Umberto Pelizzari’s interview
Text and pictures by Riccardo
Italy, like, it seems, in any other Country in the world, we spearfisher
are under attack. Virtually every small island in the Italian territory is
a Park or is under some kind of fishing constraint as Restricted Area
that, guess what?, targets on spearfishing. Moreover there’re hundredth of
kilometres of sea coast under the same constraints, growing every year.
This is done on almost pure misconception of the spearfishing impact on
the Marine Environment, without nearly a scientific study to support that.
say that we’re in a serious case of bad press.
here in Italy we’re hopefully in process to try to correct this. Mr. Umberto
Pelizzari, worldwide known diving recordman, has finally managed (using his
words) to bring spearfishing in TV. Inside a container program called
“Pianeta Mare” (Planet Sea) he has some time for interviewing a score of
well known and appreciated Italian spearfishers.
by the time I write, to the fifth issue out of more than twenty, the program
is widely followed and is a good success, obviously cherished by Italian
spearfishers but not only by them.
follows is the report of my personal interview by Umberto for the program.
In some unknown way my humble self evidently managed to become the Italian
reference point for Blue Water Spearfishing and in that capacity I’ve been
contacted by the production. First thing, still before 2004 summer, Umberto
asked me if I had some video footage of my trips in the Ocean. I hadn’t
that, I had only still pictures. A dear friend, Nicola, almost only for this
reason, in the last two days before leaving together, bought a last model of
digital video camera and its underwater housing. We were fortunate enough,
in the only week he had been able to remain with me, to take wonderful
footage: wahoos, sharks, even two times the difficult moment of the shooting
and of the fighting with the fish. So, proudly, last Saturday evening,
September the 25th, I arrived in Elba Island for the interview.
I found an old friend, to be interviewed Sunday morning, just before me,
Valerio Grassi, the original Mr. Omer, the founder of the brand itself. He
is by now three months short of his eightieth birthday and is still in top
physical shape. He was complaining anyway that in the swimming pool he was
not able anymore to swim underwater for more than a pool length, 25 m… He
was the dinner long a positive blizzard of memories of the first days of
Umberto, before he became the phenomenon he’s now, and of how he, Valerio,
almost alone, changed the tide of spearguns in Italy, convincing almost all
that arbalčte were better and faster and with more precision of shot than
oleopneumatic guns almost all Italian divers were using before him. The
writer of the production was almost unable to eat because she kept
scribbling in her block notes thoughts, anecdotes, memories pouring from
Valerio’s mouth. Umberto was beaming and the entire table was kept smiling
by this wonderful old man.
interview was planned in the afternoon and I waited for the return of the
party from the sea, and waited, and waited. Finally news arrived that one of
the boat had an engine failure and had to be towed, Umberto had laryngitis
and was almost without voice and that the wind was reinforcing. By now it
was almost three o’clock and the easier decision was to reschedule my
interview for Monday morning. I watched over Valerio’s shoulder the
wonderful video footage taken by Fabio, the underwater operator of the
the remaining of the afternoon to take a land tour of the beautiful Elba
Island, buffeted by a strong northerly wind but basking under a perfect
morning, the 27th. Today is the day. I keep rehearsing what I decided to
say, to enhance the wonder of the Blue, the liberty of fishing without
bottom, the astonishing fish it’s possible to take in this way. At breakfast
Umberto’s voice is almost back and the wind, from the hotel, far from the
sea and inside the pine forest, seems kinder.
Rendezvous at nine o’clock at seaside. The wind is there with a vengeance,
we cannot go out with the boat because all the video gear would be soaked
and ruined. So, plan B, the ten meter inflatable rubber boat with two twin
270 hp engines of the Fire Patrol has obviously no problem to take the sea
but we have to go by land to a secluded place without much wind.
all is almost ready. Much curiosity before embarking about some gear almost
no one in Italy has ever seen: flasher, big inflatable Rob Allen floats,
break-away rigging. The plan is simple, I jump in the water, Umberto says
something to introduce me and then I jump aboard, sit near him and we start
talking. So told it’s very simple but it’s not so simple the very first time
you sit there, with two cameras pointed at you, the sound guy with a big
furry thing under your nose, another guy reflecting the sun directly in your
face with a round shiny gadget, the director directing and stopping often
because the wind was rotating the boat and we were not in good light and
because the wind gusts were covering our voices. And, before all, because of
the stern face of the writer reminding me to curb my creativity, to stick to
what I told her weeks before in a confused and unexpected phone call about
“what’s you like in Blue Water?”. In general reminding me to restrain myself
because the time was very short.
not clear recollection about what I told Umberto about the wonders of
Bluewater. I could almost swear that I never pronounced the word “Blue”. I
remember quite clearly instead telling him and the world together some piece
of doggerel about that spearfishing in those conditions was summoning the
deepest sensations, where the “human being is dissolved, finding in his
place instead the ancient predator. It’s like walking, naked and alone,
through a huge savannah. Where you can cautiously part the tall grasses
before you and see there a nursing lioness, over there instead a rhinoceros
looking at you.” Told on the spurn of the moment, please, be understanding:
I’m not fully responsible of what flashed then across my mind.
all I hope that some kind of sense can be hammered together later by the
guys editing all this.
there was the fun part, diving with Umberto. He’s amazing; he behaves in the
water almost exactly like a seal, for all his height. He glides gracefully,
then rotates and spins without effort apparent, slowly. An experience in
the underwater cameraman, kept telling me what he was expecting to shot and
it was easy. Once in the water, almost all my nervousness evaporated, long
in place reflexes kept firing up and I had the opportunity to enjoy the dive
and Umberto. Half an hour of effortless footage and it was all finished.
Almost an anticlimax.
the subsequently short lunch, just under the picture of a huge White Shark
taken in 1940 in the same place were we dived, in the “tonnara” once
existing there, I was again amazed at how good was Fabio’s footage. I almost
never recognized in that wonderful, deep diving, slowly elegant guy, my true
put it? Yes! “A really not-humbling experience.”
eagerly waiting of the broadcasting of all this. They told me around
November or December.
already told you I’m eagerly…?