How's the Diving on the Big Island of Hawaii?
An ongoing series of freediving journals
by Rob White
Dec. 18, 2006
December in Hawaii is not exactly considered Ahi season
due to the typical winter season cold-er (low 70 degree) water
and maybe El Nino has something to do with it this year but the Ahi
definitely here. Fisherman have been catching and the market shelves
are bulging with fresh catches so I guess NOW would be a good time
to go dive in the deep blue.
My camera was fueled up and ready to film Bruce Ayau for the day.
Accompanying Bruce and I was professional photographer Wayne Levin
shooting Black and White
35mm stills. As I have mentioned in past journals, I enjoy diving and filming
Bruce because of his consistency when spearing fish. I can count on him spearing
something every time he dives below the surface because he simply doesn't miss.
His patience allows him to pick the right moment to approach the fish and his
experience allows him to pick the right shot to land it.
The usual early morning rise and shine led us to our first location
and Buoy. The conditions were pretty good and there were no boats
around, which is good
from a safety aspect but usually bad from a fishing aspect because typically,
if there are any fish swimming than there would be fisherman catching.
Laughing and joking as usual we took our time getting ready. But
sooner than later the chatter stopped and the hunt began. The three
of us bobbing on the
surface like pieces of driftwood, we await for what our casted offering of
thawed bait might attract. Several drifts past the Buoy and numerous
casts of offerings
yielded only a plethora of speedy footballs known as Aku. Until simultaneously,
Bruce and I look to the side and notice a large figure slowly perusing the
near-surface depths but well toward the outskirts of this visual
An Ahi of gifted size carelessly perused the area beside us but
no matter what we tried it just wouldn't come close enough for a
shot. Finally, with a modified
drift and a roll of the dice after wishing it well TWO beautiful Ahi came up
from the depths to calmly devour the palu (chum). However, there was a problem.
I'm in the water to film the action and the boat is quickly drifting toward
the Buoy in line for a collision. I look to find Bruce who is focused
on the Ahi
and I knew he was going to dive very soon so I had to hurry. With all my might
I pushed the boat with my one free hand and kicked as hard as I could to turn
the bow of the boat away from the buoy. A few feet from the buoy and drifting
fast I raced to the back of the boat and pushed with all the strength I had
left, and just made it!
I look to find Bruce moving into position for a dive. I notice
him glance over to see if I'm on the way but not realizing that I
am completely winded and panting
for air through my restraining snorkel tube. Just as I reach him he dives.
I take a quick breath and dive to follow Bruce but the Ahi are about
75 feet deep
and over quite a ways. Bruce does a beautifully slow descent to approach the
Ahi as unintimidating as possible, but by about 40 feet down I'm totally out
of air. I start my ascent but kept the camera rolling and just before I reach
the surface Bruce fires and stones the Ahi!!! His timely, slow approach had
paid off by getting a perfect shot.
We were all very excited but I was humbled with my inability to
keep up with Bruce after pushing the boat away from impacting the
Buoy. We had the fish but
the video was not up to par with my standards, I was bummed. We knew there
was another Ahi below but never have I nor anyone I have dove with
been able to spear
a second Ahi at the same location one after the other. None the less, we had
Amazingly, with the first cast of palu the second Ahi appeared
about 80 feet below. We quickly threw more palu and the Ahi rose
to the surface. UNBELIEVABLE!!!
There is something magical about a big Ahi close to the surface. It must be
the rainbow colors radiating from the reflecting sunlight bouncing
off the skin of
the Ahi or it's just the fact that we rarely see Ahi relative to other species
of fish and especially near the surface! This time I was ready and shadowing
Bruce's moves with comfortable breath-holds. It took three separate, patient
dives with Bruce picking his opportunity carefully to get a good shot. And
it payed off. The second Ahi was securely attached to the spear and
It didn't take long before another incredible Ahi was secured and on the boat!
Two shots, two incredible Ahi! The first one weighted in at 50
pounds and the other 56.5 pounds. Look for the “Legends
of the Blue” Volume III on DVD July 2007.
November 26 & 27, 2006
I know I just went diving a couple days ago but I was still eager
for this weekend to dedicate two full days of diving specifically
for a project. A film crew flew in all the way from New York to
further a documentary based on an artist named Bill who is very involved
in diving and hunting as well as any other high risk, adrenalin
life threatening, limb loosing, head pounding, gear breaking, paramedic
calling… sports, and they needed my help. Now that’s
my kinda people!
The early Sunday morning’s light rays pierced the darkness
of the underwater volcanic cave walls through a natural skylight
above casting both eerie, bending,
structural shadows and beautifully silhouetted images of tropical reef fish.
Like a ride in an amusement park where screams of laughter are heard over music
and mechanical devices, the same is imagined as clouds of reef fish pour trough
a cavernous skylight with every wave that passes overhead then get sucked back
out onto the reef as the wave resides, again and again.
While bobbing on the surface Bill and I would briefly discuss our
spontaneous intentions like police before a raid; ok, you go that
way and do this, I’ll
go this way and do that! Ready? Ok. Go! It’s amazing, sometimes, how so
little planning can create such incredible results when the elements of two individuals
are at one with the sea. Something seemingly so difficult becomes so satisfying
and effortlessly simplistic.
We tore away from our cave dwelling toward the deep ocean blue
in search of what dreams are made of. After numerous location changes
we ended this
long boat ride checking several deep-water locations to no avail. Our hopes
for large ocean dwelling creatures lie in tomorrows dive adventure.
Tomorrow arrives entered with light winds and clear skies. Off
we go with our crew of six armed with cameras, microphones and peanut
butter and jelly
oh ya, and one spear gun. The first encountered buoy location found a
creature sporting a grayish/tan colored suit armed with numerous
rows of sticky
sharp jagged teeth, a White Tip Oceanic shark. Perfect, I thought! The
is going to love this. Little did they know my intentions were not only
our slender subject but to get each and every one of these New York land
lovers in the water with it! Ladies included!
I hammered out the shots I needed with Bill and the Oceanic. We
freaked out the crew when Bill and I told them to get in the water
one at a time.
like, WHAT, you are &%*#$%* CRAZY!!! Ya, we are... so what?
One of the things I like most about what I do is to see the expressions
of people who do something they never thought they could or would
ever do. These
will live the memory of this day for the rest of their lives and
touch countless others with their incredible stories of the encounter
one of earths
most feared predators, the shark. Sometimes it's the simple things
that make all
this worth it.
November 23, 2006
It’s Thanksgiving day and what better way
to give thanks than to go diving and realize, once again, how lucky
I am to live in such
a beautiful place. The traditional Thanksgiving dinner consists of
a gluttony of palatable dishes to satisfy the most finicky of eaters
and what better than to add fresh fish to the feast? Although Thanksgiving
time is a time to visit with friends and family there are inevitably
friends and/or family members who are no longer with us to share
in giving thanks, so in many ways Thanksgiving is for those individuals
who have passed on.
We are constantly reminded to enjoy our time here on earth because
you never know when it will end. We are also reminded that we don’t
appreciate what we have until it is lost. Although these statements
are true and good as a reminder I would like to point out the things
many of us do to fulfill our abilities as living, breathing, capable
The infinite joys of life are limited only to ones imagination,
which some may consider their work, and others, their playtime.
So as long
as you are fulfilling your abilities then you are “enjoying
your time on earth” and you are “appreciating what you
My good friends Bill, Darlene and Julie have joined me for an incredible
day on the water. My favorite part about this group is our simple
appreciation of calm water and a sunny day offshore of a beautiful
island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Hawaii. Just leaving
the harbor brought a smile to all of our faces. Of course, the
thought of what might be ahead inspired us to keep going.
My main objective of this day was to try out a borrowed video camera
to make sure everything worked and to learn the different controls
from my own. Diving the shoreline, we encountered numerous caves
of all shapes and sizes. Due to the Big Island’s volcanic nature
we have an amazing array of caverns where guided scuba tours are
plentiful as well as the big fish and sharks that inhabit them. Within
an hour we had surveyed the area and calculated and logged an abundance
of marine life within our memories. Bill and Julie managed to keep
their safeties locked on the spearguns in this high traffic tourist
area. But the video we got was priceless.
Our next destination was F Buoy, which is about eight miles off
shore and a 45-minute boat ride from our reef dive. One of the
about diving on a Holiday is the lack of boat traffic. We had
the buoy to ourselves.
The current was moving good so we pulled well up ahead and jumped
in. The palu (chum) drifted downward in a shimmering display of
abundance and welcome, much like a Thanksgiving dinner for whatever
in the area. A squadron of Ono comes speeding in head-on from down
current. As our paths crossed Bill took advantage and speared the
closest one for a fast and victorious battle. Simultaneously, two
Mahi Mahi emerge a few feet behind my fins but by the time I gather
anyone’s attention all I could see was their fleeing tails.
Julie had watched the action unfold before her. Bill had his fish
but Julie was left empty-handed. Her eagerness grew with her
focus. She was ready. We moved the battlewagon back up current and
Tiger-like stealth Julie crept into the quiet ocean blue. Fearless
of the bottomless abyss and its many sharp-toothed inhabitance
she griped her multi-banded weapon and held it tight beside her
a soldier standing at attention awaiting the battle cry. With
intent she swam before us leading this triangle of three divers into
Her adversaries suddenly appear and dawn their razor sharp teeth
and slender, missile-like muscular bodies about fifty feet below.
Without hesitation, Julie tucks and dives to meet them head on.
A battle is eminent. Bill and I look on in wonder clutching to
devices of his, destruction and mine, of documentation.
My device of electrodes, wires, glass and plastic encompassed by
a metal outer casing protecting the device for future viewing as
history unfolds before us. At this moment Julie is approaching
several Ono, which are capable of cutting a fish in half with its
teeth and tearing away at blistering speeds of up to 60 miles per
hour. Julie waits for the right opportunity… and waits… and
waits. The Ono seem to be attracted to something she has or is doing
and stop before her. Julie fires!
The entire regiment of Ono speed away, scared by the firing of
tried and true weapon. But one Ono is tethered to Julie’s speargun
and it pulls hard to free itself. Julie has now speared her very
first pelagic fish, ever! The battle is short due to a patient and
calculated shot. Upon securing her catch we all celebrate and congratulate
Julie in victory. But the day is far from done.
We decided to leave these disturbed waters for a more settled some.
C Buoy was a natural choice in the course of virgin hunting grounds
on this day, a holiday. Our arrival has deceived us to believe
there would be nothing below from the lack of present fishing
However, we would be presently surprised to find a plethora of
species tame and untamed. A cast of palu would arrive and be
Several more casts attracted much of the same but nothing worthy
of battle. Suddenly, two Mahi Mahi present themselves ever so
elegantly and simultaneously, one for each diver. Two shots but only
hit. I find the camera pointing in the wrong direction at the
interception but the problem is quickly remedied. I observe through
the cameras eye as Julie has once again hit her mark and she
has secured her caste metallic rod into another worthy target. An
15 to 20 pound Bull Mahi Mahi is thrashing about trying desperately
to free itself from this foreign object it is now tethered to.
It jumps from the water and slams down through the surface, than
to depths of thirty feet and back up for another jump toward
I notice I am looking around to find anything else that might be
taking notice of the struggling Mahi. My senses are telling me
something is coming, and soon it arrives. A large Silky shark comes
the depths to initially investigate the three divers but quickly
turns its intentions to the excited and struggling fish. The Silky
slowly follows the stream of blood than suddenly lunges forward
toward the now frantic Mahi. Before, the Mahi was trying valiantly
its tether, now it was trying to escape eminent death from a familiar
predator and opportunist, the shark. The Mahi manages to turn and
dodge eminent death from the grip of the sharks teeth. For a moment
the shark appears confused and looses track of the now escaping
Mahi. But within three kicks of its powerful tail the shark has
firmly between its jaws. A few small shakes of its head and the
shark severs the Mahi in half and immediately swallows the entire
of the fish, with only the head of the Mahi sinking before Julie’s
eyes she helplessly stares. As if it can’t get any worse, Julie
looks to her side and notices a large Oceanic White Tip shark a few
feet from her and closing in quickly.
With a calm, purposeful delivery, like an artists brush on a white
canvas, Julie raised her speargun and executed a subtle stroke
to the fierce predators nose so as to not excite the animal more
it already was. It turns away and swims to investigate the remains
of the sinking Mahi. The Silky shark has no patience for the trespassing
Oceanic Shark and darts in to finish off the Mahi head.
With nothing to do but to continue fending off the two sharks,
Bill, Julie and I swam circles around each other taking turns keeping
sharks at bay. Eventually the sharks kept enough distance for us
to start swimming for the boat. Julie shared mixed feelings of
anxiety and excitement for not landing such a beautiful Mahi, which
have been only her second blue water game fish but she was thankful
to experience and survive unscathed from such a magnificent event
of the natural world.
I think we all shared something this day that the four of us will
never forget. It’s just another day in Hawaii. Look for the Legends
of the Blue Volumes 2 and 3 video coming out sometime in
July 9, 2006
Wow!I don’t know what else to say.Well
I guess I could tell you the story. But since there might be kids
reading this I will
have to keep it “PG” rated. Nothing about this day was “the
usual,” or “normal.” As a matter of fact it started
off horrible. Have you ever had plans to dive early in the morning,
let’s say 7:00 am, and your dive partner didn’t show
up until like 7:30 am or even 8:00 am? So you understand how irritating
that is?!? Well, we were scheduled to go out at 7:00 am and we
get on the water until exactly 12:00 NOON!!! Why, you ask? Because
SHE had to put on her make-up. Who is “she,” you want
to know? All I’m allowed to say is “she” is a model
and the girlfriend of my Producer buddy visiting from Canada. I have
to tell you… it was funny pulling out of the harbor and watching
men sprain their necks looking so intently. And when we were out
at the buoys diving… the Charter boats and small boats that
were fishing out there actually STOPPED fishing, pulled up along
side our boat and stopped dead in the water!!! I’m serious!
We just laughed and moved away.
Anyway, the perfect weather was a great start to the day. By noon,
the wind is usually picking up and the chop makes for a rough ride,
but it was as flat as could be… unlike our hostess. We made
our way to VV buoy while our hostess, and the “twins,” bounced
and screamed at every wave we hit. Well, we’re not lacking
I had warned my friends a bit about the sharks that have been hanging
around the buoys lately so I jumped in first to check things out.
I regretted not pulling the rubber bands on my gun when I looked
over and saw a Mahi next to me about three feet from my head. I
laughed and quickly loaded my bands. Diving about ten feet down felt
a hundred because I hadn’t warmed up yet… and of course
now the Mahi was a bit weary. I concentrated the best I could to
relax and not stair at the Mahi as I slowly swam in it’s general
direction. I lined up and stoned it. Not more that a few seconds
later another Mahi came in to check things out. I tried to pull the
Mahi I shot onto the string, like you might do with a reef fish to
shoot again, but it was just a little too much of a tangled mess
to attempt this act of arrogance.
Instead, I boated the first Mahi than got back in and stoned the
second Mahi using much the same technique and circumstances as
the first. I was very happy at this point because we had some food
dinner and I was at least able to show the visitors our beautiful
island, local fish and our beautiful ocean. But our hostess had
one request, to see Dolphins.
I told them I had almost hand fed the Stino Dolphins last weekend
at another buoy so I recommended we try there for her Dolphin adventure.
This is where the fun began. We first pulled up to the buoy and
chose a spot far away from the rest of the boats, as I often times
I don’t bother the fishermen if he/they don’t like
divers. I thought I had done something wrong when I noticed ALL
of the boats
were not only close to us, they were almost on TOP of us. Our hostess
and the twins were displayed proudly on the bow of our boat. I
just laughed and told them I’m getting in to check things
out and I’ll let them know if I see anything.
Shortly after I began chumming the water a nice sized Silky shark
came up for a visit but seem to disappear after a few minutes.
I called for my friends to come in and check it out if they wanted
to. For some reason they stayed on the boat. A few more drifts
the buoy yielded nothing but a plethora of ten pound Ahi and Aku.
I didn’t really care because the main idea was to show them
some Dolphins, so I kept looking and hoping something cool would
I threw some chum and the usual parade of small Aku and Ahi devoured
it like no tomorrow. As the chum was disappearing quickly I started
swimming back toward the boat to throw more, but keeping an eye
on the chum I notice the outline of a large figure, but DEEP. An
I turned around to swim back to where it was but stopped because
I didn’t want to “chase” it away. I turned back
toward the boat, than turned back toward the fish, than back toward
the boat… I don’t know how many times I did this but
it was frustrating.
I yelled to the guys on the boat, hay there’s a big Ahi down
here, and asked my buddy if he wanted to get in the check it out?
I quickly reached into the back of the boat for more chum and let
it fly. It sank, and sank, and sank and nothing came up!!! OH MAN,
did I miss my opportunity!?! Should I have swam back to him and try
to get him the first time? I was starting to get very nervous but
than at least the small bait fish started to show up.
My heart was racing faster than a Formula One racecar. Finally,
the image of a mack-daddy Ahi emerged and he very slowly and
swam toward the chum. I was trying desperately to control my
heart rate at the surface but I could not. I was trying desperately
catch my breath but I could not. I had already missed the point
of interception so finally when I dove I had to hustle to catch
Then something strange happened.
I swam faster than I would have liked to down and toward the Ahi,
and to my surprise the Ahi, who was already swimming slowly, seem
to almost stop as if to take a look at me. I slowed my kick and
decent so I wouldn’t cause the Ahi to suddenly burst away like Uhu’s
do when they get spooked. It seemed as if I could have swam right
up to the Ahi and petted it like a puppy but instead I fired just
behind the head intending for a spine shot. It rolled over as if
I just took it out of the freezer, stiff.
But that's not all!!! For just $19.95, a Donkey could
have shot the HUGE Ono that swam right up to me right on the surface
not ten seconds after I shot the Ahi. I contemplated once again pulling
the Ahi onto the shooting line, reloading, and shooting the Ono,
but naaa. I already had more fish than I could fit in my cooler.
after the Ono would have been pure ego, but MAN was it hard
not to at least try!!!
After taking some pictures we left the buoy to another location
still in pursuit of Dolphins for our hostess. By the end of the day
two friends and I had fulfilled our watery desires of calm weather,
great visibility and warm summertime water, big fish and fresh
sashimi. The Ahi weighed in at 95 pounds. A dream come true for all
at hand… even
the fishermen we saw will have something to remember.