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Freediving N.40 - Jan / Mar 2005

In English.

Published on International Freediver and Spearfishing News, n. 40, Jan / Mar 2005, pg. 24-25.      


Umberto Pelizzari’s interview

Text and pictures by Riccardo Andreoli


Here in 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.

We could say that we’re in a serious case of bad press.

Well, 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.

Arrived, 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.


What 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.

At dinner 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.

Sunday my 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 production.

I used 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 September sun.

Monday 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.

Finally 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.

I have 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 in all I hope that some kind of sense can be hammered together later by the guys editing all this.


Then 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 itself.

Fabio, 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.

During 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 self.

How to put it? Yes! “A really not-humbling experience.”

I’m now eagerly waiting of the broadcasting of all this. They told me around November or December.


I perhaps already told you I’m eagerly…?


Riccardo A. Andreoli

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