By MELISSA SCHNEIDER
For the first time on Fort Myers Beach, DiversOnly.com is presenting Spear Fest 2009, a spear fishing tournament, photo contest and scuba expo this weekend, Friday through Sunday, Sept. 11 to 13, on the south end of the island at Fish-Tale Marina, the festival sponsor.
"We're really looking forward to our first annual event," said Rich Gornick, co-organizer of the tournament and fund-raiser. "We're raising funds for the Harry Chapin Food Bank, a great local cause."
During the three-day function, a captain's meeting will be held at the marina Friday evening, with a full day's worth of fun and activities Saturday, and an awards banquet Sunday.
The tournament Saturday
So far, Rich said 15 teams have registered to compete in the state-wide spear-fishing tournament, a total of 45 people.
"It's still not too late to register," he said. "Just show up to our captain's meeting to register and you're in."
While competing in the tournament, each team (up to three per team) of spear-fishers can shoot fish from each category by free diving (holding their breath) or scuba diving.
"Each team can only pull in one fish from each category. We're not slaughtering," Rich said. "The fish that are caught, they'll earn extra points to win the tournament if they donate their fish to be served to the homeless."
Categories include grouper/scamp, snapper, hogfish/flounder, triggerfish/sheepshead, amberjack/cobia and lobster.
"It's all about sportsmanship," he said.
Top prize of the tournament is $1,000. Teams and individuals alike are permitted to compete, and scuba and free-divers are welcome as well.
The expo Saturday
Rich said quite a few vendors will be showing their stuff during the dive expo of Spear Fest '09 Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., including a slough of dive shops, merch companies and information booths, offering the latest in tools, equipment, gifts and accessories.
"Rick's Dive Shop donated a four-day trip to the Tortugas," Rich said.
Official Spirit Fest '09 T-shirts custom-designed by Guy Harvey will be available, too.
"Come out and see all the vendors at the expo. It should be a good time for all, especially for those who want to learn how to dive. Dive shops will be on hand to answer your diving questions," Rich said.
The banquet Sunday
A banquet will be held for the spear-fishers Sunday, Sept. 13 at noon, where everyone can enjoy a good time while being awarded trophies and prize money.
Proceeds of the event will go to the local Harry Chapin Food Bank. Offers will also be accepted for the charity during the festival and tournament.
For more information, to register for the tournament or to become a sponsor, call 872-6907 or visit DiversOnly.com.
"This is our first annual event and we're looking forward to doing this again next year," Rich concluded. "We've had a good response this year and are looking forward to seeing how good it'll be next year."