April 1 is the opening day of abalone season in northern California.
It's the first opportunity in four months for enthusiasts to indulge an irrational need to spend an hour or more wading or diving in unfriendly and frigid coastal waters in hopes of returning home with a few abalone.
Why would anyone brave numbing-cold, potentially dangerous surf, unexpected currents, and rumors of man-eating sharks (spending an estimated $6,000,000 and $10,000,000 every year) for abalone?
Presumably it's unlikely that all of the estimated 40,000 recreational abalone harvesters are quite simply nuts, there just might be some reasonable explanation.
For most, the major part of any explanation lies with the universal appeal of a treasure hunt. If you went to a local seafood market to buy abalone, you'd have to pay something in excess of $100/pound for abalone (assuming you were able to find it at all).
Each legal-sized abalone yields a pound or more of meat and every abalone harvester may take up to three abalone.
Even though a ban on the sale of recreationally-harvested abalone sets its intrinsic value to zero, there's still a perceived value for a limit of abalone that starts at $300 and easily goes to $600, $700, $800 or more.
Where else can you engage in a relatively inexpensive activity that offers valuable treasure just for the taking? It's a powerful inducement for the more adventurous kids of any age.
But, regardless of the appeal of a treasure hunt, there aren't very many who would partake of this sport were it not any fun.
The fact that more and more people are caught up in this minor mania each year attests to the fun involved and, by extension, that the dangers and discomforts of abalone diving can be largely overcome.