Jay Riffe recalled his first spearfishing outing as a battle — not for the fish however for him. Mr. Riffe, a celebrated California speargun designer, entrepreneur and pioneer of tankless searching and diving, was about 10 years previous, stalking lobster and sea bass in 70-degree Pacific waters whereas carrying a sweatshirt, gardening gloves and boxer trunks.
“Whenever you got here out,” he recalled of his early forays as a sport fisherman in a 2015 interview with the podcast “The Spear,” his physique can be bruised and battered “from being rolled within the surf and the rocks and the ocean urchins.”
He added, “However nobody ever complained as a result of this was the game — this was the fun.”
When he died on Could 11 at 82, at his residence in Dana Level, Calif. — a dying not extensively reported on the time — Mr. Riffe left behind a path of accomplishments in his undersea world, together with breaking three world data for deepwater sport fishing; founding Riffe Worldwide, a premier American spearfishing and freediving gear maker; and advancing a marketing campaign for sustainable-fishing rules. His household stated the trigger was congestive coronary heart failure.
A powerfully constructed freediver who might maintain his breath for 5 minutes or extra whereas chasing after tuna, grouper and dorado at depths of as much as 100 ft, Mr. Riffe (pronounced rife) first took up spearfishing together with his older brothers, John and James, for a easy cause — “to get meals for the desk,” as he put it.
By age 22 he was the Pacific Coast spearfishing champion
“Again then the water was so clear, you possibly can see down perpetually,” he as soon as recalled, including that the abundance of fish off Malibu and Laguna Seaside was far higher than it’s immediately. “So spearfishing began to unfold by phrase of mouth,” he stated, and hunters have been on the lookout for weapons that have been simpler to hoist and didn’t “go off like a spring-loaded bazooka.”
For almost 50 years, starting within the late 1960s, Mr. Riffe built and developed spearguns and different gadgets that revolutionized the game in america. His firm used supple woods, like teak, which could possibly be grooved to suit a spear shaft snugly; corrosion-resistant magnets, which stored spear suggestions from wobbling; and textured nylon grips, which stored weapons from slipping from the spearfisher’s hand.
“He was a mild big, and he had a ardour for engineering the proper speargun for the world,” stated his spouse, Jackie Riffe, who co-founded Riffe Worldwide. Alongside the way in which, she stated, her husband boated and hunted with the likes of Desi Arnaz Jr., Bing Crosby, Jacques Cousteau and Buzz Aldrin. “All people needed to listen to Jay Riffe’s tales,” she stated. “He was recognized all around the world.”
Jesse Taylor Riffe Jr. was born on Feb. 23, 1938, the son of Jesse Sr. and Eva Could (Mortimer) Riffe. He began his diving profession at age eight as a “caddy” for his eldest brother, John: John would dive all the way down to seize lobsters and abalone and Jesse Jr., who got here to be often known as Jay, would swim above and accumulate the catch in a rucksack.
John would go on to change into a Navy frogman whereas Jay labored as a lifeguard, married Jackie Pierson and moved to Australia in 1973 to assist begin up the DoALL Co., a maker of commercial equipment.
He returned to California a 12 months later to arrange DoALL’s American operations and to assist increase his two daughters, Julie and Jill. He recalled in a 2005 discuss at a spearfishing conference that he had as soon as made an ill-advised mortgage to a pal earlier than the pal’s enterprise “went stomach up.”
Jill Riffe recalled how her father dealt with that tough interval.
“He was actually stressing out to make ends meet, and a part of that was catching fish for dinner,” she stated. “He had this wooden bench within the storage the place he would filet all the things — yellow tail, dorado, white sea bass, calico bass, lobsters — and we might go tenting and fishing alongside the seashores in Mexico too.”
Mr. Riffe quickly realized that the spearguns prevalent on the West Coast have been unwieldy and inaccurate. An inveterate tinkerer, he arrange a machine store in his storage in Dana Level, south of Los Angeles in Orange County, and started perfecting what grew to become the Riffe line, led by a gun referred to as the Marauder.
Earlier than lengthy Mr. Riffe’s storage grew to become a focus for “spearos,” and demand for his handmade weapons grew. Quickly he had a small plant and warehouse in addition to searching buddies and prospects like Mr. Arnaz and Mr. Cousteau. At this time, Riffe International makes all of its gear, together with masks, fins and different merchandise, a couple of miles down the highway in San Clemente.
“He dove with many influential folks,” Jill Riffe stated. “Airplane tickets would arrive from the Center East and Europe as a result of all of them needed to dive with Jay Riffe.”
Mr. Riffe broke three world data for sport fishing within the 1970s, catching a 62-pound wahoo, a 44-pound dorado and a 286-pound yellowfin tuna. “That tuna, he needed to take me out to sea,” Mr. Riffe recalled. He hung onto a float till the tuna drained, then descended to use the coup de grâce.
Mr. Riffe was instrumental in altering sportfishing guidelines in order that hunters can be required to submit one catch per contest, relatively than accumulate as many fish as doable to win by total weight.
“Dad all the time stated, ‘We’ve to fish in order that future generations can benefit from the sport,’” Jill Riffe stated. “He didn’t need folks to abuse the ability and overtake or deplete the inventory. He was very agency about retaining it selective and sustainable.”
She stated he had inspired freedivers to reap simply what they wanted. “Conservation was his philosophy,” she stated
Along with his spouse and daughter Jill, Mr. Riffe is survived by his daughter Julie and a number of other grandchildren. The household plans to carry a memorial service in August.
Like all nice fishermen, Mr. Riffe had his share of bloodcurdling undersea encounters, together with coming jaw to jaw with an excellent white shark (no blood drawn by both facet), and discovering himself amongst a swarm of hammerheads off Costa Rica whereas educating the game to his daughter Julie, herself a extremely completed spearo.
“She discovered find out how to cope quick,” Jill Riffe stated. “It’s a reasonably surreal second if you notice that down there you’re simply a part of the meals chain.”
Mr. Riffe, who owned a fishing cruiser named “The Silent Stalker,” took his final dive in 2010 off Baja California. He all the time stated freediving was one of the simplest ways to spearfish as a result of it required monumental endurance and focus, with out the advantage of a scuba tank, to carry one’s place till the proper prey got here alongside.
“There was no higher solution to construct up your physique and your lungs,” he stated, “and no higher solution to be within the ocean.”