Profile on Spearfisherman Darrell Hattingh

Earlystart

Darrel HattinghI originally started diving back in 1977 and began collecting shells as a hobby whilst accompanying my father on his fishing holidays to Mozambique and joined the Transvaal Sub-Aqua club in Benoni where I qualified with a snorkelers certificate and 3rd class scuba whilst still at school (where I spent more time dreaming about diving and doing underwater illustrations). My learning curve in spearfishing was initially a slow one and after begging my mother to buy me a speargun for a birthday present, would spend my holidays in Knysna Lagoon hunting Mullet and honing my shooting skills.

Chance meeting

It was by chance that in December 1978, Natal A spearo Gerhard Von Hasseln was observing me from the rocks at the Knysna Heads and called me over to have a chat when I got out of the water. I tried to impress him with a couple of tall stories and he threw the challenge to me to join him the next day out to Whale Rock in Plettenberg Bay. Of course l had never ventured past the lagoon and after being literally `thrown in the deep end` and being seasick all day then after seeing an enormous shoal of Leeries (Garrick) and shooting a 7 kg Red Steenbras the following week, I was well and truly hooked.

Competition diving

I served as Gerhard`s apprentice for the next two years, cleaning boat and fish and listening and learning. `Beneath southern seas` and Len Jones` spearfishing guide were my `bibles` and with youth on my side and lots of determination at 17, I was selected to represent Transvaal at the 1980 Nationals at Struisbaai where I fared pretty well despite coming face to face with a 3/4 meter Great White on the second day teams event off Arniston. 1983 I again represented transvaal and was placed 4th in individuals to my own surprise with Tommy Botha, Ferdi Burger and Andre Hartman in Durban. I have since represented Natal A in 1984 and as reserve in 1985 and in total 5 interprovincials.

Wahoo diving club

In 1982, I moved to Durban and joined the Wahoo diving club with Natal spearo`s Mark Roxburgh and Dave Maltby as my mentors and Len Jones and Tony Dicks as my heroes. Chris West was a regular dive buddy in the mid eighties and it brings back fond memories of our outings on his small ski to Aliwal Shoal where we shot boatloads of bottoms and some good gamefish together. I have held two SA Spearfishing records for Malabar Rockcod and Threadfin Mirrorfish.

Spearfishing bug

I am just as keen now as I was in 1978. I have also gotten involved in various publications with my writing and illustrating, publications including Fathoms, Underwater Magazine, The Sardine newspaper, Al J.Venter`s dive books and Terry Maas` Blue Water freedivers and numerous T shirts as well as serving on the Wahoo club committee and attending some 20 Wahoo Cape Vidal competitions.

Fish encounters

Today, I mostly enjoy backline diving for Snoek and Garrick in the winter months and although l have always been `a quantity rather than a quality fish diver`, my best catches have included a 26 kg Kob, 24 kg Wahoo, 25 kg king mackerel, 17,8 kg Garrick, 28 kg ignobilis Kingfish and a 25 kg sailfish and only once broke the 30 kg barrier with a thirty odd kilo kingfish in Madagascar (having also lost some outsize couta and wahoo).

Highs and lows

Most frightening experiences have been an encounter with a Great White and being caught in a 35 knot Southwester storm whilst shore diving off Sodwana Bay with lightning striking all round, white horses and pelting rain. Highlights were getting a fish over 20 kilos and `having a go` at a 200 kg marlin at number one grounds off Durban. I work as a full time marine artist, general artist and illustrator spending my time between Durban and Cape Town.