La Jolla Abalone Dive – Mac Meda Contest

Why would anyone brave cold and potentially dangerous surf, unpredictable currents, and stories of bull-shitting, man-eating sharks for abalone?

Strangely enough, ab divers spend an estimated $6,000,000 and $10,000,000 for abalone and at $100 per pound in places, we are talking a serious shellfish.  Presuming it’s unlikely that all of the estimated 40,000 recreational abalone harvesters are quite simply crazy, there just might be some reasonable explanation for this madness.

Well, Craziness is Mac Meda’s motto!

Mac Meda Abalone Dive T-shirtThe giant snail inches its way across the rocks in relatively shallow water. Even so, diving for abalone has become one of California’s most hazardous recreational activities, over 10 people a year die from ab diving.

But we forget, we have the craziness of Mac Meda Divers and not ONE diver lost his or her life diving for abs … but we did loose a skiff … right Pinky! But that’s another Meda Post.

And back then, there was no year round ban on taking (or as they say now, harvesting) abalone as there currently is in Southern California.  To a Meda diver (years ago) snagging a few abs off of La Jolla’s Bird Rock took about 30 minutes.

Leaf Spring Ab IronIt all started in 1979 when Richard Krug of Costa Rica Fishing, organized the First Mac Meda Abalone Dive Contest. The winner (biggest Ab) got his name on a cool walnut plaque that flaunted a 10″ green ab.

It was a great excuse to party … get a bunch of boats, pack them with Meda people (who all had fishing licenses), get the top free divers (using tanks was pussyness), head to Point Loma, and start diving. Now the key loophole to this WAS, at the time the law read, “Only SIX abs per license … per day”

Hummm,  so if you had 50 people, that’s 300 fricken abs, regardless of how many divers you had. So that is why we packed the boats!

Richard Krug holds up

Richard Krug holds up his winning plaques

After filling the boats with piles of Abs, we would  have a huge Abalone party. Some of the spots picked were the Krug’s house, CKs, and/or Eddies (now Cass Street Bar and Grill) where Meda Eaters would stuff their guts with ab dip and chowder, fried Abalone, wild rice, bread and salad and of course, drink and eat until you passed out, like the chick in the video…

And somehow, Krug seemed to win it the most so we knew it was rigged, but who fricken cared?

And for the cost of this event … a huge hangover and burping abs for the next few days!!

Mac Meda thanks Dean Burriston and Eber for these photos, and yes, we do love the Animals … cheers to Eric Burton!


  1. I remember Kirk Brown telling me about some kinda of lobster/abalone action off wind-sea- someplace. They both fell out of their boat and were almost killed as the boat kept circling until it finally hit shore. Kirk is aka Larry Selby in Hawaii.

  2. There was a time when the hardest part of diving for abs was fashioning a tool out of flat steel, wrapping the handle so it did not butcher the hand. Holding our breath and diving with a gunny sack was easy and uneventful until I surfaced one time and saw my “buddy/partner” at the time, a terrified Jack Millikan (Vista de la Playa) swimming madly for shore. Seems he had an encounter with a “giant” ray. I believed him and quickly followed.

  3. Kevin F. says:

    Here is some added info
    First boat photo at the dock is the Lady Ann owned by Tony Schwartz, old time local fisherman and surfer, I think that is Tony with the fish and game.
    The second boat photo is the Mary Ann owned by David Caloway, and missed by all his friends.
    The white skiff L62D I think is David Bagda in his lobster skiff.
    The large skiff with the net reel is owned by Donnie Tomlinson or know as (DT), one of the most respected and honest fisherman to play the game. We miss real pioneers like DT. That is Donnie at the stern of the skiff and I think that is Eber up at the bow of the skiff.
    Brings back great times.

  4. Whenever the tide was low mom would send me down to Bird Rock. Steve and I would pry the abs off with our specially made bars (made in metal shop at Muirlands Jr. High). This was the early 70s.

  5. geez this is what I remember about Abalonie…pounding..poundng…and more step dad Steve Gray and Cookie Taylor would show up at the house with a bucket full and for the next hour or so my brother and I would be put to work, but man the results soooooo good!

  6. Dennis Downie says:

    Great web site!
    I just found the remains of my 2nd Annual Mac Meda Ab Dive tee shirt, circa late 70’s? Also found 30 or so photos of actual dive
    from Lady Ann boat belonging to Swartz? (forgive spelling).
    Ab dive took place off Point Loma, Half out and half in the reserve.
    Photos show Calif. Game warden boarding the Lady Ann and checking ab size and licsences.
    I will try to post them.

  7. Ahhh, the beauty of youth!

  8. Jack used to tell this abalone story…right after World War II, his parents rented a house on Torrey Pines Road (ocean side…1600 block). Jack was about 10…his father would come home from work, hand young Jack a knife and say “Go get dinner,”. Jack would scamper down the cliffs/hillside (?)…cut an abalone or two … and provide dinner for his folks.

  9. Amanda luisa Rodriguez says:

    Way cool to see my dad with the ab. on his head. keep hearing stories from him about the old dayz must have been kick ass.

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