ITK 11.14.19

As events go, the inaugural Catch & Cook for a Healthy Ocean competition held Nov. 9 in Monterey was a bit unusual. “The point of the event was to invite spearoes to take a sustainable approach,” organizer Eric Keener says.

A Pacific Grove resident, Keener works in marketing for a Monterey law firm. But he’s also a licensed free diver and spearo – slang for people who spearfish. Thirty-eight competitors speared fish, which they then prepared for a panel of local chefs serving as judges. The first-time effort raised $3,000 for nonprofit Save Our Shores.

Weekly: How did you come up with the idea?

Keener: A few of us communicate regularly on social media. Our conversation turned into “let’s get people on board with sustainability.” That turned into a competition that’s not about killing the most fish.

What was the most unusual dish?

Monkeyface eel – those things are ugly and don’t taste good and are hard to clean. Monkeyface eel chowder was an odd-sounding dish. He wrapped it in bacon and smoked it. The judges got a kick out of saying, “Smoke the monkey.”

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Ever run into sharks when spearfishing?

I swam unintentionally with two great whites last year. I’m halibut hunting off Del Monte Beach and happen to look up and there’s a 10-foot great white. We had a blinking contest and it went away. I got to the surface and swam to shore faster than I’ve swam before.

Free diving means holding your breath, right?

Mm-hmm. But there’s a lot of technique behind it. If you’re in regular health you can probably go one-and-a-half minutes before you get that urge to take a breath. The trick is to train your body to be OK with that urge to breathe. I’m diving 30 meters (100 feet).

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