(By Valentina Prokic)
Antonio Buratović is one of the best Croatian spearfisherman. He was born on the island of Hvar, where he also lives today. Spearfishing is a way of life, because it is Buratovic’s job and he is on the sea all year round, whenever the weather allows it.
Valentina Prokic: How did you get started with spearfishing?
Antonio Buratović: When I was little my dad gave me a speargun with spring as a gift. He told me about spearfishing and it intrigued me. In Milna a lot of young people fish with a bow and arrow or a harpoon, and that’s how I started. I got seriously involved in spearfishing when I got the chance to buy my first license and a speargun. One pulled the other, so I slowly started to compete.
VP: Top results have started back in 2005, and 17 years later you are still at the top. Which is the secret?
AB: I had a break after 2010, because after the World Championship in Mali Lošinj I experienced a taravana, so I was afraid. When I started diving again, I did it with restraint, I was not relaxed. I wanted to go competitions, mostly because I could meet my old friends. I knew though I couldn’t reach the maximum because it was holding myself back. But four, five years ago, I managed to overcome it all. Last Summer I think I made the best dives of my life, in terms of depth and time. These are spots around – 40 meters where I used to dive variable weight and shoot fish outside the den. But now I was diving constant weight and would still stay down. I don’t know what it’s like when a man gets old, whether it’s because of his head or something else, but I’ve never been able to dive as good as I did last Summer.
VP: You won the silver medal in the 2010 World Cup in Mali Losinj, you won the Croatian title twice, you were the Croatian silver and bronze medalist, you won the Champions League in Greece twice and you were the winner of the South African Open Championship. Is there something else you want to achieve, but didn’t manage yet?
AB: Everyone would like to be a World and a European champion, but I never considered that realistic. I was good on Mali Losinj and if I had someone to help me, maybe I could have beaten Daniel Gospic, but that’s just a maybe. I wanted to be the champion of Croatia, and I was, twice. That was the most important thing to me. I would like to see where I stand in comparison to Stjepko Kesic, because he is very strong now, he has freed himself. When he competed against Daniel Gospic, he was never able to express himself. I don’t think he didn’t have the quality, but mentally, he was blocked. Dani would get him mentally, for example, he would catch a fish in front of him somewhere quickly. Now that Dani is gone, he is totally relieved and I would like to prepare myself very well to see if I can beat Kesic. He was the champion on Peljesac, I was the second and I was overjoyed with that, but I would like to see if he is so much better right now or not!
VP: You were a part of that fight during the years when Daniel Gospic “ruled” the competitions, but you managed to beat him.
Antonio Buratović: I was not that afraid of him in areas that were not too spacious and shallow, but where depth came relatively quickly, where he could not have the advantage of some positions that no one knows about. Dani is an extraordinary spearo, he knows how to adapt to the situation, he knows how to manage, and with all that, he always had a bunch of small spots that he would get. But it’s also his ability, he knows people, he asks and gets information, and this elevates him even more. But I beat him twice. He didn’t seem invincible to me in some areas, whereas on some, he was like an alien, you could do nothing else but stop, watch and cry.
The future of Antonio Buratović
VP: You have been competing for so many years, what are the differences between then and now?
AB: Today you dive much deeper, and in the past there were many better spearos up to 30 meters. There is a lot more competition at deep depths now than there was in the past. I used to dive at 33-34 meters, few people would do the same, not even Dani, who didn’t like depths before. Now most of the people, when they prepare the competition, they prepare the depth, like Sandi Perusko, Sandi Imbrisic, Bruno Zic and Stjepko Kesic, who is a higher class. Now the spearfishermen obtain better results at high depths.
VP: Is there anything you would change in competition rules, but without losing the magic of spearfishing?
AB: We still have the problem of some “competitiors” pumping fish with injections, especially when there is no torrymeter. It is necessary to add in the rules the minimum length, so that if the competitor inflates the fish, it cannot pass because it does not have the sufficient length. With this solution, we could at least prevent frauds, which are still very present. And also, catching smaller fish would be avoided. It could also reduce the number of pieces and increase the weight.
VP: How long do you intend to compete?
Antonio Buratović: As long as my health serves me, as long as my friends want to come with me. I would even go to preliminaries for nine days, but nobody wants to come with me. I would like to be well prepared for the competition as I used to be, and I need at least 9 to 12 days. It seems now as if I can’t get to know all the competition areas. If I would prepare myself like that, I could always be among the top three. As for the national team, I think one more year, maybe two, it certainly won’t be ten years (hahahahaha). After all, I will be 45 soon.
Antonio Buratović ‘s secrets revealed!
VP: When you don’t compete, which fish do you catch the most and where?
Antonio Buratović: Dentex in late Spring and in Summer, groupers and red scorpionfish, but there are not as many as there used to be. You can’t find groupers in some places where they used to be, there aren’t any. But there are places that I found 20 years ago with three or four groupers, where now there can be years when there are six or seven of them. There are even more groupers than before, and especially more white groupers have appeared, but not everywhere, it is up to the micro location. I fish on a large terrain around islands Hvar, Korcula, Vis and Palagruza and reefs between Korcula and Vis.
VP: Do you have a secret method that you use when fishing?
AB: Many years ago I hunted red scorpionfish differently from others. I would watch a large pile of rocks from a distance and “scan” if the red scorpionfish was “glued” to them somewhere. I didn’t look under or through the holes because others were doing it. When I fish dentex, I try glide as soon as possible and I slide a lot, I don’t go straight, I fall more like a dry leaf.
I try to fall down as gently as possible, to make as little noise as possible, and I make sure to do it with my head down so that the sun doesn’t hit the mask directly. I completely reveal myself and then go down and hide. I never put the speargun on the wall, or on the stone, for me the speargun for dentex is always pulled along the body, if that is the spot, and the shaft is a little above my head. I never put my hand and speargun in front of me. When the fish moves towards me, then I pull the speargun towards the fish.