As someone who lived and breathed the sport, he understood the need for a speargun that didn’t scare away the prey, was easy to handle in the water, and which was accurate. Unsatisfied with what was on offer, he began to design his own (which he used to secure his world records), painstakingly crafting them in his garage using his professional experience in machine tool engineering. And some of those early speargun models are still in use today!
Over the past forty years, Riffe has honed its expertise in fine-quality wooden spearguns, producing some of the best models available. Four decades after Jay established Riffe International, Inc, it is still a family business that prides itself on the best quality spearfishing gear for all levels, novice or expert. And it isn’t just spearguns on offer; there is a huge range of accessories for spearos, freedivers, and divers, including masks, fins, snorkels, wetsuits, and so on. There’s even a section on the Riffe website affectionately named ‘Jay’s Garage Sale’, in reference to the humble origins of his company.
Like all responsible underwater hunters, Riffe is keen to stress its philosophy of conservation. In Jay’s own words, “Be selective – fish for the future”. In his heyday, he was dismayed by the vast numbers of fish of all sizes that were hunted. He vowed to spread the message that fish should be taken selectively, and only for consumption.
This passion for protecting the environment extended into the design of the spearguns, where he demanded that only responsibly-sourced timber should be used for the stocks. The manufacturing facility at San Clemente, California, uses laminated teak, mahogany, padauk, and purple heart to craft sleek and stunning spearguns. You can really only appreciate the quality of these beautiful weapons when you actually hold one in your hands. Every detail is superbly finished, down to the logo carved into the stock.
When you examine the range of spearguns and other items on Riffe’s website, you get the sense that they really appreciate the sport from an international perspective. The sheer variety is amazing, catering for a huge number of preferences, environments and situations.
An example of this is the Marauder Series, available in three models suitable for inshore and reef, ‘all-round’, and blue water hunting. Each one has a closed-band slot design, with a Euro-style M-Tab spear shaft to deliver maximum power, as well as a new push-button safety catch (similar to a rifle) for a smoother, quicker release when you’re ready for that shot.
Sadly, Jay Riffe himself passed away early in 2020. But his legacy lives on in the unique and remarkable weapons that he heaped to create.