Proper weight on your belt

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Proper weight on your belt

Postby chris oak » February 15th, 2021, 2:09 pm

I was talking to Dave Freeman from the Torrance Spear America about this in regards to dive safety and because it comes up so often. I know that many of us are overweighted when we dive, for sure I am especially when I'm diving winter full 7mm suits. Dave is roughly my size and in a 7mm I was shocked that he only wears about 12 pounds, this is because he likes to be neutral at about 30 feet. I tend to shoot for closer to 15-20 foot to be neutrally bouyant and on a 7mm I normally wear about 20 lbs. Dave is a far better and deeper diver than I am, I tend to listen to guys like that.

Safety wise, if you are overweighted there is a great chance you will sink during a shallow water blackout closer to the surface, especially since the normal thing that happens is when you lose consciousness you exhale and that air exits your lungs. Since I know jack shidt about proper weightbelt weight I hit up Lance Lee Davis, he teaches freediving classes in the Los Angeles area and I asked him. He's on a plane right now but said he would write something up for us and I'll post it as soon as I get it. It's not that you have to follow whatever guidelines that he uses in his classes, BUT you should be educated on your proper options.

Hang tight, I'll add to this thread soon.
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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby grometito » February 15th, 2021, 2:20 pm

When I took lances course neutral at 30’ was also the baseline. With a high waist 7mm, I only need 13 lb to be neutral at 30’. I thought I just had a small lung capacity, surprising to hear Dave only runs 12 lb.
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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby growingupninja » February 16th, 2021, 1:44 am

I am honored that Chris hit me up to address this issue but yes, proper weight is not very well understood by even many very seasoned divers. Unfortunately, it's also a frequent contributing factor when it comes to spearing fatalities. I go over this in more detail when teaching classes but here are some basics, hopefully to clear up some of the dogma and misinformation which circulates so frequently on forums and discussions...

1) What is the formula for how much lead to wear, based on sex, height, weight, and wetsuit thickness?
There is no formula. We could take 5 guys, all of them 5'11" and 175lbs, put them in identical wetsuits and to make them neutrally buoyant in 33' of sea water they'd wear anywhere from 4lbs to 14lbs. Most would be about 10lbs, but there'd be outliers and none of it is a reflection on what kind of diver they are or will be. There's a surface test we teach called 'collar bone rule of thumb' that works very well to get somebody's buoyancy dialed in quickly to neutral at 33'/10M.

2) So how do I know if I'm overweighted? And why is it dangerous?
If, when at the surface you sink on a passive exhale (just a relaxed sigh but exhaling no more than that), you are overweighted and a liability to anyone you're diving with because if you black-out, they have to look for you on the bottom. In crystal clear water with someone having eyes on you always when you dive--provided they can dive to the bottom--they could possibly reach you and get you to the surface before your brain starts to die, but most of us do not dive in conditions such as that or with buddies who are that attentive when we hunt. If you feel like this does not matter because you always dive alone and need to wear a ton of weight 'to get down quietly' then sorry to be blunt but at minimum you need to learn to swim better, or maybe take some weight off your belt and discover that you are a better diver than when you started 10 years ago and so you don't need to wear 30lbs anymore. We are most vulnerable to blackout at the end of a dive, EVEN AFTER REACHING THE SURFACE AND TAKING A BREATH OR TWO. If heavy at the surface you are in a very poor position to save yourself. It has to do with simple albeit counter-intuitive physics and physiology, but especially when diving deeper, blackouts happen suddenly very near or at the surface with virtually no physical warning symptoms. Outside of a diver trapped somehow at depth, blackouts never happen on the bottom but nearly always within a few feet from the surface or at the surface within the first few breaths. In the ridiculously deep world of modern freediving competition they do sometimes happen deeper but even then, 99.9% of the time if a diver blacks out he or she is at least 3/4 of the way to the surface.

3) I've heard that divers exhale when they black out, why does this happen?
They don't actually exhale in the true sense of the word. Notice above I kept saying 'passive exhale'? This describes what you do when you sigh--you take a deep breath, then just relax the chest, throat, and diaphragm, and anything 'extra' just comes out as an exhale because there is positive pressure in the lung. It's totally passive. If you're using the chest and diaphragm to push more air out than that then you're doing a forced exhale. A forced exhale is a motor function--your brain is sending signals to muscles in your chest and diaphragm to contract a certain way. This isn't something a diver who has lost consciousness does, their epiglotis (throat) just relaxes for at least a moment and 'extra' air comes out. If this happens when they're underwater we observe bubbles. Deeper than a certain depth (about 10M), because of compression of the air in the lung, a blacked out diver actually will not appear to exhale anything because there is no positive pressure in the lung. As stated above, blackouts this deep are, even when diving incredibly deep (hundreds of feet even), incredibly rare. They're scary though and often fatal because at bigger depths there is no positive pressure of air escaping the lung, instead it's the opposite--there's a lot of water pressure pushing to get into the lung. The body does have protective mechanisms but physics is working in a blacked out diver's favor if blackout happens shallower than about 10M. Below that it's working against them. It's horrible to speculate but an overweighted diver who blacks out near the surface then sinks to 100', as they would if overweighted, would be likely impossible to resuscitate even if quickly recovered because the water pressure would overcome the body's defenses and flood the lung. There's not an ethical way to conclusively test this but it is accepted that the time between blackout and anoxia (the point at which the brain actually starts to die) is upwards of two minutes. But if the lungs flood with seawater at 60psi before that then that diver is not recoverable--even with trained medic performing intubation with pure oxygen. Side note, this is why we teach to take the snorkel out before doing a dive since the snorkel is a funnel into your airway and bypasses the first of the body's defenses against water in the lung--a closed but relaxed mouth.

4) What is the deal with the whole 'weighted neutral at 30ft/10M thing?'
This means if the diver takes a big breath at the surface and dives, once they reach 10M, they're neutrally buoyant. This is the way, in modern legit freediving schools and classes around the world, we weight our students, so naturally a lot of divers and some inexperienced instructors believe this is the only right way. It does have a lot of advantages... first, if weighted neutral at 10M, a diver will always be positive at the surface on a passive exhale and thus within the ballpark from a safety standpoint, and likely even positive on a passive exhale as deep as 5M, which covers 99% of blackouts even at ridiculous competition depths. This is also a very relaxed depth for a new diver because at 10M, assuming a big breath at the surface, the lung is inflated at 50% of its total vital capacity and the brain interprets this as lungs in a relaxed state; this is for a human at rest, breathing unconsciously, the natural lung volume and also about where it is on a passive exhale or sigh at the surface. There are some caveats about this whole 10M thing and I think where some dogma comes from... in a thicker wetsuit, likesay a 5mm wetsuit, you can generally weight heavier than neutral at 10M and still be easily within that surface safe zone of positive after a passive exhale. In thinner wetsuits, this may not be the case, and I've seen some warm water instructors insist that its the only way, which for them and where they dive is true but not for us. It has to do with physics but the thicker the wetsuit the more abrupt the buoyancy profile, meaning in California if neutral at 10M you go from being REALLY buoyant at the surface to suddenly neutral and then slightly to quickly sinking as you go deeper. In thinner wetsuit even if neutral at 10M you go from being kinda buoyant at the surface to neutral to kinda negative. From a training/calibration standpoint though one beautiful and interesting thing is assuming you have a practiced, efficient kick, the number of longfin kicks it takes to go vertically from the surface 10M remains constant whether you're diving in a 1.5mm suit or 7mm suit, although the power output of course is significantly more in the 7mm suit. In my classes even in norcal where most people are wearing 7mm suits, we still weight neutral at 10M because learning to dive light has a host of performance advantages besides just safety advantages.

5) What if I need to lay on the bottom in 10' of water?
You're working at snorkel/swimming pool depths. I know guys who crush 100 halibut per year that way which is no small feat. But, I'd also say it's a big ocean with lots to see beyond that. Unless you have underlying health conditions you are not likely to have a sudden, no warning type ascent blackout like I'm talking about. BUT REMEMBER if you take the habits and techniques you use in 10' of water to 30' hunting dives, or 50' hunting dives, or 100' hunting dives it would get stupid dangerous not to mention needlessly exhausting. You also have to figure that for a lot of california diving we deal with rocky/rough entries and it's easier to move through the surf when lighter, and a 4 hour session where you're treading water anytime you're at the surface is grueling vs a 4 hour session where you're floating/resting between dives.

6) Can't I just dump my belt if I'm about to blackout?
Sure, but even if you know what a blackout feels like, will you have time? In a 5mm freediving wetsuit, at least 95% of my students, if they dumped a belt at 70' would be positively buoyant. I know at 130', in the 5mm suit I typically wear, I am a still a smidge buoyant with no lead. While we can get a lot of comfort in the buoyancy of our wetsuits, the problem is that with the kind of blackouts that happen in the ocean when any kind of depth is involved, the physical symptoms of real hypoxia that proceed blackout--not just burning legs or 'I really need to breathe' feelings, but things like fading vision, pins and needles, BRAIN FOG--can be either never present or only present for a few seconds before the diver goes dark. There's a reason nearly all dead spearos, if found, are still wearing their weight belts. At the end of the day, safety is a choice. Most of my students are stunned to learn that at a high level competition 10%-20% of the dives on a given day will end in a blackout, which is not surprising when you figure that you're looking at divers who are regularly diving 200' - 300' or more. But, irony is that in the last 20 years of sanctioned competition we have a near perfect safety record, with just one fatality. We cannot bring the entire safety infrastructure of textbook freediving into the kelp when we're hunting (and would we want to?) but a great deal of it is applicable and useful if we chose to use it. Dive safe.
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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby Alex Ray » February 16th, 2021, 8:29 am

Great idea to reach out to Lance, Chris. And thank you so much Lance for sharing some of your knowledge here. I’ve been diving for long enough to have gotten comfortable / confident before freedive classes appeared on the radar here in SoCal (well, at least on my radar) and I truly appreciate what you’ve written as it’s information I’ve only heard in conversation on the boat or, in some cases, not at all. Thank you for including such detail and nuance, as well as justification and examples for when and how situations are different. I hope all the divers on the board here read this as a reminder or, in my case, an introduction to proper weighting.


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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby dam » February 16th, 2021, 10:27 am

growingupninja wrote:I am honored that Chris hit me up to address this issue but yes, proper weight is not very well understood by even many very seasoned divers. Unfortunately, it's also a frequent contributing factor when it comes to spearing fatalities. I go over this in more detail when teaching classes but here are some basics, hopefully to clear up some of the dogma and misinformation which circulates so frequently on forums and discussions...

1) What is the formula for how much lead to wear, based on sex, height, weight, and wetsuit thickness?
There is no formula. We could take 5 guys, all of them 5'11" and 175lbs, put them in identical wetsuits and to make them neutrally buoyant in 33' of sea water they'd wear anywhere from 4lbs to 14lbs. Most would be about 10lbs, but there'd be outliers and none of it is a reflection on what kind of diver they are or will be. There's a surface test we teach called 'collar bone rule of thumb' that works very well to get somebody's buoyancy dialed in quickly to neutral at 33'/10M.

2) So how do I know if I'm overweighted? And why is it dangerous?
If, when at the surface you sink on a passive exhale (just a relaxed sigh but exhaling no more than that), you are overweighted and a liability to anyone you're diving with because if you black-out, they have to look for you on the bottom. In crystal clear water with someone having eyes on you always when you dive--provided they can dive to the bottom--they could possibly reach you and get you to the surface before your brain starts to die, but most of us do not dive in conditions such as that or with buddies who are that attentive when we hunt. If you feel like this does not matter because you always dive alone and need to wear a ton of weight 'to get down quietly' then sorry to be blunt but at minimum you need to learn to swim better, or maybe take some weight off your belt and discover that you are a better diver than when you started 10 years ago and so you don't need to wear 30lbs anymore. We are most vulnerable to blackout at the end of a dive, EVEN AFTER REACHING THE SURFACE AND TAKING A BREATH OR TWO. If heavy at the surface you are in a very poor position to save yourself. It has to do with simple albeit counter-intuitive physics and physiology, but especially when diving deeper, blackouts happen suddenly very near or at the surface with virtually no physical warning symptoms. Outside of a diver trapped somehow at depth, blackouts never happen on the bottom but nearly always within a few feet from the surface or at the surface within the first few breaths. In the ridiculously deep world of modern freediving competition they do sometimes happen deeper but even then, 99.9% of the time if a diver blacks out he or she is at least 3/4 of the way to the surface.

3) I've heard that divers exhale when they black out, why does this happen?
They don't actually exhale in the true sense of the word. Notice above I kept saying 'passive exhale'? This describes what you do when you sigh--you take a deep breath, then just relax the chest, throat, and diaphragm, and anything 'extra' just comes out as an exhale because there is positive pressure in the lung. It's totally passive. If you're using the chest and diaphragm to push more air out than that then you're doing a forced exhale. A forced exhale is a motor function--your brain is sending signals to muscles in your chest and diaphragm to contract a certain way. This isn't something a diver who has lost consciousness does, their epiglotis (throat) just relaxes for at least a moment and 'extra' air comes out. If this happens when they're underwater we observe bubbles. Deeper than a certain depth (about 10M), because of compression of the air in the lung, a blacked out diver actually will not appear to exhale anything because there is no positive pressure in the lung. As stated above, blackouts this deep are, even when diving incredibly deep (hundreds of feet even), incredibly rare. They're scary though and often fatal because at bigger depths there is no positive pressure of air escaping the lung, instead it's the opposite--there's a lot of water pressure pushing to get into the lung. The body does have protective mechanisms but physics is working in a blacked out diver's favor if blackout happens shallower than about 10M. Below that it's working against them. It's horrible to speculate but an overweighted diver who blacks out near the surface then sinks to 100', as they would if overweighted, would be likely impossible to resuscitate even if quickly recovered because the water pressure would overcome the body's defenses and flood the lung. There's not an ethical way to conclusively test this but it is accepted that the time between blackout and anoxia (the point at which the brain actually starts to die) is upwards of two minutes. But if the lungs flood with seawater at 60psi before that then that diver is not recoverable--even with trained medic performing intubation with pure oxygen. Side note, this is why we teach to take the snorkel out before doing a dive since the snorkel is a funnel into your airway and bypasses the first of the body's defenses against water in the lung--a closed but relaxed mouth.

4) What is the deal with the whole 'weighted neutral at 30ft/10M thing?'
This means if the diver takes a big breath at the surface and dives, once they reach 10M, they're neutrally buoyant. This is the way, in modern legit freediving schools and classes around the world, we weight our students, so naturally a lot of divers and some inexperienced instructors believe this is the only right way. It does have a lot of advantages... first, if weighted neutral at 10M, a diver will always be positive at the surface on a passive exhale and thus within the ballpark from a safety standpoint, and likely even positive on a passive exhale as deep as 5M, which covers 99% of blackouts even at ridiculous competition depths. This is also a very relaxed depth for a new diver because at 10M, assuming a big breath at the surface, the lung is inflated at 50% of its total vital capacity and the brain interprets this as lungs in a relaxed state; this is for a human at rest, breathing unconsciously, the natural lung volume and also about where it is on a passive exhale or sigh at the surface. There are some caveats about this whole 10M thing and I think where some dogma comes from... in a thicker wetsuit, likesay a 5mm wetsuit, you can generally weight heavier than neutral at 10M and still be easily within that surface safe zone of positive after a passive exhale. In thinner wetsuits, this may not be the case, and I've seen some warm water instructors insist that its the only way, which for them and where they dive is true but not for us. It has to do with physics but the thicker the wetsuit the more abrupt the buoyancy profile, meaning in California if neutral at 10M you go from being REALLY buoyant at the surface to suddenly neutral and then slightly to quickly sinking as you go deeper. In thinner wetsuit even if neutral at 10M you go from being kinda buoyant at the surface to neutral to kinda negative. From a training/calibration standpoint though one beautiful and interesting thing is assuming you have a practiced, efficient kick, the number of longfin kicks it takes to go vertically from the surface 10M remains constant whether you're diving in a 1.5mm suit or 7mm suit, although the power output of course is significantly more in the 7mm suit. In my classes even in norcal where most people are wearing 7mm suits, we still weight neutral at 10M because learning to dive light has a host of performance advantages besides just safety advantages.

5) What if I need to lay on the bottom in 10' of water?
You're working at snorkel/swimming pool depths. I know guys who crush 100 halibut per year that way which is no small feat. But, I'd also say it's a big ocean with lots to see beyond that. Unless you have underlying health conditions you are not likely to have a sudden, no warning type ascent blackout like I'm talking about. BUT REMEMBER if you take the habits and techniques you use in 10' of water to 30' hunting dives, or 50' hunting dives, or 100' hunting dives it would get stupid dangerous not to mention needlessly exhausting. You also have to figure that for a lot of california diving we deal with rocky/rough entries and it's easier to move through the surf when lighter, and a 4 hour session where you're treading water anytime you're at the surface is grueling vs a 4 hour session where you're floating/resting between dives.

6) Can't I just dump my belt if I'm about to blackout?
Sure, but even if you know what a blackout feels like, will you have time? In a 5mm freediving wetsuit, at least 95% of my students, if they dumped a belt at 70' would be positively buoyant. I know at 130', in the 5mm suit I typically wear, I am a still a smidge buoyant with no lead. While we can get a lot of comfort in the buoyancy of our wetsuits, the problem is that with the kind of blackouts that happen in the ocean when any kind of depth is involved, the physical symptoms of real hypoxia that proceed blackout--not just burning legs or 'I really need to breathe' feelings, but things like fading vision, pins and needles, BRAIN FOG--can be either never present or only present for a few seconds before the diver goes dark. There's a reason nearly all dead spearos, if found, are still wearing their weight belts. At the end of the day, safety is a choice. Most of my students are stunned to learn that at a high level competition 10%-20% of the dives on a given day will end in a blackout, which is not surprising when you figure that you're looking at divers who are regularly diving 200' - 300' or more. But, irony is that in the last 20 years of sanctioned competition we have a near perfect safety record, with just one fatality. We cannot bring the entire safety infrastructure of textbook freediving into the kelp when we're hunting (and would we want to?) but a great deal of it is applicable and useful if we chose to use it. Dive safe.


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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby NaClAddict » February 16th, 2021, 10:57 am

Anyone who has passed out sober should know it’s a mind fuck. If anyone thinks they’re immune, the wizard’s wand is real. Have a BJJ black belt choke you out slowly. There’s one time I thought about dumping my belt. I’m never waiting that long again.

Pins and needles, comets, light headed, gasping, coughing, dizzy, diaphragmatic spasms every dive; all shit I don’t do in the water. If it happens, get out, figure out what you’re doing wrong.

I have never taken a freediving class. I have read thousands of posts, articles, etc dating back 20+ yrs ago, freedivelist era. I Try and stay up on contemporary research, especially medical based. I will say, I think max depth and breath hold training have no place in recreational freediving. The number of divers who have taken courses and later experience dangerous hypoxia situations seems abnormally high. I believe many spearfishers are pushing it too hard.

Thanks Lance, your post really summed it up and clarified a lot of things. The hardest part for me is the 30’ mark. But I usually aim for 25 so 5 more is no biggie. I will have to alter my dive profile but safety is big with me.

I’m 42 with 3 kids, full blown pussy about how I dive. I think about the saying “there are old divers and there are bold divers, but there are no old, bold divers.” Obviously we all take risks, those decisions should be very calculated to maximize safety vs desired performance; ie time, depth, big fish. Performance will naturally increase with ability.
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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby Behslayer » February 16th, 2021, 11:59 am

Thanks Chris and Lance.

One thing that might be worth mentioning is Neoprene. So much of Wetsuit marketing is about how soft and stretchy and light and warm (air is the best insulator) the suits are.. This is great for Triatheletes, Surfers, Swimmers, Kayakers, Windsurfers, etc. SURFACE sports.

When it comes to SCUBA suits, guys accept that the suits weigh more (Denser) and are a little less flexible. It makes sense for Spearfishermen to go with depth rated, denser, heavier, truly compression resistant suits. I hear about guys using 20# of weight.. (I use 3-6# depending on my suit 2.5mm or 3.5mm and what kind of diving I'm doing). But if you are using a Lot of weight and a thick, light, wetsuit, there's going to be a big swing with how that weight affects your buoyancy in a single drop, and also over the course of a dive where you are doing multiple drops. Often, I'll start out with 6# and during my dive I'll take off a pound and attach it to my float as I start to dive deeper and also as my body expels some of it's air and my suit compresses a little.

I've made a Lot of wetsuits. My advice would be to atleast be aware of this side of things. If you are using a suit that is super comfy, flexible, warm, and LIGHT.. be aware of how that suit may change during your dive, and consider if it might be better to have a suit which didn't require So much weight.
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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby John Hughes » February 16th, 2021, 4:26 pm

Good topic Chris and thanks for the input Lance.
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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby chris oak » February 16th, 2021, 7:38 pm

Man that is some eye opening information Lance, thank you so much for bringing all of that info to light. I understand that everyone will have different opinions and that is fine, but to cut the risks down the info you presented will really help divers understand what is going on, what their best odds are, and where they should really be neutrally bouyant.

I'll have to figure out what works for me for seabass season on shore dives though, on a boat I can add/ditch weight depending on what depth I'm targeting. For yellowtail that will be easy. On a shoredive for seabass though I'll have to find some sort of middle ground. Sometimes I get lucky and get a shot in fifteen feet of water. And other times it's down at 50. The 7mm wetsuit compounds that problem and at depth you can very much feel the suit compressing enough where you become a lead rocket, I am often shocked how fast I'm falling and I'm sure that is due to being overweighted. The hard part is it also means on a deep dive I have to work that much harder to bring myself back up.

On my next boat run I'm going to experiment with dropping some weight, that's for sure.
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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby growingupninja » February 16th, 2021, 10:28 pm

Glad you guys appreciate the write-up, it is pretty dense and I got a little carried away!

It is kinda buried in there but I do think it is important to mention that in the heavier wetsuits we wear, you can still be in the safe zone (ie not sinking to the bottom after a passive exhale at the surface) but heavier than neutral at 33'/10M (dogma is the enemy of progress!). For deep diving and hunting though I'd say it is better to be at that 10M neutral zone. It depends on how much air I take down but in California I am neutrally buoyant usually around 11M. Lighter than that isn't helpful to me even for deep dives (like 50M - 60M). In warm water, thin wetsuit I don't notice a performance penalty if I weight a little lighter than that for deep dives. When I am bug diving I actually weight about the same way even though I may be in just 15' of water, I just move fast enough that it doesn't matter, and I will fin scull inverted or hold the reef if I want to pause. I mostly always bottom hunt and if I want to cruise midcolum for seabass will usually be down at least 25' looking up.

@chris Deep dives in a 7mm suit are just HARD. It is just the physics of compression and buoyancy. The more neoprene you wear, the harder you have to work to start the dive and then the harder you will work to come up. It takes more energy (which translates to more O2 and/or burning legs) to dive in thicker wetsuits. It all gets crazy complicated though when you start accounting for mammalian dive response, which will affect how your body uses and prioritizes oxygen, but physics of buoyancy and resulting energy cost is inescapable.

@behslayer I actually prefer medium density neoprenes for my own suits because I find the buoyancy profile to be a little less abrupt and for deep diving and hunting I prefer that. In thinner suits (like for competition I always wear 2mm) the difference between neoprenes I do not notice so much. I have never owned anything but a freedive suit but have had plenty of students now wearing anything and everything. Usually in surf suits a guy or girl needs to wear about half as much lead as that same person in a freedive suit, and scuba suits also seem to run more dense than freedive neoprene. Pretty easy to feel the difference when you handle the neoprenes.

@NaClAddict I agree that max breatholds and depth attempts, or blackouts and sambas have no place whatsoever in spearing. For guys and girls that want to test those limits I try to steer them towards line diving or more controlled environment training (classes of course being one example) where that stuff can be done safely and keep their spearing very much in the green zone, or if they want to spear crazy then do it with a buddy who has complimentary training. Nowadays even most top level competitive divers rarely go for max swims outside of competition and do a higher volune lower intensity type training. It just works better, and proof is in the pudding when you look at current records and performances vs 20 years ago when divers were more of the thought that they needed to go for broke at every training session.
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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby dctrjayyy » February 19th, 2021, 8:38 am

Great info.

WSB diving is tough because there is a lot of incentive to break all these rules. Especially from shore like Chris said. A lot of guys I know want to be weighted so that they can do a partial exhale and start sinking if a fish passes by. The biggest fish I personally know of was taken this way. No doubt it is super dangerous to be that heavy, not to mention diving alone, shorebreak, kelp, bad vis, cold water, etc. I hate wsb!
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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby chris oak » February 19th, 2021, 1:38 pm

dctrjayyy wrote:Great info.

WSB diving is tough because there is a lot of incentive to break all these rules. Especially from shore like Chris said. A lot of guys I know want to be weighted so that they can do a partial exhale and start sinking if a fish passes by. The biggest fish I personally know of was taken this way. No doubt it is super dangerous to be that heavy, not to mention diving alone, shorebreak, kelp, bad vis, cold water, etc. I hate wsb!


Yah that is not a great idea and noobs should DEFINITELY NOT DO THAT. On catalina island there is a reef with a plaque, Bill Kroll. The story I heard was that Bill would weigh himself so he could exhale and sink down on seabass without making a sound and he died doing exactly that, hence the plaque.
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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby Bill McIntyre » February 20th, 2021, 8:09 am

chris oak wrote:
dctrjayyy wrote:Great info.

WSB diving is tough because there is a lot of incentive to break all these rules. Especially from shore like Chris said. A lot of guys I know want to be weighted so that they can do a partial exhale and start sinking if a fish passes by. The biggest fish I personally know of was taken this way. No doubt it is super dangerous to be that heavy, not to mention diving alone, shorebreak, kelp, bad vis, cold water, etc. I hate wsb!


Yah that is not a great idea and noobs should DEFINITELY NOT DO THAT. On catalina island there is a reef with a plaque, Bill Kroll. The story I heard was that Bill would weigh himself so he could exhale and sink down on seabass without making a sound and he died doing exactly that, hence the plaque.


I've seen that plaque. Terry Maas mentioned Bill Kroll doing that in his book but said he knew what he was doing. I should check and see if that has been removed from the latest edition.
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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby growingupninja » February 22nd, 2021, 4:32 pm

Re: Bill Kroll, exhale diving

I remember reading about that years ago on the 'In Memorium' page on the Fathomiers website. I was hesitant to open that can of worms in my original post because exhale diving gets very complex. For a skin diver, the physics that effect safety are admitedly more favorable when diving on any type of exhale than for a guy in a 5mm/7mm wetsuit. We work on it as a deep equalization drill in the 40M/Intermediate class in a highly controlled environment but risks skyrocket when doing that sort of diving in ANY environment and particularly as described for WSB hunting. Blackout/samba will come sooner with less warning and in shallower water, plus there is a much greater risk of barotrauma to the lung (this means bleeding lungs and it is as serious as it sounds) on relatively shallow dives. Another secondary consideration is that with the task load of hunting, it can be easy for a diver to forget that they won't drift to the surface the way they ordinarily do on a full lung, making it easy for them to think that they're coasting to the surface at the end of their shallow dive when in reality they still have serious kicking to do on an empty tank.

I'd say this is exactly one of those things where incomplete knowledge can be especially dangerous; ie 'a little exhale' after a peak inhale could be for many divers somewhat safe (although tell me exactly how much air is 'a little'?) while 'a little exhale' from a relaxed lung state--which is actually by definition a forced exhale--would be for any diver a significant compromise to their safe bottom/underwater time. You can easily see this for yourself doing dry breathholds on a couch with a fingertip pulse oximeter. The way Bill Kroll was described to do it would to me imply the less safe way (and correct me if I'm wrong but he died while hunting WSB this way). At the time he was diving, he was also likely NOT wearing a suit made of the lighter neoprene that all freediving/spearing suits are made of nowadays. Because our suits compress so readily at the start of a dive, weighting like that would make a diver extra heavy below the surface, heavier than in a denser suit made many years ago.

I have done many types of exhale diving in hunting, line dive training, depth conditioning, photo/stunt applications as both a coldwater diver and skindiver, and hunted with retired OG commercial skindivers who now pretty much only dive that way in the Bahamas. I am a big fan of having lots of tricks in the toolbox for various applications, and I don't take the largest breath possible for every single drop I make, but to make diving on exhale a cornerstone of California hunting technique...? Certainly ill advised from a safety standpoint and in 98% of hunting situations (including any WSB I have ever shot or missed) not necessary to get close to fish.
Hello, I'm Lance. Find me @socalspearit on Youtube and Instagram.
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Re: Proper weight on your belt

Postby growingupninja » February 22nd, 2021, 4:36 pm

Bill McIntyre wrote:I've seen that plaque. Terry Maas mentioned Bill Kroll doing that in his book but said he knew what he was doing. I should check and see if that has been removed from the latest edition.


He may well have known what he was doing but the more I do this the more I notice that with all but some of the newest noobs--spearing safety is a choice...
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