San Diego, California: Spear Your Own Dinner
Snorkeling and scuba are both well and good, but if you want to take your underwater ocean adventure to the next level, then ditch the tank, learn to free-dive, and go spearfishing. "There's something immensely satisfying about harvesting your own seafood, organically and ethically," says Kirby Morejohn, co-partner at Gannet Dive Company in San Diego. "It's also quite an adrenaline rush."
The beaches near the tony suburb of La Jolla are probably the best and safest places in the continental U.S. to learn. The water is not only clear and calm but also (depending on the time of year) full of lobster, bass, and wahoo. The California Freedive Academy has a two-and-a-half day introductory course ($425) that covers basic safety protocol and breath-holding and diving techniques — first in the classroom and the pool before moving to the ocean. By the end of the course, most people can remain underwater for a minute or two at depths of over 60 feet.
Once you're comfortable in the water, it's time to get your gun. James & Joseph Spearfishing Supplies will rent you everything you need: speargun, wetsuit, fins, weight belt, mask, and snorkel (starting around $65 a day). The guns are pretty basic; you're essentially launching a small harpoon with a heavy-gauge rubber band. "But it definitely takes some practice," says Garo Hachigan, an instructor at the Freedive Academy, which offers lessons (from $450) on loading, reloading, aiming — and getting you, and your prey, back to the beach safely.