Abalone Dive

A photo essay from the Northern California Coast by George E. Baker Jr.

The murky Northern California coast draws a curious breed of fisherman every year from April 1st to December 1st (with the exception of the entire month of July) in search of Red Abalone. Not the rods, reels and tackle boxes kind but the wetsuits, snorkels, weight belts and metal prying bars kind.

The sport has been highly regulated by the State since extreme over fishing and die offs have depleted their numbers to near extinction. It is now only legal to hunt them for sport, using only the free diving method (no scuba allowed). Every year a handful of people lose their lives in the process. It is both a physically and mentally strenuous activity to brave the rough waters. People have drown, suffered heart failure and been smashed against the jagged coastal rocks in the tide with it sometimes taking days for their bodies to be recovered.

All of this, and these guys are still out there, strapping large lead weights to their waists, heading out in to the open waters and searching the tidal zone at depths of up to 30 ft for these little creatures. Now I know I’ve kind of made it sound horrible, but it is actually quite fun.

This is part of what I’ve seen while making pictures with these guys during their pursuits.

George E. Baker Jr.

Oakland, California based editorial and lifestyle photographer. Visually telling stories of people, their careers and their passions. Find more of his work at Georgeebakerjr.com and on social media @thebakeryone.

Abalone Dive, George E. Baker Jr.