by Ray Dittenhoefer

San Diego Freedivers: From the Start

In the early '90s, Ken Jenkins took a trip to New Zealand and returned with stories of big yellowtail and deep diving. The most amazing part was the gear he encountered. Kiwis were diving a hundred feet and shooting big yellowtail with one-banded guns. This intrigued me, so I contacted Andre Biller of A.B. Biller spearguns to get some of those guns. He also introduced me to National Competitions.

While waiting for the new guns from France, I realized that our diving gear and techniques in San Diego weren't evolving compared to other regions of the world. This led me to conclude that poor communication among freedivers was the issue, primarily due to the lack of a formal group. Hence, the idea of forming a club was born.

I asked Ken Jenkins, Rich Breitenbach, Lee Olson, and Randy (last name forgotten) to my house on Mt. Helix to help form a club. We mainly discussed the details over beer. Eventually, we arranged to have our first meeting at Quiggs in O.B., promising them a substantial bar tab from the divers. Flyers were distributed to local dive shops to advertise the event.

The night of our first meeting, I had modest expectations. Arriving at Quiggs around 6:30 PM for the 7:00 PM meeting, I found the room already full of men and women. Surprisingly, they were all there for the freedivers club meeting, leading to a packed room with eighty people in attendance.

At 7:15 PM, people were still arriving, and I introduced myself, explaining that the club was focused on spearfishing. While some attendees had different interests like underwater hockey and photography, I emphasized the club's spearfishing focus.

My intention was for the club to be driven by its members. I led the club initially without formal rules or titles to prevent it from becoming 'my' club. I aimed for it to thrive through the leadership and perspectives of others.

The club's goal was to be a conduit of information about new gear, dive spots, and techniques. The last ten years have seen a surge in freediving information and popularity, partly thanks to the Internet. This has led to improvements in gear and skill levels worldwide.

I grew up in Clairmont, saving money for dive gear without access to information on the latest equipment. I wanted the San Diego Freedivers Club to be a resource where members could learn from others' knowledge and experience. The club was created to foster friendships and provide a platform for shared learning, and that's how it all began.