(This is a special blog post from Jim Kakuk, captain of the Tsunami Rangers)
Abalone diving is a sport all to itself. Just ask any ab diver! Diving from a kayak combines the two sports—now you have a whole new ballgame!
Here are a few basics to know before you get started. First, you must be a good swimmer in the ocean, not just in a swimming pool. Ab diving is not for the weak or out of shape; people die from exhaustion and heart attack more often than from drowning. You must have the right equipment: mask, snorkel, fins, and a wet suit (most abs are in cold water). You also need an ab iron, dive knife, dive bag and measuring device. And note that abalone diving requires a fishing license and tags. Know what the regulations are and any restrictions there may be where you are going to dive—such as in Marine Life Protection Areas (MLPA’s). Dive with friends, preferably good divers that you can learn from and count on in case of trouble. Wait for good conditions and start in easy waters with good visibility.
Abalone live in kelp zones, so you will be swimming through curtains of foliage, sometimes blanketing the surface. You should understand rip currents and the tides. It is easier but not necessary to dive at low tide. When diving, take your time, look around and be choosy—don’t pull the first ab that you see, as the bigger ones are just a little deeper and farther out. It will take several years to get good, so know your limits and keep some energy in reserve, as you may need it. Now add a kayak and you get access to the really good dive spots that other divers cannot readily get to.
Again, be familiar with your equipment and paddle a good boat that you can handle well and get in and out of without much trouble. Washdecks (kayaks with a molded impression where you sit instead of inside a skirted cockpit) are more diver friendly than standard kayaks because you can exit and re-enter with less fuss.
Always use the buddy system; two will work but three is better. One can tend the boats while the other two dive. If you are going to land on rocks then know how to seal land. When diving out of the boat you must be able to get to your gear and put it on while seated in the boat or from the water. Store abs in a stink proof, tough storage bag to prevent the smell from permeating the inside of your kayak. Tag your catch immediately after landing on shore, and remember to share the booty with friends.
P.S. If you have a good ab recipe, please send it in.