5 lessons learned from Guiding Spearfishing
Updated: Jan 1
Spearfishing is a high consequence activity. Guiding people in this environment has taught me many valuable lessons. Here are five of those lessons I'd like to share with you.
1) The product is not spearfishing
"What is your intention?". This is something I ask everyone I guide. Not one person has told me that their intention is to learn how to spearfish. Here are the most common answers to that question.
I want to be more connected to where my food comes from.
I want to be more self-reliant.
I want to be more connected to nature.
I want to be healthier.
I want to feel something primal.
The "product" that we offer is not spearfishing. We offer a connection to your food, self-reliance, a connection to nature, and health. How we've decided we'll get there together is through spearfishing. It's a funny thought, but people don't buy many different 'whys', they just buy a bunch of different 'whats'.
2) People Are More Capable Than They Know.
Spearfishing is challenging. In one day, I'll teach someone to hold their breath for 2+ minutes, freedive quietly into the often-times murky water, stalk and shoot a fish, and filet and process that fish for eating. It's a lot. But it's doable. Many people are doubtful that they can do this, and while not everyone will successfully harvest an animal, by the end of the day they will realize that they are capable of doing so. In a world of skills; Microsoft Excel, coding, and accounting, this skill is pretty special to add to your life resume. "Can dive into the ocean on one breath, harvest a fish, and feed myself". In 2022 our success rate for harvesting was 90%.
3) Empathy Is True North.
Everyone's story is different. Some people I've guided have been vegans, and killing a fish is one of the most emotional challenges they've faced. Some are terrified of sharks, dark water, currents. Others are scared they that will involuntarily gasp for air while underwater. The point is everyone here is different and faces different shadows. While the approach to work with each of these opportunities is different, the tool is the same for all. The tool is Empathy. Meeting people where they are. Understanding the subtle language that they are speaking to you which often exists underneath the words they are saying. Knowing when someone is scared and speaking to that fear, or knowing when someone's excitement will jeopardize their ability to stalk the fish effectively are essential for guiding, and the first step is empathy.
4) Guiding is Learning.
When I offered my mentee gloves while he was cleaning his fish by the shore, he looked at me and said "I'd like to do this first one with my bare hands". Ever since then, I've encouraged people to process their first animal with their bare hands. There is a step in the Hero's Journey where the Hero refuses to return home after their adventure. The way they make it back home is to be called into action by a new hero as they begin their own journey. Thus, the new hero rescues the old hero by bringing them back into the story, and the old hero becomes the guide. For Star Wars fans, think of Obi-Wan who lives in the cave until Luke finds him. Luke gets him to come out of the cave, and Obi-Wan's purpose is renewed, as he teaches Luke in the ways of the Jedi. The student rescues the mentor as the mentor teaches the student.
5) Dragons Guard Treasure.
There is a reason that stories with treasure often involve dragons, or the secret dungeon in the video game has a 'boss' monster that guards a special gift. If we want something truly and uniquely valuable to us, it is typically held in the hand of a monster. In doing so, we also release the monster from the burden of withholding their gift from the world. 'Moana' is a good example of releasing the monster of their burden. This is why in fiction, the greatest Heros don't kill dragons, they tame them. Our journey is finding tools and learning from mentors on how to defeat that monster, taking the gift from it, and bringing that gift or knowledge back to our community. Spearfishing can be scary. If it doesn't intimidate you in some way, then perhaps it's just a hobby, and that's okay. It won't yield a sacred gift, but hobbies don't have to. But, if you are frightened by it, then there's treasure to be found, and I highly encourage you to follow that feeling, wherever it leads you.
These are five lessons I've learned from guiding spearfishing with my company Spearfishing Rhode Island. If you're curious and would like to learn more, visit our site at www.spearfishingRI.com or email me at Maxwell.firstname.lastname@example.org.