As a keen freediver and spearo, the thought of merging a passion with a career can seem appealing. Taking ADAS courses and becoming a commercial diver offers the chance to spend your days underwater, but does a passion for diving translate into the world of commercial diving or does it take the fun out of your hobby? I recently had the chance to head out with a couple of experienced commercial divers for a look at what its all about. I asked experienced diver and spearo Derek Dufall a few questions about his experiences in the diving industry. Read my interview with Derek below:
How did you get into commercial diving?
I got into commercial diving through my love of the ocean and some of my good spearo friends who where abalone divers. I started working for them then eventually got to lease an ab licence. We have plenty of free time in the abalone industry so we also dive commercially for aquarium fish while we aren’t chasing abs. We have slowly grown this business over the years and its now a big part of what we do. I’ve been diving professionally for around 22 years in a variety of jobs including abalone diving, aquarium fish, coral and invertebrate collecting, scientific research diving, commercial cray diving(no longer in practise), moorings installation and service, boat salvage, underwater welding constructing slipways and jettys.
About ten years ago, we met a commercial diver who worked around Perth doing moorings, salvaging sunken boats and the occasional construction job. He talked us into doing our commercial dive tickets and since then we have found that moorings and salvage fit into our aquarium and abalone down time. I particularly enjoy the salvage work, recovering boats that have come unstuck.
Did you find being a spearo made it easier, and why?
Being a spearo is generally viewed well in the commercial world. Spearos tend to be very comfortable in the water and can concentrate on the task at hand.
Do you still go spearing as much as before you were a commercial diver?
No, I don’t go spearing anywhere near as much as I use to, but I still love spearing I don’t tend to go out local but I always manage 3 to 4 spearing trips away a year with some close friends.
What is your favourite part of the job and what motivates you to get your wetty on every morning?
It’s like any job. Some days you just don’t get excited by the idea of going to work, but once in the water I am at home and enjoy getting the job done. Nowadays we are lucky enough to have learned that when the weather is horrible we just call the day off. In the long run it’s a smart thing to do. As a commercial diver you have to understand that not every day is a work day and we are at the mercy of the ocean.
What are some of the dangers involved with the work you do?
There are many potential dangers, the most obvious are: running out of air, sharks and the bends. They can be minimised with good diving practices and a good team around you. The dangers I think and worry about are when we are dealing with heavy chain, anchors, clump weights and tow ropes. When placed under strain they need to always be treated with great caution and respect.
Would you recommend the industry to young Spearos considering a career in diving and why?
Yes but my path into and through commercial diving is no longer a good way to go. Nowadays I would advise doing part one and two commercial tickets. Get some varied experience on fish farms and onshore commercial work to get your foot in the door and then do your part three and look at offshore work. Its hard to make a living as a commercial diver without working away from Perth.