I’m Bob Humphrey. I was born in Walnut Creek, California. I’ve always loved the ocean, but I didn’t dive in it until high school in the 1970s. My dad decided he wanted to try abalone diving with me, so we bought a big piece of neoprene foam rubber, measured my bony body, and made a pattern. Then we cut it up, glued it together, and we were on our way. I dove a few times with my dad and became pretty good at getting abalone. It wasn’t until I met my future wife, Denise, that I got into spearfishing. Her dad, Frank Delahaye, is the one who got me into it. I can still remember the first time I went diving with him. I thought I was pretty good because I could dive twenty feet or so. We were over a big pinnacle, the top of which was about twenty feet down. It was a typical, murky California day. Frank flipped over and I followed him. He dove down to the top edge of the rock and then just kept going. I stopped on the top of it and peered over the edge watching his fins disappear into the murk. I thought to myself, “unh unh, no way am I ever doing that!” But each time I went down, I went a little farther until I realized it’s not any different at forty feet.
In 2002, Allan Spehar, Paul Verveniotas, and I, with Carl Krupansky as alternate, teamed up for the U.S. Nationals, held at Carmel River Beach in Carmel California.
I don’t think I’ve ever scouted harder or longer for any other tournament, and that tournament is still my most memorable Nationals. I have never come in to the beach so exhausted in my life. According to Terry Maas, the Weigh Master that day, our team score was the highest ever recorded there. I don’t think we can take full credit for it, as it was an amazing tournament by virtue of the fact that the sheephead were in pretty thick in one particular area at the northern end of the tournament. It was during that tournament that I discovered just how curious sheephead really are. I found a perfect little crack to hide in and four very curious sheephead just couldn’t contain themselves. They just had to see what that big, slow, strange looking creature was that kept disappearing into that crevice. They say “curiosity kills the cat”. Well, it kills sheephead too.
We had all these names for our spots. There was one I named “Frantic Dave Spot”. During a scouting trip a couple of weeks before the big day, I was paddling toward a kayak at the north end of Stillwater Cove. As I paddled closer, the guy who had been in the water launched himself into his kayak and all hell breaks loose. He frantically yanks at his anchor line, gets it free, and starts reeling it in like crazy. As I pulled up, I saw that it was my friend, Dave Edlund. I said, “Dave, Dave, Dave…why didn’t you just get up on your kayak, sit back, and shoot the breeze a little? You know I have to check this spot out now, don’t you?” So, in honor of Dave Edlund, I named that spot “Frantic Dave Spot”, and the ten pound cabezon I got there, “Frantic Dave’s cabezon”. We all learn, and Dave went on to become one of the big kahunas and a National Championship team member after that.
Anyway, I would have to say that the 2002 Carmel Nationals tops my list for best win ever.
The biggest fish I’ve ever shot, and it’s really nothing to write home about, but I almost got the state spear record for a ling cod, missing it by a few ounces. That wasn’t the biggest fish I’ve ever seen though. I was diving out of Stillwater Cove in Northern California, by myself, in a pretty murky thirty-five feet of water. The visibility was about ten feet. I was breathing up for a dive when, all of a sudden, I could see the bottom moving under me. It’s a very strange and disorienting experience when you know you shouldn’t be able to see the bottom and all of a sudden, it’s very clearly in view, and moving! And not only is it moving, but it’s moving in a way that it shouldn’t be moving. It ought to be moving in an east west direction with the movement of the swell (well, ok, the bottom isn’t actually moving, I am, but you know what I mean), but instead, it’s moving north! I honestly felt dizzy. Something wasn’t right. Then, I realized it wasn’t the bottom. It was a female Gray Whale with her calf right at her side, swimming ten feet under me! I realized it when I saw the calf’s head, and then their tails go by. So, that’s my big fish story.
I don’t compete in National competitions any more, but helped the McGuire team scout Ft. Bragg for the 2017 Nationals. I was amazed that I could still dive as good as ever.
Now, I get in the water a few times a year, and compete in the Triton X tournament in Northern California. It’s a fun tournament with cool prizes. My 24 year old son, John has beaten me two years in a row now, and I’m just trying to keep up with him and my other son, Gabe, as well as my son in law, Andrew.