Abalone Diving in California

So what do we do after a long week of shooting and traveling like crazy on the west coast? Relax? Kick back by some swanky hotel pool sipping drinks with umbrellas sticking out the top? Hell no. We get up at 4:30am, throw on wetsuits and dive into the potentially shark infested, icy cold Pacific ocean to hunt for gigantic sea snails, also known as abalone. Yes we might be crazy – keep reading to find out more.

It was early. And the rental wetsuits Chris and I were rocking were cold. And we had our minds on bigger things, like remembering how to swim without drowning. Needless to say we had our games faces on (this might be Chris’s game face).

Part of our crew, suited up and ready to go. Chris and I were diving with his abalone-expert brother Redhawk and Chris’s niece Taylor. Aside from catching the most abalone of the day, Redhawk was our instructor and guide out in the water as well, helping us out with everything from (in my case, the swimming) to spotting the abalone, diving, and prying them off the rocks.

The trek down to the beach was almost as crazy as the idea of diving in the ice cold ocean without even having eaten breakfast first. I usually wait a few hours after waking up before repelling down a cliff.

Redhawk checks over everyone’s gear one last time before heading out in the water. For those scared off by the diving part of the adventure, it’s apparently possible to catch abalone in the more shallow water by the coast but they aren’t as big and the excitement isn’t half as real.

It’s a little tough to see in the shot above, but we were about 50 yards out, swimming and diving around the rocks and kelp trying to snatch our allotment of abalone. Take my word for it, this is much easier said than done.

A closeup of part of the catch. As tasty as they are, they certainly aren’t much to look at.

A man and his snail. Chris was one of the lucky divers who caught an abalone that morning, I hate to say it but I was not so successful – I had a few close calls though, not bad for a beginner.

Our crew of divers with the catch of the day. We all made it back alive and in one piece. Hopefully the next time we’re back in northern California there will be time for another dive and another haul of abalone.

Any questions? Interested in seeing some shots of cleaning and prepping an abalone to eat? Or going for a dive yourself? Let us know @crismanphoto @robertluessen on twitter!

4 replies to “Abalone Diving in California”

  1. chris crisman and now redhawk crisman , holy shit , you guys should start a band .
    and robert can carry the amps.

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