Spearfishing and Free-diving Club Cofounder Shares Ocean Adventures

Fernando Gutierrez of Costa Mesa is the cofounder of OC Spearos, a nonprofit spearfishing and free-diving club.
Photo by James Chu.

How did you get into spearfishing?

I’ve always been into sport fishing. In 2008 in Laguna Beach, I saw this guy coming out of the water with a speargun in his hand, and he had a large halibut hanging from his waist. I was mesmerized.

When was OC Spearos formed?

I started the club in 2010, and the first year we had about 28 members. Now we have more than 300. We do monthly meetings and learn about topics related to spearfishing and lobster diving. We partner with Freediving Instructors International (FII) because the safety aspect is really important.

Is it dangerous?

The No. 1 danger is shallow-water blackout, where you run out of oxygen and your brain shuts off. One of our members died in 2019, and we worked with his wife to start a memorial fund to provide scholarships to FII courses. I’ve had close calls where I was about to black out. When you’re under there and you have your prey in sight, you can forget how long you’ve been underwater and how far down you are.

Any other close calls?

I was diving off Catalina and had just shot my first mahi-mahi. A very large mako shark wanted my fish and swallowed the spear shaft with it. It coughed up both and decided that I was on its menu. It came at me three times, and I had nothing but my speargun to put between us. My boat was too far away, but luckily another one heard me and came to get me. I hopped up like I was Shamu. I’ve swum with so many sharks over the past 14 years, and this is the only incident I’ve ever had.

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