Kainoa Risko


Hometown. I was born and raised in San Clemente.

Years Diving. I started freediving when I was 6. I’ve been a spearing fish for 11 years.

Diving background – when you started. What moved you to spearfish. My earliest memories of spearfishing go back to when I was about 4 years old at San Onofre. My dad gave me a mask and had me paddle a longboard out with him as he spearfished. I remember watching him from the surfboard but i wanted to be in the water diving down with him, so i jumped off the board, I  grabbed onto his weight belt, and I held on as he dove down. I was able to see a whole new world that I had never before seen and it made me curious about what else was under the water. I witnessed him spear halibut and calicos and it really made me want to get a polespear or gun so I could hunt along side him. After we were out for a while, we would return to shore with our days catch of halibut and cook and eat it. This is what really sparked my love for the ocean and my passion for spearfishing.

Top 5 fish you’ve landed and the experience behind it.
1- 37lb yellowtail
It was a gorgeous day on the water aboard my little Boston whaler. The sky was blue and the water was green… We were out 14 miles and  still we weren’t in blue water!! So we jumped in on kelp paddy after kelp paddy and shot a couple rat yellowtails but we really wanted to see a big one. We spotted a massive paddy and silently slipped into the water. My buddy was approaching the paddy first but realized he left his weight belt on the boat so he had to swim to the boat and grab it (Causing him to loose this fish). I very slowly and silently floated with the current to the paddy until I saw the yellowtail sitting under the kelp paddy. As I swam towards it I realized it had already been speared and its wounds had just healed up, so I knew the fish would be skidish. As I approached her, she rocketed away from me and then quickly turned and circled me until she gave me a perfect broadside stone shot.
2- My first yellowtail I ever speared 29lbs.
My dive buddy Thomas, his dad, my dad and I rented a boat out of Dana Point because we herd that fish were everywhere on kelp paddies. We jumped in on numerous paddies, boils, and even a huge school of krill but we didn’t see a single yellowtail of Dorado. Then as we started to take all our gear off and motor on in to the harbor I spotted a boat that looked exactly like my dads old boat, so we went over there and checked it out. That is when we noticed a really small paddy behind the boat. We quickly got suited up and jumped in on the paddy. As we swam up to it, we noticed that there was no bait on the paddy (bad sign). We sat on it for about 20minutes and then we hollered over to the boat that nothing was there but my dad said to swim circles 30 yards off the paddy in case the fish were out there. As we circled the paddy I though to myself, “I’ve been swimming in this one direction for a while now. I bet the fish are just following right behind me.” Of course as I look over my shoulder I see that two yellows are swimming just a couple feet behind me. I quickly turn, aim, and fire. It was a bad shot but with the help of my diver partner we where able to get her into the boat.
3 – -Halibut in 2ft of visibility.
My dad and I were diving in San Clemente and visibility was horrible. We had just gotten out past the surf when my dad decided to call the dive because viz was so bad. My next drop after that I was goofing around  playing with some lobsters on the bottom so I had let go of my gun but just then I noticed the outline of a halibut just a foot away from me. I grabbed my gun that was floating next to me and shot it right in the head. My next drop after that the same exact thing happened. It was a crazy day and taught me to always expect the unexpected.
4-  11lb calico bass
Calicos are some of the most skidish fish in the sea, especially the big ones. I am still surprised to this day I was able to spear one over 10lbs with the first gun I ever got a riffe competitor #00.

5- 100+lb bluefin tuna
My buddy had just speared his first yellowtail and re banded his gun when we swam back to a big kelp paddy we had come across. My dad was on my boat casting a homemade flasher in hopes of attracting some more fish when we saw a huge school of tuna swim up to it. My buddy and I immediately took a deep breath and descended to 50ft where the school completely encircled us. I noticed this one tuna as being at least double the size of all the other ones and started kicking towards it. When I had closed the distance to about 5ft I let the shaft fly into the back of the bluefins head. My gun and floatline ripped past me at insane speed. When I got to the surface though, my float wasn’t moving, the fish had come off, and my shaft was horrible bent. Later we recognized that I did not have enough power in my gun to land it. I learned from that experience to always use a little more powerful gun then you think you will need because you never know what fish you will come across.

Favorite place to dive. Why. Describe one memorable hunt.
I grew up spearfishing Laguna Beach with my buddies. Viz is always great there and the ocean provided a plentiful amount of fish whenever we went out. I speared my first fish on a gun at Thalia street in Laguna. It’s sad that all of Laguna is now protected but its always fun to go snorkel through the coves and see the huge fish.

Favorite fish to hunt. Why.  Big calico bass because they are so hard to stalk. Those fish don’t get to be big being dumb, they are extremely intelligent and they can recognize a spearfisherman easily. You have a few second window to shoot the big ones before they bolt off into the kelp or hole up in a cave.

Scariest thing you’ve seen while diving.  A 10 ft great white shark. I remember going out with my brother and father and visibility was amazing. When we got to the kelp forest my dad immediately speared a big sheepshead and grabbed a fat lobster. A few drops later my brother shot a decent sand bass. He was using a slip tip though so it was a pain to take the fish off the shaft and put it on the stringer. While my dad and brother were dealing with that I started to go deeper into the kelp. I was about 50 yards away from them when I took a beautiful drop through the kelp and saw that fish were everywhere. When I surfaced I looked down and all the fish were gone. I got a chill down my spine and I started to cover myself in kelp in hopes that I would blend in more when all of a sudden this 10 ft great white swims right underneath me and is swimming in the direction of my brother and father. I popped my head up and hollered “shark”. We met up and booked it back to shore. I was more scared in that situation for my brother and father than for myself because they were the ones with all the dead fish.

What’s the most rewarding part of spearfishing for you. The most rewarding part of spearfishing for me is when I am able to introduce the sport of spearfishing to someone new. It always brings me joy to go out with novice spearfishermen and teach them the proper techniques of spearfishing. It is always rewarding for me when I am am able to take a new diver out, get some quality fish, then go back to my house, cook up the fish, and share it all with my family and friends.