This year my youngest son Jason turned nine. There is a family tradition associated with a ninth birthday at our house. Back in 1997, when Jason’s oldest brother, Robert, turned nine, I went to Austin’s Dive Center in Miami, Florida, and had them custom make a Hawaiian sling for him. When our middle son David turned nine, he also received his own sling from Austin’s.
It took a while for them to master it, as I expected it would, but by the time they were thirteen or fourteen years old, they were beginning to help put food on the table by using their slings to spearfish.
This week, as per our tradition, Jason and I walked into Austins, and Luis – friends with my son Robert – put together a sling for Jason using the lightest tubing and wrapping it perfectly. Jason could just barely pull it back. He and Luis are both left-handed, so Luis gave him a few instructions and Jason was beginning to feel more comfortable with it by the time I was ready to go.
Hawaiian slings operate much as a bow and arrow does on land, except the energy is stored in the rubber tubing instead of the wooden or fiberglass shaft. It’s similar to a speargun or polespear, although it is somewhat more powerful than a polespear and less powerful than most spearguns. They are used by spearfishers who prefer a more challenging hunt, or by those who hunt in waters where spearguns are banned, such as the Bahamas, where we often hunt. Slings are usually used in shallower waters where you can retrieve the spear. In Florida, we rarely need to dive deeper than 60 ft to spearfish, and more often we find our fish in 20 ft to 30 ft.
Hunting with a Hawaiian sling is a very selective method for harvesting fish. Bait is not used and there is no by-catch – also a plus. Besides all those benefits, it is a fun activity the whole family can enjoy as they provide healthy, organic, wild-caught fish for the table.
Kids Jason’s age are old enough to understand what they need to do and with a few years to master the skill, including the skill of freediving, they are well prepared to enter their teen years as proficient underwater hunters. It’s never too early to begin teaching children freedive safety, either. You should begin doing this as you are teaching them to spearfish in order that they may live long, healthy, and productive lives while supplying their own families with good food. Click here to brush up on your own safety skills so you can pass these on to your children. You might consider purchasing a Freediver Recovery Vest for your older children, like the one Robert is wearing in the picture at the top of this page. Learn more about this on the right column of this page.
A Hawaiian sling is comprised of a wooden shooter through which you insert the base of the spear and fit it into the aluminum spear holder you see between his first and second fingers. Lycra bands are wrapped tightly onto the shooter.
This is a stainless steel spear with a flopper type barb, which helps keep a speared fish from sliding off. Spear shafts come in various lengths and thicknesses. This one is 1/4″ thick and 60″ long – the smallest size made – and best suited for teaching children.
Now for the hard part, at least for a beginner. Jason pulls back the bands with all his might. This is not easy and he will need to keep working at it to build up his strength. But this is a great beginning. Do it, Jason!
He’s got it now, and looks down the shaft to get a good sighting on a massive fish! I like his form here. He just needs to build up some muscle so he can pull the bands back further.
Living in a family of great slingers, he should get plenty of practice with his Dad and brothers. Soon he’ll be slaying dinner with the rest of them! Robert and David are excited that their little brother now has his own sling; they are looking forward to showing him the ropes!