Los Angeles Fathomiers meets every second Thurday of the month at:
Round Table Pizza, 4330 Redondo Beach Blvd., Torrance, CA 90504 (click here)
THE L.A. FATHOMIERS STORY
The Los Angeles Fathomiers skindiving club is one of the oldest and most active dive clubs in California. It was organized in early 1957 as primarily a freediving club devoted to the art of spearfishing. The Fathomiers is a club that welcomes individual divers who enjoy learning the specialized skill of underwater hunting and the selective and conservative taking of game. The club name is widely known throughout the diving world.
Underwater hunting with emphasis on spearfishing, including hunting for white seabass, yellowtail, tuna, halibut, etc., together, with the selective taking of lobsters and abalone and just plain diving for fun are the fundamental activities of the club. We recognize and support all aspects of diving be it freediving or scuba. However, our merits are based solely on freediving efforts.
The organization is open to all persons regardless of age, sex, race, religion or physical ability and no limit to number of members has been set. All experience levels are welcome, from seasoned divers who hold world records to new divers who have never speared a fish. Membership requirements are a three month or longer probationary period whereas a prospective member must have attended three regular club meetings and three regular scheduled club dives, after which a unanimous vote by the active members present is required. A prospective member must have a sponsor, someone who is an active member in the club and who can attest to the members that the prospect will be a beneficial member to the Fathomiers. Important criteria considered in accepting a new member are his/her sincerity and desire to belong and to become a part of the genuine camaraderie enjoyed by all the membership.
The basic functioning of the club includes a regular monthly membership meeting and is currently held on the second Thursday evening of the month (historically, it was on the second Monday of the month) and is followed by a scheduled club dive, normally the following Sunday. The dive is usually a beach event and is designed primarily as an intra-club spearfishing contest. It is a five (5) hour meet, 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with a weigh-in and fish stories at 1:30 p.m.
For scheduled beach events members for the most part must enter the water through the surf with only the basic equipment, although most of us have some special type of diving platform, either a scratch type hollow paddleboard, or the open cockpit type (ocean kayak) which allows one to travel to those farther outside hot spots.
The conservative rules for the monthly meets allow for no more than three (3) fish per species and some species must be larger than permitted by California F&G rules. All fish taken shall adhere to F&G laws and be at least 12″long, except for Calico Bass and Sand Bass which must be over 14″ long. Only one Sheephead per diver is allowed, and that Sheephead must be at least 18″long. The club alternates every other monthly meet: One month will be for ten (10) fish limit, followed by a three (3) fish meet with only one fish per species. Scoring is figured on one (1) point per pound and one (1) point per fish counted. Monthly scores are accumulated and annual trophies are awarded to winners of first through fifth placements.
Annual awards are presented at the club banquet scheduled in February. Trophies are given for: (1) Monthly intra-club competition, first place through fifth place winners. The top competitor’s name will also be inscribed on the prestigious Ed Gulley perpetual trophy in honor of the club patriarch who passed away in 2004. (2) The Al Schuck Memorial Trophy, for the member winning the most points for the largest fish taken in the above meets. Al met an untimely death in a bicycle accident in September 1964. He and Ed were the true original founders of the club. (3) The largest fish speared in California coastal waters. (4) The largest game fish speared outside California coastal waters. (5) The largest reef fish speared outside California coastal waters. (6) The largest lobster taken in California coastal waters. (7) The largest abalone taken in California coastal waters. (8) For the Larry Staat Memorial Polespear Meet, a handicap type contest, polespears only. The Larry Staat who we remember was an aspiring young diver and was well on his way of becoming one of the top freedivers around. He drowned in November 1967 at Shell Beach, California while participating in a polespear competition.
Medallions also are awarded for the largest fish of certain species speared in California coastal waters.
The big event of the year is the club Scramble Meet – freediving only – held annually since the 1960s. It is a highly prestigious spearfishing contest attracting many of the top freedivers around the country. In recent years it has been staged in the Palos Verdes Peninsula area during the month of August. The “Scramble” title rules basically mean: You can dive anywhere you want, but you must sign-in between the hours of 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. on the day of the meet, and return with your fish in the weigh-in circle by 3:00 p.m. same day. No more than three (3) fish are counted with only one (1) fish per species. Total aggregate weight of catch is your score.
Trophies are rewarded for first place through fifth place scores, and for the largest fish taken during the meet. There is plenty of free food and soft drinks for all. On top of that, there are valuable raffle prizes galore that are contributed by some of our favorite and better known diving companies.
While a number of club members are certified scuba and freediving instructors, freediving is still the main emphasis. Without the cumbersome handling of heavy scuba equipment we usually stay out in the water for longer periods of time, several hours sometimes without coming ashore or returning to the boat. Freedivers can generally cover much larger areas of hunting in a day’s diving. There’re pros and cons regarding the actual time spent while below the surface, although it’s been proven that the silent, stalking, competent breath holder actually has the advantage over the scuba diver in getting close to most game fish. We believe underwater hunting while holding ones breath is more sporting and challenging. When one accomplishes the state of being comfortable in holding his/her breath and discovers it’s possible to remain submerged a little longer and a little deeper than imagined, it becomes a feeling of pure exultation. The Fathomiers encourage developing of ones skills in the technique of freediving, but at the same time strongly emphasize it’s of paramount importance that each individual realize his/her own physical and mental limitations. While safety practices are encouraged at all times in club activities, we hold no pretense whatever of having the ability to ensure the safety of anyone while in the act of skindiving. (See Fathomiers Constitution). Diving when enjoyed within the parameters of generally accepted rules is considered to be safe.
For the past several years the club has been largely responsible for maintaining the existence of the sport of freediving spearfishing competition within the auspices of the Greater Los Angeles Council of Divers (GLACD). Spearfishing competition is included as one of the main functions of the GLACD charter and along with the underwater society of America (USOA) it sanctions the sport. One would see as many as fifty (50) or more competitors in the GLACD meets; however over the more recent years that number has diminished to essentially teams from the Fathomiers.
A number of Fathomiers are widely renowned for their contributions to the sport. Some are recognized for their participation in organized competitive spearfishing events nationally and internationally, while others are holders of all time big game spearfishing records. Their reputations and incredible achievements speak for themselves. Looking at the all-time record holders for selected species of fish one will see a considerable number of Fathomiers names. (See below for more information).
Many of the members have developed the expertise in making their own customized equipment. There’s no more prized big game spear gun than the one you personally design and build yourself. A considerable number of us have our very own guns and other equipment, reels, trailing lines, weight belts, etc. which are personally made.
There’re quite a few old timers still active or semi active in the club. Some of them have been around longer than the age of many of the younger members. They go back over twenty, thirty and even over fifty years of participation. On the other hand, there’s a continuing source of “new blood”… younger Spearos who are eager to step up and take over the reins.
Whether it’s underwater hunting or merely exploring, those of us adventurous enough to indulge in “free-diving” form a unique bond. We have a more clear appreciation of the ocean and its inhabitants by enjoying it firsthand.
Web page credits:
Text: Bob Sellers. (Rev. November 2009)