Myself and a bunch of mates from the Umhlanga Spearfishing Club had entered the Sodwana Spearfishing Club’s Wahoo Challenge, and I was amped to be away with my buddies. I had been shore diving for less than a year and was still new to the whole spearfishing scene. This would be my first time diving off a boat. I was under gunned with my uncle’s ancient rusty 1.3m rail gun that I had borrowed from his garage.
I WAS YOUNG, INEXPERIENCED
NATURALLY I WANTED TO WIN.
Or at least successfully compete against myself to beat my personal best, which at that stage wasn’t much to write home about – a Yellow Spotted Kingie of 3kg.
The night before the comp, gathered around the braai , we learned that a couple of guys had dived the area the day before, and apparently had seen some giant Wahoo that teased them by not coming into range. A respectably large Great White had also been spotted. Everyone was frothing to dive, myself included. A fretful night’s sleep filled with anticipation spilled into dawn and finally competition day arrived. The heavens presented us with mediocre conditions making the day’s diving challenging, although it was never going to stop us from giving it our all.
We were doing a drift on the outside of 9 Mile and I was hanging just beneath my flasher scanning the blue water. All of a sudden, a Couta supernaturally appeared in front of me. It didn’t look like a particularly big fish and I wondered whether I should even bother to take a shot at all. I think my nonchalant approach to the situation worked in my favour, as the fish didn’t spook and kept coming in closer, getting bigger all the time. The fish turned slightly and I saw an easy mid body shot. The last thing I remember before pulling the trigger was hoping that I’d remembered to take the safety off.
I fired, and the Couta made a hasty retreat for the horizon with my rusty spear in its side. Within seconds I was wrestling with my buoy on the surface, trying to figure out what I was meant to do next. I instinctively went for my fl oat line and began to try to pull the fish towards me. Initially I didn’t get very far but I kept fighting and eventually the fish was in my sights. I remember trying to grab its tail for the first time and feeling the robust power as it wriggled out of my hands with ease for another run. The fish made three more hard runs and it took me 25 focused, tiring minutes to subdue it. I was absolutely ecstatic!
I dived hard for the rest of the day, but I didn’t see another single game fish. The great thing about diving at Sodwana however, is that even without seeing anything worth shooting, the reef structure and abundant marine life means that just being in the water is truly enjoyable.
After a long day, it was time for the weigh in back at the legendary Magintys Camp. There were some really decent sized fish being weighed, so I was beyond chuffed when it was officially announced that my Couta was the heaviest and that I had won the comp!
Hands down, it was the best day of my life and I decided there and then that I would be a competitive spearo for the rest of my days. Landing the Couta, and winning the competition, was a bizarre experience that was both extremely personal and very humbling. I felt like I was wide awake in the midst of a life changing dream… lucid dreaming at a place called Sodwana Bay.