FREEDIVING IN CUBA
FREEDIVING & SPEARFISHING IN CUBA
While I usually write about SCUBA diving in Cuba, we also do quite a bit of spearfishing while we free dive, since it is both easier, less expensive, and provides us with high quality protein. Spearfishing is a high-risk sport that is usually practiced passionately. It not only requires excellent physical condition, but also psychological preparation, and the unique equipment. Equipment which is difficult and expensive to obtain, especially in an island nation with the economic characteristics of Cuba. Cuba deserves a special reference in terms of spearfishing worldwide because it is not only a sport here, it is a way to feed one’s family, and has its own special difficulties which are most other hobbyists around the globe do not have to deal with. You may think that Cuba has not obtained mentionable results in any competition since 1967, when our team won first prize competing against teams from around the world in Cayo Avalos. The reason we are no longer mentioned is because the sport no longer receives any official support, and is not even promoted. This in spite the fact that we are the largest island I the Caribbean, known as the key to the Gulf of Mexico. Because of this lack of official recognition and backing, Cuba has not had a presence in any major international competition in over fifty years. Freediving as a sport is not even covered by Cuban state media, the only source of entertainment for most the island’s population. Cuba’s population is totally isolated from the sport of freediving, however, the sport continues to be practiced on the island, and there are excellent freediving athletes on the island. Cubans have held freediving world records, by both male and female athletes, Jorge Mario Garcia being one of them. Jorge Mario Garcia is a world record holder in freediving without accessories, and Deborah Andoyo and Pepin Ferreras. Many more Cuban athletes have emigrated, and compete professionally under the flags of their adoptive homes. Other freediving athletes on the island remain anonymous, and through the practice of the sport they help to satisfy their family’s dietary needs.
Many of these anonymous Cubans spearfish at depths of 30 to 40 meters, after a 4am or 5am wake up, and a couple of hours drive or bus ride to the beaches closest to Havana. We are lucky to get in the water by 7am, and we then usually spend at least 6 hours spearfishing, with single sessions sometimes lasting 8 hours. Then it’s usually at least a 1 kilometer swim to the closest reefs, followed by several more kilometers of swimming to look for our target fish.
As you can see, we are truly dedicated to our underwater passion, and it also helps to feed our families. I plan on writing at least one blog a week covering various topics related to diving on the island, and look forward to meeting you on the island so you can experience Cuba’s unspoiled seas yourself.
By Hugo Cabrera