the time nor the finances to take part in such an endeavour but I could not let an opportunity like this slip my grasp because something like this does not come along to someone like me very often or even at all. So, after sleeping on the offer I had to say yes then I thanked him for such an opportunity and began the frantic preparation process.

    After agreeing to become part of the team I found out who my teammates were going to be and where it was going to be held which filled me with great excitement as well as great trepidation as the other members of the team were far more experienced than I was and it was to be held in Hiva Oa which is a small island in the middle of the pacific ocean in French Polynesia. So I knew I had my work cut out for me.

    The first organisational hurdle I had to overcome was finding the time to go to the event which was going to be held across the dates of the 21st of October until the 1st of November. Luckily my wife’s family were incredibly supportive and arranged a schedule and came together to make sure my daughter Freya would be looked after in my absence for which I am very grateful. If it wasn’t for their help I would have never been able to have been involved in this opportunity.

    Then came the second problem which was to put it simply I was broke. I barely had a dollar to my name so where was I personally let alone a team of eight people going to find the money required to fund such an endeavour, a competition on a small island in the middle of the pacific ocean? At that time I estimated would roughly cost around $6000 - $8000 per person to be able to get there and back and cover the costs required to scout and compete.

    My first call was to Adreno where I worked to see if they would be able to help with fundraising as well as equipment for the competition. They graciously obliged donating $5000 to go towards costs and $2000 of stock value to be used for prizes for fundraising. They also supplied wetsuits for the team to use which was very nice. Alas, I never got to wear mine during the competition which was a shame but we will come to that part of the story later.
    At this stage, the other members of the team also started to franticly try to fundraise as we only had two months now to get ready to go. On the west coast, we had Vin Rushworth running raffles supplied by Aussie reels, Spear West and Gyatku by Derek.

    Graham Carlighe held some auctions and raffles supplied by Old man blue and gyotaku by Derek. Over on the east coast, Kate Rodgers was running supplied by Penetrator fins and Madfish as well as Taylah Martindale holding a raffle supplied by Dive R fins and Jarrad McKenzie holding one.
    I feel I should pause for the moment in the story at this point to thank all of the sponsors who donated prizes and equipment to the team to say we appreciate it greatly is an understatement and we would have never been able to represent our country without all of your support. Now is also a good time to thank everyone who bought tickets in the raffles, at the sausage sizzles or donated to the GoFundMe account without all of your support as well we would have been up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

    So after two months of begging, scrounging and donations we managed to scrape together a reasonable sum to go towards covering the costs of the competition. While this was happening a lot of other preparations were being made for the competition including but not limited to learning all the species, making fishing identification charts, getting team banners made, getting team shirts made, finding accommodation, finding boats and drivers, organising multiple flights, learning and memorising the rules and so much more.

    Now the time had come first to leave were Bryson Shehy and Vin Rushworth who flew out on the 19th from WA then on the 21st of October 2022 the rest of the men’s team including myself, Jarrad McKenzie, Graham Carligh and the lady's team consisting of Taylah Martindale, Kate Rodgers and Joe Martindale flew out from our respective local capital cities aiming to meat up in NewZealand.

    I was dropped off at Brisbane airport for the first of many flights that would eventually get me to Hiva Oa. My first flight was from Brisbane to Auckland which all went off without a hitch but my good luck was not to hold out much longer.

    Upon arriving at Auckland airport I went to the baggage pick-up area where I waited and searched for my sports tube which was nowhere to be found after waiting for a considerable time and my next flight getting closer and closer I went to the baggage claims desk to ask where it might be.

    After a quick search, I was informed that due to the nature of my flights and the fact that they were close together my sports tube had been transferred to my next flight directly and was told not to worry. Because this was the first time in my life travelling internationally and only my 5th time travelling by plane at all I believed them and went on my way to check back in through security and customs for my next flight.

    While checking back in however I was handed the sticker to go onto my sports tube which confused and worried me as I thought to myself that if the sticker is in my hand how could it possibly be on my bag so once I had made it inside the international terminal I went to the international transfers desk to again check on the location of my sports tube and just to make sure it was going to be on the plane.

    Once again I was assured I had nothing to worry about and that the bag had been transferred and was on the plane and that the sticker was just a repeat printing as part of the check-in process. So even though I was still paranoid I believed them and went to find the rest of my team. After a short while I found Joe, Taylah and Kate from the ladies team and shortly after ran into Graham and Jarrad as well.

    Once we were all together we decided to get something to eat at one of the airport establishments where the team could also get a cold refreshing libation to relax before the next flight.

    Upon arriving at this establishment, lo and behold we found team New Zealand who also had similar plans so we sat down to have a jar with our cross-Tasman rivals. During this time the team members of both teams who had competed before had a catch-up and filled each other in on their recent endeavours. During these conversations, I heard mentioned a few times how they all had had to pick up their bags and recheck them for the upcoming flight and how it had been a little bit of a hassle.

    After hearing this I began to wonder again why everyone else had had to do this was my sports tube the only one that had been transferred directly and became very worried so I politely excused myself and ran through the airport to the gate where we would be boarding to once again ask if my sports tube was actually on the plane. The lady at the counter looked very perplexed by my line of questioning but once again assured me that my bad had been loaded onto the plane and I had nothing to worry about I was not put at ease by this but I thought what else could I do and went back to my teammates and waited to board the flight.

    A short while later the Kiwi and Australian teams boarded the flight to Papeete (Tahiti) which was to be around a 6-hour journey most members of both teams either tried to get some rest or stay “hydrated” to pass the time. However, I spent the time pouring over the rules and species list desperately trying to distract myself from the terrifying feeling that my baggage was not going to be waiting for me when I arrived at our next destination.

    Eventually, at 12.15 AM local time we touched down in Pepetee and made our way to the baggage claim area after everyone else collected their sports tubes alas my equipment was nowhere to be seen my heart sank in my chest as I then went to try and find the baggage claim area.

    On my way there I ran into a nice lady who had a piece of paper with my name highlighted on it so I asked her why she had my name highlighted and she told me that they thought my luggage might be missing so I went with her to fill out the missing luggage report. After about half an hour of difficult communication due to language barriers, we eventually filled in the report to the best of our abilities and I went out to tell my teammates that my equipment had been lost and I had nothing to dive with and the extra equipment like the floats and dive compasses I was bringing for them were also missing in action.

    After telling them this I went for a walk to vent and try and collect myself before the next flight to Hiva Oa which wasn’t to leave until 5.30 in the morning those who could try to catch up on some sleep on the concrete floor outside the airport but unfortunately due to the recent events I was unable to I tried to cover my emotions as to not worry the team but to say I was ropable at this point was an understatement as I had to deal with the fact that on three separate occasions at the New Zealand airport either the staff didn’t actually check, know or care about the answers to my enquiries or they had straight up lied to my face.

    Nothing to do now but move on and do my best. So, as the sun rose over the ocean we boarded a small plane to Hiva Oa and began the last leg of the trip.

    Flying over beautiful volcanic islands and coral atolls I tried to instead put my mind to thinking about possible solutions to the problem that had now presented itself and to remind myself to stay in the moment and again went back into studying the species list and maps of the competition zones.

    Three hours later we landed on a small airstrip on top of an island mountain and were greeted with rousing drums, horns being blown fashioned from trumpet snails shells while having flower necklaces placed around our necks all the while having local songs and chants filling the small airport it was an amazing welcome from some amazing people.

    After a short welcome ceremony, we were helped to load our equipment, well those who had their equipment into vans and we were given a bus ride to our accommodation in town.

    Upon arriving we met up with Vin and Bryson who had arrived a day or so beforehand and the team was finally complete. Once we had unpacked Vin, Bryson and Jarred decided to go for a shore dive outside of the competition zone to get to know the species and find out some weights on the fish.

    I, however, being exhausted from not sleeping and being very dehydrated thought I would sit this dive out to try and rest, recover and track down my luggage. After an hour of trying to contact air New Zealand without any luck due to all of their phone numbers for luggage requests being disconnected and no response to either my emails or the emails of Air Tahiti I resigned myself to the fact that it was not likely to turn up in a timely manner so I started to ask and around town and the other members of teams to see if I could borrow equipment to use for the scouting part of the competition.

    From Yan the organiser of the competition I borrowed a fabric Salvimar weight belt and some lead. From Teiki who was competing in the local competition running at the same time as the inter-pacifics, I borrowed his old 2 mm Tahitian suit and a set of plastic JBL Esclapez green fins. A mask and snorkel I borrowed of Bryson, some gloves from Graham, some 1mm socks from Kate and for a dive bag I found a banana box to keep it all in and my rag-tag dive equipment was ready to go most of it was either very well used or the wrong size but to me, it was perfect as it would allow me to dive and start scouting.

    Unfortunately, the majority of my cameras and housings were also packed in my sports tube but Taylah very graciously leant me her go pro dive housing so that I could film while I scouted as this helps set up landmarks and gives a visual to then be able to go over again to memorise the areas well. By now night had fallen and the boys had returned from their shore dive telling us the information they had gathered and that it was awesome country and quite fishy getting us very excited for the next day. We had arranged to meet our boat driver at 6.30 at the marina in the morning so we went to bed to get some rest.

    I awoke early as I don’t sleep well at the best of times and decided to pack the equipment into the hire Ute for the other divers which ended up becoming a bit of a habit over the coming days.

    After the others awoke we had breakfast which consisted of fruit and baguettes then set off to the marina. After a discussion the evening before we as a team had decided that Vin and Bryson would head back towards town in comp zone one and Jarred and I would head in the direction away from town. Both zones consisted of steep cliff walls with stepping ledges and slopes heading down to the sandy bottom that then sloped off to great depths.

    So, after getting dressed into my rag-tag equipment Jarred and I headed off to scout and dive together for the first time. At first, Jarred and I had quite different styles of scouting mine being more methodical trying to check every inch of ground as I would go and his to try and check as much as possible as fast as possible so we often became separated but as I was towing the float we eventually would sporadically come back together to compare notes but after some time teething, we started to work better together checking first the shallows working our way to the end of the zone or should I say what we thought was the end of the zone but turned out to be two bays too far. Then turning and working in a zig-zag back to where we had started the swim from checking the top of the drop off and deeper ledges and bommies out off the edge.

    After swimming perpetually and diving depths of up to 35m for 7 straight hours in plastic fins I was exhausted and while trying to make our way to the boat I once again became separated from Jarred. So I decided to turn back and head to the area where we had been initially dropped off to wait there. During this time Jarred had swam on getting to the boat and flagging them down then getting them to come back and pick me up to which I was very grateful as I had taken the skin of the top of 6 of my toes during the scouting mission.

    Once I had hauled myself into the boat I took off my fins and fin socks to allow my feet to dry and washed the open wounds as best as I could while we waited for Vin and Bryson to finish scouting their end of the zone which was a washing machine to say the least the swell was a constant 1 to 1.5 m at their end coming from all directions at once. At one stage poor Vin was left high and dry and then dumped onto a rock hurting his ribs so understandably their end was a lot slower to cover and I am not going to lie I was relived they had decided to swim that way as I would have struggled terribly in the equipment I had against that kind of swell and current. Once they were happy we climbed back into the boat and headed back to the marina arriving back at around 5pm in the afternoon. On the way back to the accommodations Jarred and I telling Vin and Bry about the most memorable part of the swim when a solid dog tooth tuna came in very close to us and allowed me to film it for a while which was a sight I had personally never seen before.

    After unpacking, showering and hanging our gear out to dry we as a team went through the maps and wrote down what we saw and where marking it out on the map so we could recall it later and then I went out with the ladies team to find somewhere to acquire some dinner while Vin and Bry continued to plan for the next days scouting. On our adventure into the unknown we found a food truck down near the marina that had a lovely staff that made us some great meals which we ate and took back to the boys who had stayed to plan. Then after eating we turned in for the night again planning to meet the boat driver at 6.30 in the morning this time to head to zone two at the island of Mohotani.

    As per usual I awoke a bit early so spent my time packing the Ute and preparing for the day. After breakfast of fruit and baguettes, we headed down to the marina and started the passage from the island of Hiva Oa to the island of Mohotani.

    The distance from the marina to the competition zone 2 was only 15 NM but on average it took about 2 hours to cross the passage as the swell vs current meant that you could only hold a slow and steady pace. But, our skipper Sieano did an amazing job at reading the conditions and driving the boat accordingly. I was very very impressed at the seaworthiness of his vessel and his ability to feel and know how the waves were going to react and then compensate for it. So after a bit of a steam we arrived.

    As a team, we again decided that we would split our efforts and send one team in each direction. Vin and Bry would this time head south while Jarred and I would head to the north. This time our section competition zone had a lot more varied kinds of structures ranging from shallow bays with rocky beaches, panicles with strong currents, patches of flat sand with stacked boulders and even deep ledges stacked with fish.

    After a solid day of swimming and checking the area we worked out that the best chance at the majority of species was around the first bay at the starting area, around the headland and then the next bay to the north.

    There was some great fish at the final point of the zone but with too much quiet space in-between we felt it wouldn’t be worth heading that far for no real gain as with how fishy this zone was it was going to be a numbers game for sure. After the damage to my feet on the first day on this day I had put an extra pair of normal socks on top of the 1mm neoprene socks that I had with me to thicken out the foot pockets and seemed to do less damage to my feet but they were still taking a pounding in the plastic fins but at least we now knew the areas.

    So, after we met back at the start with Vin and Bry we started the slow trip back to the marina on the way we discussed which species we had seen and where and in what numbers and made basic plans for what we thought would work best on the day of competition. When we got back to the accommodation we had a meeting writing down and mapping out what we had found and began to discuss the next day’s plans. I decided to spend the next day resting my feet and heading into the pharmacy to get something to try and help repair them as well as spending another day trying to find out exactly where my equipment may be.

    Jarred was having some sinus issues so he also decided to have a rest day while Vin and Bry chose to head out again to have another look at zone one this time with Teii a different skipper another local spearo. Once we finished planning we turned in for the night.

    The next morning we were met with a more overcast day and Vin and Bry headed off for their scout with Teii. After we dropped them to the marina I headed into to town to get some make shift equipment heading to the hardware store to get some fencing wire in order to make stringers and the pharmacy to get strapping tape and an alcohol spray.

    After returning to the accommodation I once again tried to get any information I could about my missing equipment but once again I could not get in contact with Air New Zealand in any way shape or form and Air Tahiti were also having no luck getting any help from them either.

    My wife in Australia who was also doing everything in her power to track down the luggage was also having nothing but dead ends and runarounds so I had to accept that it was very unlikely that my equipment would arrive before the events start and now as we were just two days out from the start of the competition and with the official scouting days beginning only the next day I asked Joe Martindale if I could borrow his fins to use for the next two scouting days as it was looking likely mine would not arrive. Joe very generously agreed which would make the dives required and distance needed much easier in the coming days.

    So I cleaned the dead skin from my feet and disinfected it allowing them to dry and glued them back together as best as I could and then rested until it was time for Vin and Bry to return. They came back and shared some great information with us they had found in an area we had previously gone over and missed making me want to get out there and recheck the areas I had already dove in zone one again just to double check I hadn’t missed anything else.

    After a bit of a tumultuous afternoon and evening that I will leave out of this tale we went to bed to get ready for the first official scouting day of the competition.

    As I’m sure you have guessed by now after a breakfast of fruit and baguettes we went to the marina today heading out on the girls teams boat and Teii’s smaller boat.

    I hitched a ride on the girls boat as we headed back to Mohotani to just re check our zones and then go for a quick spear outside the competition zones in the afternoon to get our eye in. this time Vin and Bry asked to come with us just to see how we were going and give us any pointers they might have which was greatly appreciated as they were far more experienced than us.

    I took them to the rock patches and areas of the headland and showed them to the best of my ability where I thought we would best find out species and how I thought we could best land them even using some landmarks to take Vin out to a deep ledge well off the headland and helping him to drop on it which I believed helped ease their minds as well as gaining a lot of great lessons for myself and Jarred along the way. After another good look over this ground, we went to an area outside the competition zone for a spear which was a sheer cliff wall that went straight down into the abyss.

    It was very fishy with Jarred losing a shaft and all his reel line to a good dog tooth and our rig line getting decimated by sharks while Vin, Bry and Teii worked the point getting a lot of good quality surgeon fish for the day. After a while the lady's team, Jarrad, myself and graham headed back on their boat to the marina with Vin, Bry and Teii leaving a little while after us.

    After we returned Graham and Joe went off to a manager's meeting while the rest of us discussed our plans for where and how we would dive Mohotani.

    Jarred and I planned to swim hard to the first headland hoping to make it look like we intended to head for the far point and hopped that the other teams would swim around the headland and then once they got past us we would double back and work the bommie ground to the south east of the first headland for some of the harder to find fish and then clean up the smaller harder to find holes around the headland until we made it around and then work the bay to the north.

    Vin and Bryson planned to head south and try and pick up a few species on the run to some good ground and then work their way back. After we were confident with our plans we turned in and prepared for one last day scouting Hiva Oa zone one.

    Baguette’s and fruit down we headed back to zone one I had asked to check the very end of our end of the zone as I wanted to double check a few rocks that held good fish only to find out when we got there that on our first scouting day not knowing the landmarks well we had swum two bays too far.

    This threw a spanner in the works for our plan so we got in at the actual end point and started working our was backwards through the ground which we knew to be a quiet area looking to find anything we could that would hold fish and it wasn’t looking promising but after a few hours mapping we had found enough to at least give us a few of the trickier to find fish in places out of the way enough that hopefully the other competitors had not found them.

    But, this zone was certainly looking to be a lot less fishy than the zone at Mohotani. Once we were happy with our efforts we headed over to Hahamenio bay on the next island to the south for a quick practice session so Jarred and I could get some time in hunting together and working on some of the pairs techniques that we would use in the competition the next day.

    After a couple of hours we started to work well together and using a combination of a 120cm and an 80 cm gun we managed to get a few species from the list and worked a lot on our non-verbal communication. After returning to the accommodation we met with Titoo Roncin a Tahitian diver who very graciously brought us a second boat float to use and then had one more meeting to discuss how we were going to dive the Hiva Oa zone. Unfortunately as where we had originally planned to swim to and get the fish was now outside the zone Jarred and I had to change plans and decided to try to work our way to a cave that had some good species and then work our way back to the starting zone and try and pick up whatever we could from amongst the other teams as this zone was very narrow and there was a lot of divers going to be there.

    Vin and Bry had a plan as well that understandably they were keeping close to their chests as there was a lot of listening ears around but we had faith it was a good one. Thursday was going to be a rest day with the parade of nations and opening ceremony in the afternoon.

    While we were out scouting my wife had some luck with my equipment but best case scenario it would not arrive until after the first day of the competition had commenced so I had to plan to dive in what I had but I was determined to make it work.

    Thursday morning we started as always but this time instead of heading into the marina we went into town to find something to make a fish list tally board on and some flags for our floats, something to repair a few holes in the boat float and something to make a flag pole for the inflatable riffe three atmosphere float.

    After some scavenging and a trip to the hardware, we got a large sheet of coreflute. PVC epoxy, a broom handle, tape and some permeant markers. Then we returned to the accommodation to get to work a few hours later we had Gerry rigged what we required and were as ready as we could be for the first day of the competition considering a lot of our equipment was still sitting at Auckland airport.

    Around lunch time Vin and I went on a search for some local artists and luckily found some amazing ones to get a couple of mementos and gifts to take home with us and went back to tell the others who shortly went off for a quick look and then we all got dressed up and headed into town for the opening ceremony. We drove to the centre of town to find what I would estimate was the majority of the population of the island along with teams for the inter-pacific spearfishing competition, the Tahitian spearfishing competition and the French marquees spearfishing competition.

    Everyone then lined up in their respective uniforms with their flags and banners and did a lap around the town centre and around the field then sat around a field with stone sculptures and wooden halls with thatched roofs for an introductory ceremony. Each team manager then introduced their team and we all found out how trey trey single stormy from the NZ team was and we were handed welcome packs from Yan and the organisers.

    Once the speeches were concluded we were given a welcome from a group of cultural performers who were more like warriors showing a dance to great drums which seemed to tell a story I thought of searching for lands over the waters and then cultivating those lands turning them into the home they had made for them-sleeve’s but that’s just my own interpretation of the performance and I could be entirely wrong. It was most impressive the raw energy that every member put into it from the drummers to the singers to the dancers every member gave 110% and it really showed how deeply their culture ran through everyone on the island.

    At the end the performers came to the New Zealand team and the Australian team asking for members to join them and after Alex and Stormy stood up to join them from the Kiwis I had to also stand up to join them as we couldn’t let the Kiwis seem braver than the aussies. I also felt it was as a sign of respect to the performers. I attempted to keep up mirroring the movements and hopefully didn’t make too much of a fool of myself but in any case it was a nice moment to be invited to partake in some small way in their culture.

    After the presentation was over they invited us into the thatched halls for some food which was lovely and then we all went to the school hall for dinner before the first day of competition. During dinner we found out that Mohatani would be the competition zone for the first day of competition so we went home and got some rest organising to meet Siano our skipper at 6.00 am and all tried to settle ourselves for what would be a fierce day of competition against some amazing divers. The quality of the divers in the competition really put me at awe realising just how good they all were really made me realise just how far out of my league I was and how hard I would need to work to attempt to hold my own especially in borrowed equipment. So I spent the night calming myself and then got some sleep.

    At around 3.00 am I awoke and spent a few hours on the balcony going through my footage from the scouting days and mentally mapping out the swim for the upcoming day then I packed the ute with the equipment for the men’s team and we went down for you guessed it fruit and baguette’s and a nice cucumber for myself. Now mentioning cucumber I feel this is as good a time as any to explain a bit of a running joke on the island that had evolved around me. You see when I arrived on the island I had pink hair and painted nails. And the second day there I went into the local store and bought a couple of cucumbers with nothing else and walked out.

    The reason I bought them is when I am diving I use cucumbers as a way to rehydrate as they have high levels of electrolytes and minerals and can make it easier to dive for exceptionally long amounts of time and also recover faster but the locals didn’t know that so it was very entertaining for them when I would walk in and buy a few more cucumbers a day later and so on. To the point where I would walk in and the owner would just smile and say cucumber? To which I would reply wi merci cucumber and give a cheeky smile back. I am sure for many years to come that tales of the weird cucumber guy will bring them many chuckles or at least I hope so. But enough about the unusual things I do let us get back to the story.

     We met with Siano and loaded the boat and like a flotilla heading to battle the 10 or so boats of varying sizes and shapes all headed out into the 15-18 knot winds and 1-1.5m swell heading for Mohotani as the three competitions were being held at the same time on different parts of the island. We arrived at our starting zone got dressed and ready and swam to the starting buoy.

    Very quickly it was obvious that most of the boat floats were getting ready and facing north which for our team plan was exactly what we wanted even though it would mean that Jarred and I would have to send it neck and neck with the best of the other teams divers it meant that our stronger team of Vin and Bryson would have clearer water to work for their fish to the south. Then the start was called and we were all off jarred and I swam hard for the point trying to hold our own with the divers from the other teams. We were moving fast but it was like they were so quick they were on the plane but our plan worked as we rounded the point they all kept powering and we quietly doubled back and worked the bay ground quickly picking up 3 Marquesan grouper and a glass eye along with some Mu some 6 bar and some parrots. Once we had picked over the ground we worked our way to a ledge where some trigger fish hung around 35m deep in a down current so Jarred held me in place while I breathed up and did a drop.

    On my first attempt I got close to the school but they wouldn’t present a shot so I took a Vlamings surgeon fish and came up. On my second attempt again I got close but couldn’t get a shot so I shoot a yellow-bellied surgeon fish and came up but notice that with each attempt they came shallower. So on my third attempt the school had come up to around 28 m but still I couldn’t get a clear shot with the 120 so I shot another Vlamings and came up and then pushed Jarred up current for a drop. After getting him in the zone he did a drop and after some time came up and informed me that he had managed to shoot one but it tore out and that another team had found the school and were closing in on them so I quickly grabbed the 80cm gun we had and did a drop down swimming to the middle of the school taking a pot shoot top down on them spooking them off as we couldn’t have another team using our hard work to score points against us which worked as no one ended up weighing in a trigger fish for the whole competition but it did mean we had to change tactics ourselves so we headed into the northern bay and looked for more glass eyes which we found as well as a coronation trout and some jobfish both green and rusty small tooth.

    One of which reefed up and tore out and the New Zealand team nearly shot it but decided not to as they already had 4 which was incredibly kind of them and I was able to then swim down and secure it with the 80cm gun. From there we went up into the wash to try and find some saber squirrel fish and other species collecting a few and working our way back around to the starting zone making it back with 3 mins before 2.00 pm ending the 6 hour competition time for the day. Feeling fairly good that our plan had worked we got on board and prepared for the trip home. It was amazing to see the New Zealand, Tahitian and new Caledonian divers work around us the ability of their teams is not to be understated and really gives me drive to continue to improve so I can one day call myself their equal.

    On the way back to weigh in we calculated we had between 100 and 110 species depending if they weighed or not as a few of them were borderline and hoped it would be enough so we bagged up the fish and zipped tied the bags shut and handed them up onto the dock to get ready for the weigh in. at the weigh in the New Zealand team went first I think by this stage the oxygen deprivation had started to get to me. But they weighed in 98 species which was an impressive total. We went second weighing in 105 species which we were very happy about after us when the new Caledonians with 87 species and then finally the Tahitians with 117 species weighed in which was a very impressive total.

    This putting us in second place for the day but with the scores being so very close together we knew we were in for a hard time to hold out in this position going into the second day. After returning to our accommodation low and behold my sports tube had finally arrived but since I had trained for the week and was now used to the gear I was using I didn’t want to make too many changes so I changed out for my fins and to my knife and rubber weight belt but the rest stayed the same for day two.

    After a sleep day two of competition was upon us so after loading into Sianos boat we headed off to the Hiva Oa competition zone knowing today would be a harder day as the zone was much narrower and the pressure on the fish would be far greater we prepared ourselves as best as we could almost as soon as we were in the water we were off swimming as hard as we could we headed for the end of our competition zone while keeping an eye out on the way for some caves where we knew there was a few saber squirrel fish and trying to do a drop whenever we could while trying to stay ahead of the pack it was a much quieter day but we still managed to get a reasonable amount of species on the swim finding some nice patches of glass eyes and soldier fish along with some yellow eye surgeons and other species that Bry had told us wasn’t really available in their end of the zone.

    We swam much farther on this day of competition and still seemed to constantly find ourselves diving shoulder to shoulder with other teams making it much harder to get fish out from under the competition but we tried to hold our own while hoping that Vin and Bryson were having better luck and some open water to hunt fish in.

    I learnt especially on the second day clear communication between the team member on the boat and divers in the water is vitally important and that you should never assume you have already gotten enough of a species and that if the opportunity presents itself you should take it.

    But, by the end of the day we had between 75 and 78 species and bagged them up and presented them for weigh in. it was another very close day with the New Zealanders having 81 species, the New Caladonian’s having 80 species, the Australians managing 76 species and the tahatians 92 species. So we knew it would be close and we thought we would have been pipped to the post by the Kiwis when loaded into the car when Vin came back beaming and banging on the bonnet to tell us that by less than the skin of our teeth we had managed to hold on to second by 0.28%.

    We couldn’t believe it and to be honest I still haven’t come to terms with it. Once we were cleaned up to the best of our ability we headed into the school for the presentation dinner where all of the teams traded team shirts and the results and prizes were handed out for the local competitions as well as the inter pacific competition. It was a truly an honour to be in the company of so many divers of such a high calibre and to come away with second place even though only barley is something I will keep with me for the rest of my days.

    When the presentation dinner was over we returned to the accommodations I was exhausted and couldn’t stay awake any longer so I turned in for the night but I believe the Australian team and the New Zealand team partied on well into the night celebrating their results together this I gather from the mess left in the morning which I happily cleaned up as they deserved a celebration after how hard both teams worked and dove during the competition.

    After cleaning up we met with Teiki who had so kindly leant me his suit and fins and also helped translate for us on multiple occasions and as my way of showing him how much I appreciated his generosity I gave him my brand new unused Adreno wetsuit as I gave his suit a proper hiding over the 7 days along with my Dive R inegra fins.

    I can not stress enough how much I appreciate the help he gave me by going out of his way to find me gear when he himself was busy helping organising the event as well as competing in the French marquees event that his team actually also won. I will never forget his generosity.

    After that Teii came to visit as well and we gave him all of our adreno wetsuits to give to the locals who helped us along with both of omer atoll floats, gloves, socks, both of my Rob Allen spear guns as well as spare masks and any other equipment we could all spare in exchange for taking us on his boat for a few of the days and to say thank you to him and all the other locals who had been so very welcoming and helpful during the entire event.

    Then, we packed our bags and hopped onto a bus and headed for the airport. After saying good bye to all of our new friends we boarded the plane and started the journey back to Australia after a short 12 hour layover in Tahiti and another small bag mix up in New Zealand but this time not my bag but it did cause poor Alex from the New Zealand team to miss her connecting flight. I was finally on the last leg back to Brisbane.

    This was a once in a life time opportunity and not one I will shortly ever forget the people of Hiva Oa were amazing and the island itself is a paradise of wilderness both in and out of the water and if anyone ever gets a chance I recommend giving it a visit.

    Hopefully this tale will give you all a glimpse into what the competition was like even if it is poorly written and only through my perception of events and this whole experience has very much ignited a new drive in myself to become a better person and Spearfisher and I shall strive to live up to the example of the peoples I have met.