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One of the Australian spear fishing team to Tahiti (1965) – Wally Gibbins, shown walking ashore at a Palm Beach Alliman Shield competition in Sydney.

The large shoulder gun was to become Wal’s trade mark choice.

He told us the secret, when it was tucked under his arm it enabled faster left to right, or right to left following of a moving fish (than a pistol grip gun, which is commonly used). Some people were unable to load a Wally Gibbins shoulder gun.

From an era when fish were larger and more plentiful.
Wally medically disqualified himself from the Tahiti competition after blacking out during a deep pre competition practice free dive.

This left just Ron Taylor and Peter Kemp as the Australian competitors.

FOOTNOTE I bought my first speargun second hand from a kid at Annandale, Sydney. Reg Furtell and Graham Hoare were regular spear-o’s we knew from Jack’s Milk Bar (opposite the Royal Theatre) – and one of the few inner city suburbs to have a pin ball machine and juke box, a magnet that attracted leather jacketed bodgies on motor bikes.

The kids talked about a guy who knew everything about diving. It seemed impossible that anyone could be that good.

The guy they spoke about who regularly collected the pin ball machine money and was none other than Wally Gibbins.

I’d listened to Wally just once. His information seemed impossible to my young and inexperienced ears.

In reality Wally, then aged 29 was more advanced with his underwater experiences than anyone else in Sydney, in those times, summer 1959.

NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE Shark chews speared cod

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A newspaper version of events: When the shark rushed at Rick he held the fish in front of him for protection…… note the teeth marks, it was a huge bull shark so long the tail disappeared into the murky Darwin Harbour waters where visibility rarely exceeds 15 feet.

A TV news version A skin diver escaped death from a huge shark in Darwin Harbor today…… diver Rick Trippe had just speared a 100 found groper when the shark charged him.

**The true version (as told here)** Rick sent me this picture, it looks like a large shark had a chew on this Brown Spotted Cod soon after this fish was speared. The vibrations of the struggling fish attracting the shark as they will. Often the shark gets the lot.

The slimy, tough fish scales offered some protection – a lot more than a divers wet suit, that’s for certain.

Picture: Rick Trippe Collection