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Beachcombing: A new generation of spearfishermen hunts conservatively (photos)




Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
Dr. Joe Farlo and Skip Hellen make a diving trip near Redondo Beach. Hellen has been Farlo's mentor in spearfishing, and learned from the first generation of athletes.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
Dr. Joe Farlo takes his boat out for a dive near Redondo Beach. With the cost of gas and other expenses, a trip can cost several hundred dollars.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
Skip Hellen got into spearfishing during the 1960s. "I've spanned from the first generation to today, so I've seen it grow," Hellen said.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
Dr. Farlo puts on a belt with weights over a camouflage wetsuit. In 1980, the Olympic Committee chose to add synchronized swimming to the games, over spearfishing.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
Spear fishermen do not use scuba gear, and must hold their breath while hunting. This makes it a very dangerous sport, as athletes must reserve enough energy to get back to the surface.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
The spearfishing equipment today can go 20 to 30 feet underwater. When the sport first started, homemade swim goggles limited how deep an athlete could go.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
Dr. Farlo jumps into the water near Redondo Beach. He will dive underwater to check a series of zones where populations of fish are known to be.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
Dr. Farlo comes back to his boat after a dive. The preparation for a dive starts much earlier, from home. Fisherman will pick days and locations months in advance based on water temperature, height of surf, offshore current and other sea conditions.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
"Spearfishing is a sport where if you make one mistake you can die," said Skip Heller, as they hold their breath underwater. Shark attacks are also a reality of the sport, he said.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
Dr. Joe Farlo's underwater view while spearfishing near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14.
Joe Farlo
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
Dr. Joe Farlo's underwater view while spearfishing near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14.
Joe Farlo
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
Dr. Joe Farlo's underwater view while spearfishing near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14.
Joe Farlo
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
Dr. Farlo comes up for air during a dive. The sport is year-round, with different kinds of fish and other seafood each season.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dr. Joe Farlo spearfishes near Redondo Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 14. The sport of spearfishing started in San Diego during World War II.
A figurine of Poseidon, the god of the sea, sits on Dr. Joe Farlo's boat.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


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This story is part of our summer series "Beachcombing," in which KPCC reporters will explore the ecology, economy and culture of Southern California's beaches and coast. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on KPCC's Facebook page.

This summer, we've been exploring southern California's coast through the eyes of the people closest to it. But some get closer than mostby diving in deep water off places like Catalina and Palos Verdes.

In the latest story in our Beachcombing series, KPCC's Molly Peterson introduces us to local spearfishermen