2022 Natal Champs and DUC (Durban Undersea Club) Garrick challenge KZN South Africa.
Rob Allen Youtube video of compo here… https://youtu.be/F2AKrOfenxg
This past weekend Saturday the 26th of November KZN spearos were finally able to get stuck into these two classic spearfishing events both of which have been running since the 1950’s! With the hectic floods we had here in KZN South Africa earlier in the year and COVID getting in the way the two years before we have all been champing at the bit so to speak for a good compo! Due to the year nearly being over and finally some good diving to be had it was decided to put both compos on the same day (they normally run as separate events during the year).
Natal champs is shore entry only with only one fish per species allowed to be weighed in with a maximum of 10 fish per stringer (South Africa regulations allow for 10 fish per diver per day). Minimum weight 1kg and a ceiling of 4kg (can shoot over this weight but the extra Kg’s don’t count over the 4kg hence the saying Maxi weigher). You get one point per species and one point per kg. So 50 points would be the perfect stringer on the day. Master Angelo Spada holds the record weigh in at Champs with a stringer of fish around the 40kg mark! Normally the Champs should be a two day event to avoid the luck factor and show who is boss but time constraints will limit it to a one day event. Points from Champs count towards Nationals selection and Natal spearing colours (tie blazer etc). Master Sean Burns is heading up trials for early next year and all interested parties are welcome to contact him in this regard Junior or Senior. Champs and trials are free of charge and boat rides can be organised for trials no problems! Nationals is set for May 2023 KZN South Coast hosted by Hibiscus Underwater Club headed up by Master Don Solomon. It should be a cracker event, excuse the pun!
DUC Garrick competition is shore or boat dive (paddle ski , microlight or whatever blows your hair back…hahaha) and in the past the winner is the heaviest Garrick shot on the day followed by heaviest stringer of Garrick. Currently the limit per diver per day is two fish but recently the Garrick population has been under heavy fishing pressure so it’s now limited to one fish per diver weighed in to allow the breeding population to recover. Please peeps take it easy on these majestic fish and try take smaller fish and not the biggest in the shoal.
Saturday before last was set as the dive day but was postponed due to inclement weather and not much viz being reported up and down the coast (yes fish were shot on the cancelled day but the predicted howler SW wind pitched way later than predicted). The weather lined up perfectly for the following weekend and the entries started flowing in with nearly 40 competitors signing up! Great call Captain Chris West and not an easy one to make. It just shows that experience always counts the most when it comes to diving and at 72 years young the Captain has bucket loads!
On the Friday one two very nice fellows, Master Brent Borstlap and Master Gavin Nell, headed North and South respectively to do some scouting and reported back that it was indeed divable but North was a little cold and green and south was looking good with blue water and an average of 6m plus viz and not much surf at all. Game on!!!!
So the choice was scratch in colder low viz North where most of the action has been recently or head South for the crystal warmer water and take your chances with the sporadic action. Peak Garrick return run is normally from beginning of November (obvs starting earlier in the North and finishing earlier as well) and ending mid December far south coast.
I really wanted to be on the Garrick trophy ,having been so close in the past but no joy, and I already have my name on the Champs trophy so I decided to head south on comp day with Domenic Fourie and Darryl Mc Cormac in tow. We had a little bit of a late start (someone arrived late no names mentioned) ideally you want to be in before sunrise to catch the Garrick on the feed. We arrived at Widenham just as the sun was rising (overcast so no glare) and checking the viz from the view point we could see it was crystals with a 1.4m swell running! Awesome…but here came three divers kitted up about to get in on the North side…oh no! But we were gonna walk to the south side and catch the drift south to north so no worries we thought and drove to our safe parking and kitted up then trudged the 1.2km to the south point.
I am not a speed diver and have my routine when kitting up and entering the water making sure everything is 100 percent before entering the surf for the swim out. Domz was in the rip before I had even put spit in my mask and Darryl was right behind him! I followed about 5 minutes after and upon hitting backline saw four floats not two? Crowded does not work for backline but comp day lets shoulder on I thought. Turned out the two extra divers were Clyde Greef and Kevin Benecke also in the compo and Clyde gave me the heads up that they had just seen Snoek but no Garrick having been in since before sunrise.
We tried for Garrick for about another 45 minutes without any joy and went out deeper looking for Snoek and bottom fish for Natal champs score. I have dived Wideham quite a bit so was on the marks sharp with Domz and Darryl following close behind. Spade fish for days greeted us in 10m with jellyfish everywhere you looked in the 15m viz ! Water was nice and warm with a light south north current running…almost perfect but Widenham works in stronger current normally so I focused on the bottom fish. Lemon fish were fullup so I added one to the stringer with my Spade fish. Went out deeper to 14m, added a Lantern fish and a suspect (under 1kg maybe) Pink Bank steenbras , he committed suicide so who was I to say no, to my stringer.
No Catface rockcod around (normally get one or two at Widenham) and the Goatfish were all suspect sizes so what to do? Bronze bream zero…hmmmm. Decided since it was so clean to kickout onto the outside scattered reef without much structure in 16 to 17m. Second down I was lying on the floor watching two suspect Yellowbelly rockod chasing each other around. No cave so they should not have been there…then the larger one came back and settled on the sand about 5m away facing me head on. Hello those pectoral fins look big and he was fat…SIZE! My 80cm roller finds 5m a bit much so I sneaked closer using my left hand and he spooked a little and settled behind a small boulder. Ha gotcha …ambushed him over the boulder through and through kebab style! Nice!
After that nothing much doing so upgraded on the Lemon fish and Spadie and started swimming in to cruise backline to exit on the north side hoping to maybe see a Garrick. Found sprats and Redeye sardines in 7m going wild and spooking every now and then but no Snoek with them so headed in after 5 hours in the water. Well done Domz and Darryl for going that bit deeper and getting some weighers! No time for second dive so we headed back to Durbs with having to be early at weigh in as I had been appointed as weigh master by Captain Chris West. Ballistic conditions just add fish!.
And that was pretty much the same story for most the divers that headed south on the day…four to 5 weighers on the stringer besides Master John Girzda diving with junior Heath Houston getting a decent stringer of weighers with his sharp eye for fish weights…three of his fish spot on 1kg and also a just legal size Scotsman which are very hard to find especially on a shore entry dive.
Clyde Greef and Kevin Benecke were not done after Widenham! The Amigos needed Garrick! Kevin won the last Garrick compo and Clyde wanted that win…in his own words below
“The DUC Garrick comp is one of my most anticipated events on the KZN spearfishing calendar. It’s always filled with camaraderie and banter between the 3 Amigos team (Clyde, Kevin and Leo). We discussed our plans and ideas during the week building up to the comp and all signs pointed us to a dive on the south coast. Unfortunately one of the 3 Amigos (Leo) pulled out the night before with a work commitment that came up with short notice.
So with plans in place the 2 Amigos that remained headed south to Widenham point. Not long after working the back line on the point I saw some approaching Snoek, but they were moving fast and didn’t feel like becoming a meal. As I surfaced I heard a shout from Kevin. He had managed to put a good holding shot into one of the Snoek already, hence the shoals reluctance to let me approach them. After Kevin landing the decent Snoek we worked the area for another 30 minutes but it started to get a bit crowded so we decided to move elsewhere.
We pulled into the parking at Ifafa point and were surprised to see such blue water and no one on the point. We worked the point in front of the parking and Kev saw one Snoek but nothing else. We decided to drift north with the current towards the river bridge. There were a few rips pulling out as we moved along that affected the viz in some patches and I had started to become a bit discouraged as I hadn’t seen much and the clock was ticking. I drifted into a patch of beautiful blue water with a few scattered boulders on the bottom and immediately noticed that there was some life in the area. Shoals of juvenile Blacktip kingies with a few half decent shad mixed in (thank goodness for shad season being closed and me not being able to shoot one). Not even 10 seconds later I caught the silhouette of something big and turned to see 4 decent Garrick all lit up beautifully. They swam away from me and just before they disappeared into the blue the shoal banked to the left and doubled back with one presenting itself perfectly. I lined up and took the shot and the spear went in just above the spine but hurt it so that it didn’t put up much of a fight and in a minute I had it on my stringer!
We hung around for a little while longer but then decided to head in. The anticipation really started kicking in on the drive back! It was an awesome comp that was well organized and I was so stoked to have won first prize for the biggest Garrick! A big thanks to all who were involved in organizing the comp and thanks to my dive buddies Kevin Benecke (who won it last year) and Leo who although he couldn’t dive had made it to the weigh in to give some support!”
Well done Clyde! And you got a roller gun as 1st prize to replace the one you lost earlier in the year during the Snoek Couta King compo! Justice is done…Aweh!
The guys who went North were on the fish! The viz from the day before had actually improved a bit in places and some damn fine stringers came out as we can see by the top finishers in the Natal champs results sheets which I have attached pdf format. I have also attached the species per diver table also in pdf format and it is worth a look to see what was what on the day.
Master Sean Burns had a great dive with his son James and next door neighbour Chad (Sean stays right at Sheffield stairs parking) here is his account of Natal champs day dive below…
“You can plan for as long as you want for a competition, but you’ll only really know for sure the morning of the dive if it’s all been worth it. That was case the morning of the comp when a bluish-green tint in the peaking swell held the promise of a good day’s diving with some viz. Our plan was simple, head to a point first thing in hopes of ambushing a Garrick on the high tide.
The three-diver party made up of myself, my son James and my neighbour Chad split up after swimming out through the surf. I headed into the foam (white water around the surf break) to hunt white water species whilst the boys worked the Garrick line. The boys had an encounter with some Snoek which unfortunately only yielded excitement and no fish. Amongst the shallow structure I managed to hunt down a sizeable Bronze Bream and couldn’t get a shot off in time on a 4 to 5kg GT that came in to have a look. One species down. After a 45 minute session on the point, we made an executive decision to move onto deeper reef as the tide dropped.
The wind picked up, causing the sea to stir. This dropped the viz to only 4 metres. Many divers would turn their nose up at 4m viz but this is great for hunting reef fish (Just make sure to use a 1m gun or less). We eventually located our deeper reef mark which proved challenging with a light south to north current on the top and a heavy north to south current on the bottom. The flashers (Fish attracting device) where let out to hopefully bring in a Snoek.
On the first patch of reef, I interrupted a plump Catface-Rockcod enjoying his breakfast of a baby Sand shark! My 1m RA roller made quick work of the greedy bugger. Two species down. A few downs later, in 16m of water, I found a decent cave and ended up missing a size Yellowbelly Rockcod. Luckily, that same cave produced a nice Tomato Rockcod. Three species down. The area then became quiet so we finned our way to another piece of reef. The Batfish rose up from the murk, indicating good reef below. A Purple Rockcod received the sharp end of my spear and was the fourth species in the bag. A nice Lantern Fish soon followed. Five species down.
By now my son James had managed to bag a Bronze Bream and a very nice Spadefish on the shallower part of the reef. I continued to work the deeper areas on the outside edge of the reef thoroughly investigating every nook and cranny in search of a Rock Salmon or another Yellowbelly Rockcod. It’s always important to slowly and thoroughly comb a good section of reef before moving on. Over the next couple of hours, the species rose to eight for me with a nice Spadefish, Tasslefish and Lemonfish. James also got his third specie, a size Tasslefish.
Twelve O’clock crept up on us and I still needed two species. Our last move took us to a deeper area (18m) and this area is well known for big Bartail Flatheads, Natal Knifejaws, Spotted Grunter and Blacktip Kingfish which would all add significant weight to my bag. Whilst waiting on the bottom, concealed in a crevice and grunting furiously I managed to pique the interest of a shoal of Blacktip Kingfish. Once they appeared I slowly and accurately placed a holding shot into the biggest fish in the shoal. The fish immediately resorted to dirty tactics, dragging my spear and line straight through a cave and out the other side. I knew that if I left the fish and headed to the surface I would most likely lose a heavy fish and my spear with it! With no time to waste I emulated the tactics of my adversary and torpedoed through the two-way cave hole! Once I cleared the cave I made haste to surface with the fish in tow and species number nine was on the stringer.
Realising time was against us, and content with nine species on my stringer, we headed for the beach. My Coatesman’s Blackfin Float Bag made for an easy exit by riding a large wave all the way to the beach. After a quick turnaround at home, we headed for the weigh in.
A massive thank you to Rob Allen for sponsoring the assortment of magnificent prizes and to Captain Chris West for organizing the event! “
Well done on 4th place Natal champs Burnsie! And taking the juniors diving at the same time…still a master at juggling tasks I see…and thanks for taking on KZN spearfishing Union yet again. Next year gonna be awesome. Aweh!
Had a good chat with Master Brod Whittaker before the weigh in and he chose to stay in his local waters at Umdloti for comp day taking Captain Chris West as dive buddy. First dive was at shallow Selection reef in iffy viz but he still managed a decent Pompano and a Bronze bream. Captain Chris West got a weigher Seapike and a decent Snoek…but a set of teeth (shark) made off with the whole Snoek besides the head while his stringer was unattended. Hard luck Captain!
They exited and took a drive to North Umdloti but that was looking not ayoba (not good) so Captain Chris opted to get going and organise things for weigh in later. Brod hopped in at Selection again and went deep and produced a damn fine stringer of fish to bring him to his 10 species for the day!
Well done on 2nd place Natal champs Brod damn you missed the win again by 300grams! Next year more pushups hey?
So that brings us to the crew of six divers going North in two vehicles. Chad Garret, Matthew Downey and Jordan Perrins dived a point first and the Snoek were filing with some decent viz at 6 to 8m! But only one counts hey. Justin managed a 7kg Garrick putting him 2nd place Garrick compo…well done Justin! They exited and moved a bit south to another spot with deeper reef and managed some decent bottoms for Natal champs score. Well done guys hope to see you next year again!
The other crew of three was headed up by 2 times Springbok spearo and two times Springbok under water hockey champ Master Brent Borstlap. He is currently SA underwater hockey Captain and will be training hard for the next 8 months or so for worlds set to be held in Brisbane Australia next year! Brent asks if anyone would like to join for social Underwater hockey at Kings park pool they will have it booked every Monday night from next year…no charge. They have spare headgear and sticks just bring mask and short fins. Wednesday nights will be for those wanting to compete. Very good training for shore diving! That’s why he has legs that can kick start a Boeing!
The other two divers were Master Kelven Grung and Master Angelo Spada who made the trip down from Gauteng to come compete. They dived a little further north in 3.5m viz, point dive first for two hours with not much joy then they swam in and moved further up into the bay and went deep producing exceptional stringers of fish in the crappy viz. 5 hours later they swam in and headed for the weigh in. Master Angelo Spada came in 3rd at the weigh in Natal champs! Well done Angelo and thanks for the help with the fish ID! Master Kelven came in 6th at weigh in for Natal champs well done! 6th again like Nationals…need to shake that number!
Master Brent brought home the win for the third time now with a great stringer of fish! Well done Brento 3 more to catch up with Jules on the trophy hey!
So there you have it! Awesome compo with divable conditions and a great bunch of spearos never mind the soggy conditions at the weigh in!
Thank you one and all for pulling finger and showing that KZN spearfishing is indeed alive and kicking. Thanks lads from Dive Factory for setting up and even bringing gazebo to keep the spectators dry for weigh in and awesome prizes by the dozen! Captain Chris and Master Sean Burns the effort is really appreciated and keep it up! Thank you Callum from Dive factory whom provided the awesome weigh in pics! He has produced a Rob Allen Youtube video of the weigh in which is available here…. https://youtu.be/F2AKrOfenxg
As always Dive Safe and Straight Spears from the Bear….
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