Spanish Italian

(Text Gabriele Delbene)

After the first “historical” part on deep spearfishing in variable weight, we continue to talk about situations in which the advantages of such technique are enhanced.

Bruno Hermany, the Brazilian method

In Ustica in August 1960 Bruno Hermany, a Brazilian with great skills and remarkable successes (he also conquered the victory in ’63) managed by a whisker to win the World title by beating the great depthist Claudio Ripa.

That was the first time that the techniques of the Brazilian champion could be observed closely. It was a variant of what I called in part 1 of this “mixed variable” weight. To dive at deèths around twenty meters, Hermany used a cylindrical lead of about 3 kg connected to a 15 meters long line. The lead remained suspended at that depth and the athlete was free to continue his hunting action wearing a light ballast. The wonderful scenery of the Aeolian island where the World Championship took place was torrid hot. In August the wetsuits were very light and not much ballast was needed.

Delbene descending with variable weight setup

This system is however interesting even if it does not accompany the diver to the bottom thanks to a marked negativity. However, if there is wind or current, the buouy with the ballast suspended can move away a lot, causing the verticality of the point to be lost and forcing you to move a lot to recover it. This can be considered the first step towards variable weight, followed by the mixed variable and finally the total variable.

Summer ’85 lessons on total variable weight

In the Summer of 1985, traveling outside the region of Liguria, North West coast of Italy, was within my reach with my driver’s license. In Sardinia I started to use the variable weight more often. I had found a rocky area in an apparently insignificant and flat seaweed floor where a small group of colossal brown meagres had guided me. In constant weight, falling on it at 36 meters, I managed to harpoon one of the elegant, bronze, gigantic brown meagre. As often happens on the seaweeds, these scienids give the best of themselves disappearing from sight almost by magic. I started making reconnaissance glides in the dark and slightly veiled water of that Summer sunset, increasing the already high depth by a couple of meters.
The aim was to find some stone or hiding place where the shoal could have taken refuge. At a certain point the seabed was too flat to make one think of ravines. Given the altitude I did not reach the bottom, but I limited myself to glide over a dozen meters away from the desolated plateau made of seaweed and rock, mixed with sand. I was about to desist.

Delbene Variable Weight ascent from more than 40 meters

A thicker veiling of the water near a pool of sand tickled me. “One more dip …” I said to myself. Immediately I prepared the belt by adding a quick release weight. This time I tied those 6 kg of ballast to the 8 mm thick and 40 meters long nautical floating line just bought. I was not so confident nor expert to be able to grasp the presence of a big marauder in that sign of “dusting” …
I decided to hold the torch and a 70 pneumatic speargun with the harpoon, but without a reel given the habits of the time and given the fact that I was looking for large brown meagres.
Equalizations with closed eyes to limit anxiety were fast and continuous, but a little more difficult. Slight pops of the tubes and a little discomfort on the chest signaled an unusual pressure and depth for me. I opened my eyes to a handful of meters from the bottom to realize that I was at a fair distance from the “dusted” corner of the target sand puddle. A little apprehension forced me to take a quick look at my Citizen Aqualand …. the bottom marked 38.8 meters.
“Don’t be frightened right now … go, go!” I said to myself.
I was still lucid enough to focus on what there to be done. Those six to seven meters traveled over the clear sand reassured me a little. Light colors sometimes help, they have their own power….
Almost arrived, I managed to find a dark uniform crack and a small smooth canopy. The canopy was the “dusted” area and was on my left. On the right the crack, equidistant from me. Both had a height not exceeding 30 \ 40cm. I began to look with the flashlight to my right for practicality of position. As soon as the crack was illuminated, it turned out to be about a little less than two meters deep and unusually colored at times by strange orange formations. It was enough for me to move the beam a couple of meters further to the right to distinguish the light-edged tail of a large, fat as well as static big grouper. At that moment a violent double and powerful vibration from my left. Turning first the gaze of the torch, I was in time to see the tip of the muzzle of another large grouper against the light in the dark, this one much more mobile and vital than the other. For a moment those fleshy dark lips were still oriented towards the outside of the den, where a moment later I saw a puff of sand that diluted in the water.
The grouper was monitoring the situation and was looking at me sideways with his big left bovine eye from a couple of meters away. Alerted by the light beam, with a couple of powerful turns it had entered more under the long canopy, paradoxically coming in my direction. Without moving much I found myself the great serranid that peered at me about a meter and a half, nervously waving the wide, round pectoral fins.
Incredulous, I only managed to shoot between the eye and the nostril of the fish without aiming and above all without paralizing it. In a maze of powerful tail blows, sand and dead algae I pulled the mighty marauder out of the crack.
Made a few meters with the adrenaline excitement of the capture that throbbed in all my veins, the vibrant peaks of the now won big serranid began to thin out.

A shock on my right foot brought me cruelly to an unexpected and dangerous reality. I had the thick braided line twisted at the ankle, it prevented me from getting back up. I was still lucid, after all I had saved a lot of energy throwing myself with a heavy weight headlong, in a quick dive in that sea with almost twilight colors. I took a careful look to decide whether to remove the fin or cut everything and go back up ……. ooppss, I no longer had the knife, it had remained attached to the belt. Fortunately, the knot consisted of a single nock and I got free easily.

The episode recounted made me reflect on how little experience I had and above all how many dangers I ran because of the exuberance that is common to many young people.

Such a profound variable weight cannot be improvised except by risking what in almost all other sports is never at risk: life.

Grouper caught by Delbene years ago in variable weight

Technically speaking, the ballast in the belt must be free of holds such as knives, fish racks etc., its weight will depend on what buoyancy we will have when wearing the suit and also on what effort we will be willing to accept by recovering it from the surface.

A high weight of the ballast will obviously allow an economic and super fast descent, but which requires an excellent technique both positional and compensatory. Even the mental habit at high depths and a gradual physical adaptation will determine the preparatory conditions for not making this technique an unsuccessful as ineffective waste of time.