Feb 2, 2020
Interview with Philip Van Zijl -
Godfather of The "Spearfishing Mafia"!
This episode covers Philip’s
spearfishing journey from the jump to competition diving starting
in Cape Town, South Africa to New Zealand and plenty of places in
between. He’s a champion of the sport, an absolute legend. He’s a
major contributor to the spearfishing community, and a big
proponent of paying it forward. Something he’s coined “The
Spearfishing Mafia”. Our community, sport, and the hobby are niche.
It’s even more niche than SCUBA diving. Take advantage of it, and
build your network.
Big thanks to Philip for taking
the time to “pay it forward” on the Noob Spearo Podcast!
This episode is provided to you
through the support of Patron listeners! Thanks
Philip Van Zijl began diving in
Cape Town in 1968 at the young age of 16, without wetsuits and just
basic gear taking the train to get to where he needed to be. Yellow
tail, crayfish, and other good species were some of his earliest
accomplishments, always a good feed! A master of limiting out on
crayfish during his years in school. He even paid for a year of his
time at university from the fruits of his diving! A strong
proponent of speargun awareness, make sure you listen to find out
Philip personally procured one
of his 120cm spearguns from the legendary Rob Allen, what a story!
Think you’re bad about keeping old gear? Philip still has his first
catch bag he bought in the 60’s.
26:00 Early struggles spearfishing
- Personally, rigging your own speargun was a bit
more difficult without YouTube…
you give out kindness, it comes back to you.” – Pay it
- Learning new spots, on your own – pays
dividends later on!
- Sharing your expertise, and knowledge, doesn’t
necessarily mean sharing your spots
- Proper weighting, weight secure locations
(Harness vs. Belt)
31:35 Most memorable catch
His last dive in Tauranga, NZ
with a mate who brought him to a secret honey hole. 15-20 meters
visibility, perfect conditions. Kingfish, historically uncommon for
the area but are making a comeback. He was diving with some
friends, stomach started to sour, and then returned to the boat.
After viewing a bait ball of Kahawai, he grabbed his gear and
jumped back into the water. Viewing a school of Kingfish, he pulled
the trigger and bagged a PB weighing in at approximately 27 kilos!
To hear his second most memorable catch on a “popgun”, tune in to
38:50 Favorite species to
Snapper, hands down. A
challenging quarry, requiring a combination of burly and stealth.
3-4k tops, but no monsters like on the GBR. Slow movements, be
calm, don’t look directly *at* them, and let them get within target
range. Maintain gun awareness so that when the shot presents
itself, it can easily be taken. Learned from losing a 6k Trevally
years ago. Learn about the duality of the gun safety discussion
42:50 Scariest moments
in the ocean
While shooting a Blue Moki, the
bugger got off the spear and high-tailed it into a crevice.
Meanwhile, a surge came and pushed Philip into a crevice in which
he was stuck. Every spearo’s nightmare. Trying to remain calm, he
considered that a surge which can push you in, can also pull you
out. Going for broke, he expelled the air in his lungs to reduce
his physical profile and was able to get pulled out on the next
surge out to sea. Probably the scariest moment of his life. Lesson
learned – be very careful when working a crevice while fishing for
crays or otherwise.
Veterans Vault: The “Spearfishing Mafia”
- Giving back to the spearfishing community is as
important as the sport itself. Hospitality within the spearfishing
community is unique to the sport – PAY IT FORWARD!
your gear as often as possible when traveling so you never miss an
- Reaching out on social media prior to travel
and networking can be an incredible asset
traveling with spearfishing equipment, keep “gun” out of your
vocabulary. Just refer to it as fishing equipment. It can save you
- Cooler bags can be worth their weight in gold
- Sharing spearfishing equipment when mates are
traveling can not just save on cost but strengthen
- Be a
good host – it comes back around; when you aren’t, well then it
won’t will it?
to avoid losing a knife - use some paracord or dyneema, tie it off
to a pencil or other instrument, then tie that to the end of the
knife. This way, when you drop the knife (not if, but when) it will
Catch-bags are a must, saves you
from going back to your plat “float boat”. Avoid harassment from
sea lions, seals, or the tax man by simply using a catch-bag.
Actually, saved a fishing competition by using one as the sea lions
were going from float to float getting chubby on the hard work of
humans. Carry two knives – one on thigh and one on arm. To avoid
losing knives, use some paracord or dyneema, tie it off to a pencil
or other instrument, then tie that to the end of the knife. This
way, when you drop the knife (not if, but when) it will stay
1:06 Spearo Q&A
- Describe what the spearfishing experience means
Happy Place, oh and the food.”
- Single best piece of advice ever given for
to your capabilities, don’t overdo it. Have fun, enjoy it, recharge
influential person in spearfishing to you?
- Jacques Cousteau, major influence.
- Spearfishing/Freediving library?
Tips to get Better at Spearfishing!
to start all over, what would you do differently?
- Get a
decent wetsuit, a lot earlier. It makes such a difference. A decent
speargun too. OMER fins, good foot pockets. Being comfortable when
diving is more important than you think! Carbon fins have made a
huge difference, but hey back in the 60’s we didn’t have a choice.
Don’t look at the brand, look at the fit, and you’ll appreciate it
later. You don’t need to spend a fortune to have an effective dive
is the best person to go spearfishing with now?
got a Band of Brothers here now. I tell my wife it’s my Portuguese
adopted son. There’s a few spearos around here and we all go
can people connect with you?
- Philip Van Zijl Sr. on Facebook, message me and
let’s connect for a chat or a dive!
parting guidance or wisdom for the community?
the example. A lot of people have different perspectives of
spearos, 90% of us are ethical and moral hunters. Don’t publish
death piles. It just gives ammo to the greenies. Pay attention to
the size of the fish. If there’s a doubt, don’t shoot. If it’s
marginal, don’t shoot. If it’s huge, then its legal.
Noob Spearo Partners + Promotions
Immersion Online freediving classes @
- 28-day Freediving
Transformation. Want to
increase your bottom time? Want to lower your comfortable operating
depth? Want to increase your breath hold? In 4 weeks, you can
transform your physiology to improve your performance as a free
diver. Learn the proven strategies competitive free divers
use to strengthen their performance.
Masterclass. If you
are free diver who struggles to equalize your ears in the 15-30 ft
range this course is the answer. 14 videos discuss every equalizing
problem and coach you through the difficulty. Say goodbye to
Valsalva and hello to Frenzel and make equalizing
- Tuesday Ted Talks
Freediving. 19 one-hour
live Instagram episodes where I discuss a variety of freediving
topics and answer peoples question live on
- Free online courses
– How to take a 20-30%
bigger breath and how to make the mammalian dive reflex work for
– Free online safety
all of Ted’s online freediving classes @