“It’s all mental, I mean you can totally freedive 100 feet,” Sam told me.

“You’re shitting me”, I said, momentarily looking up from my audio recorder.

Looking at his warm, genuine smile, I can tell he indeed wasn’t shitting me.

“Well, not with that attitude”.

I was worried it would be something like that. In those mind over matter situations, the latter always seems to prevail with me.

I was talking to Sam Blount, of Front Line Freediving, one of the best dive shops in Wilmington, North Carolina. Generally, if it’s a situation where I have to rely on my mind, my goose is cooked, but in this situation, I am leaning towards believing him. Sam looked back at me with that look of “if only you knew, just get out of your own way”.

I know I should listen. Sam has years of experience and is a local freediving and spearfishing legend in the Southeastern North Carolina area and beyond.

Sam sat casually at his live edge wooden table, with his loyal pup Stitch curled at his feet. His laid-back demeanor somehow lended greatly to his character, Sam pretty obviously has nothing to prove. I, on the other hand, was impatiently calibrating my new recorder, frustratingly trying to avoid capturing the rain on either of the dual mics.

However, despite the difficulties it’s causing on my Zoom recorder, I should be thanking the weather. The rain, pattering against the window pane, was the reason we were here. When scheduling the interview, we had to make it a day that was poor conditions, otherwise, as Sam assured me, he would almost certainly be on the water.

Freediving and Spearfishing—An Epic Combo

My interest with freediving and spearfishing began years ago when I was teaching in Thailand and traveling in Southeast Asia. Unlike SCUBA, freediving is minimally invasive and requires much less equipment, and, because of that, is an incredibly liberating feeling. Also, going deep into the blue completely unteathered is such a rush, or at least so I heard. Spearfishing has been practiced around the world for millennia, and since there is no bycatch, spearfishing is as sustainable as it gets. As a lover of seafood who is naturally cheap, the idea of sourcing my own by diving is almost too cool to be true.

I took a weekend class, and although knowledge was dispersed, it certainly had its gaps, mainly in Frenzel equalizing techniques, a must for all freedivers. On one of my initial dives, I struggled with equalizing and the literal pressure got to me. Coming up early, I was frustrated, but not so much as my ornery instructor. Yet, somehow I passed. I even ended up with a Freediving Certification card to prove it, probably to the dismay of my less-than-thrilled teacher.

Personally, I wasn’t hooked. My limitations were obvious, and I couldn’t tell whether they were physical, mental, or a combination of both. It was confusing to me. I was always someone who loved the water and was an avid SCUBA diver, however, when I was tasked with deep diving without a tank, I struggled. Unable to take the loss, I knew I needed to try it all over again, and nearly six years later, I found the perfect teacher.

Wilmington Bound

My recent move to Wilmington was solely due to my desire to be closer to the water. One Summer Saturday, I went to a spearfishing tournament, and found myself eyeing 14 lb lobsters, monster cobia, and downright scary looking hogfish. There, I also met Sam, and I was determined to set up an interview and subsequent dive class.

Sam is a freediving rockstar, and blows my mind on multiple occasions throughout the interview with his extensive knowledge, skills and experience. If he’s Hendrix, playing a solo on a burning guitar behind his back, I am playing a rubberband over an empty tissue box. I wanted to sit down with the man himself in hopes that he could teach me a chord or two.

Sam’s rockstar persona isn’t lost on the residents of Wilmington. Multiple times during the short time I was in Front Line we were interrupted by people dropping by the store to drop off tanks to be filled, pick up equipment, and browse the shop, even during the deluge.

Below is the interview, where Sam talks a lot about what a new spearfisher can attempt to catch, and why he made Wilmington home. It might sound choppy in places as there were a few times where Sam got some visitors to his shop and we had to pause recording. Also, my fanboy nature is very apparent, something I am working on. You’ll hear a lot of “wow’s” and “that’s awesome”, just don’t hold it against me… Ironically, we were both suffering from lower back pain at the time of recording so you can hear us both adjusting in our chairs quite often. At any rate, I hope you enjoy the podcast with Sam Blount of Front Line Freediving.

Corrections/Notes:

• At about the 9:00 mark, I mentioned the Philippines has 9,000 islands. Instead, it has roughly 7,000.

• In the 14:23 mark, Sam mentions Ted Hardy and at the 14:43 minute mark he mentions Adam Stern, both incredible divers worth following.