On August 10, I went out with two Sama divers Solomon Dabtar and Julie Misuari along with their two boats and fishing companions as they demonstrated their freediving methods and spearfishing techniques for the Department of Tourism and Guillaume Néry, champion freediver from France. The film crews and photographers with us were professionals. I had an old Sony Action Cam with some condensation on the lens that we never got rid of. My job was to translate, not to get awe inspiring footage. Nevertheless I did get some footage that demonstrates the complete descent, search for fish, and then ascent of a Sama fishermen who practices babet diving (motal in the Badjao dialect).
Here is the footage:
When the Sama dive anywhere from 15 d’ppa (fathoms) to 40, they go down with two ropes, a speargun, and a weight (babet/motal). One rope is tied to the weight and another to the body of the diver. Some boat crews have as many as 4 people to accomplish babet diving. The diver himself, an oarsman to keep the boat stationary in the water, one person pulls up the weight and then one or sometimes two will pull up the diver from the bottom. This depends on the depth and length of time underwater.
In the video you can see the initial dive and then watch the two divers go down together. When the divers reach the bottom you see them release their weight and then we get a first person view of Solomon searching on the ocean floor for a fish. In this video he does not find a large enough fish worth spearing so he gives the signal to be pulled up to the top. At the end we see one of his companions organizing the ropes and weights.
Foreign professional freedivers like Guillaume Néry and also trainers such as Wolfgang Daffert of Freediving Philippines are quite interested in understanding the techniques that Sama divers employ as they dive to quite impressive depths. We’ve learned a thing or two by accompanying both the Sama and these freedivers out on the ocean. Maybe you have a question or two about the Sama methods of spearfishing.
Video footage taken near Talikud Island across from Davao City, Philippines.