If you're new to Abalone Diving or Rock Picking, there are a few things you need to consider before you go. Knowing about the hazards you might be faced with will help you to make smart decisions about whether or not you should even attempt to go out on a given day.
The Terrain -
Many of the "Good" Abalone Dive Spots along the North Coast require navigating steep, narrow, almost non-existent trails. If scaling the walls of steep cliffs and dodging falling rocks from above is something you'd rather avoid, you'd best try finding a spot with easier access. Because if you are in poor physical condition, you'll be worn out by the time you get to the waters' edge.
- If you're insistent on getting to a particular spot, one thing you can do here is to just take your time. If you start your trek well before low tide, you can take it easy getting down the hill. Going back up, you can take frequent rest stops, because unless you've got a plane to catch, there's no reason to be in a big hurry.
- Just remember that whatever you go down, you'll also have to go back up. And if you're fortunate enough to have scored a nice limit of fat, nine inch Abalone, you'll be packing an additional twenty pounds or more up that cliff side trail you came down two hours ago.>
The Pacific Ocean can be extremely treacherous - Swift currents, strong surge, rough water, Kelp jungles, and of course, the occasional Predator! If these things make you think twice about going in the water, that's good! There's nothing wrong with having a healthy respect for those things that can swiftly put an end to your ability to consume oxygen!
- You can't do much about the conditions, but you can learn to work around them to some extent. Being a strong swimmer and in good physical condition will go a long way here. If you are neither of these two things, just stay on the shoreline and Rock Pick for now, and try again when the conditions are better suited to your ability.
- Getting caught up in a strong surge or current can be a bit of a harrowing experience, but, as in many dangerous situations, if you remain calm and don't wear yourself out fighting against it, you'll eventually get out of it and be able to make your way back to shore safely. If you panic and try to fight against it, you're going to get exhausted quickly and could end up becoming the subject of a Coast Guard Rescue mission, or worse yet, a Body Recovery Operation. And that's definitely not a good thing!
- If you're diving in an area with lots of Kelp, always remember that if you are not careful, this stuff can wrap itself around you and keep you from coming up for air. If you do get tangled up, just don't panic! Kelp is fairly slippery, so remain calm to conserve your breath and energy, and it will eventually set you free by sliding itself right off. So as long as you don't thrash around and burn up what little bit of oxygen you have, you'll be fine.
- There's one more item from the list above that we really don't like to think too hard about, and that is the rare (and we do mean "rare") chance of coming face to face with a Great White Shark! The reason we don't like to think about it is because usually, by the time you know it's there, it's probably too late to escape it! Your best defense in this scenario is to try and beat the Hell out of it before it takes a bite out of you! Slam it in the face with your fist, or even better, smack it with your Abalone Iron. If all else fails. kick it in the head really hard if you can, and it may just decide that you're not worth the effort and leave you alone. And it probably goes without saying, but this would be a great time to get your butt back to shore, and by all means don't plan on going back in the water the rest of the day (at least not in the same area anyway)!
- Up here in Northern California, the water is very cold. So believe it when we say that you'll want to make sure that your Wet Suit, Hood, Gloves and Booties are of above average quality,and a minimum of 7 mil in thickness - Anything less and you will be cold, uncomfortable and ready to quit before you pluck your first legal sized Abalone from the rocks.
- We'll go over the Gear you'll need in a little bit. For now, just suffice to know that you "will" need to have the "right" stuff if you're planning on spending more than a few minutes in the brisk waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Slimy, Slippery Rocks
- Getting down to the ocean is only half the battle. A lot of areas you might be going to, and especially if you're Rock Picking, will require having to negotiate long stretches of slimy, slippery, and sea weed covered rocks. One missed step and down you'll go!
- If you're going to be Rock Picking, the best things you can do here to help keep you from busting your can on the rocks is to wear good non-slip type footwear, and watch your step!
- If you're going to be Diving, you can usually put your gear (fins, mask, snorkel and weight belt) on right at the waters' edge and just lay out in the water with your Float Tube out in front of you and paddle and kick your way out to the area you'll be diving in.
But Don't Let All This Stop You From Giving Abalone Diving A Try
Most of the hazards discussed above can be overcome by using caution, awareness and a good dose of common sense. Some hazards, such as rough seas, strong currents or just plain old bad weather conditions are things you don't have any control over. The one most important thing that you should always keep in mind when assessing your plan for Abalone Diving or Rock Picking activities on any given day is that no matter how badly you want to get out there and get your Abs, it's never worth the risk of ending up in the hospital or worse, the obituaries. If you don't feel comfortable with the current conditions, don't go! Find something else to do that day, and there will always be another opportunity.
In concluding this introduction to Rock Picking and Diving for Abalone, we just want to be clear on the fact that we don't mean to discourage you from pursuing your dream of learning to Dive for Abalone. In fact, we encourage you to go after your dreams. But we'd rather that if you are going to be out there participating in this exciting and rewarding activity, you don't go at it haphazardly. Abalone Diving and Rock Picking will be one of those things you'll literally fall in love with if you learn to do it "Safely". But if you think you can just go out and jump in the Pacific Ocean without first understanding the hazards, well, then your chances of becoming another sad statistic will be increased exponentially!!
We're now going to talk a bit about the gear you will need, and then we have split up the two primary methods of going after Abalone into different sections, because they each require some completely different gear and tactics.
Go to the Essential Abalone Diving Gear section to learn more about what gear you need to enjoy this awesome sport to its' fullest possible extent.
Once you have an idea of the gear you need for Abalone Diving, you can go to the Abalone Diving Techniques page to learn more about what you will be doing once you actually get to the water.
If it's Rock Picking for Abalone you are interested in learning more about, than go to the Rock Picking for Abalone section.