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10 Years of Crafting Artisan Spearguns in Oceanside

Local Nate Wells is giving hunting a stylish, holistic approach from inside his 100-square-foot micro-shed
Nate Wells founder of San Diego brand Wells Spearguns underwater spearfishing
Photo Credit: Nathan Minatta

Nate Wells’ home happens to sit on the wrong side of the freeway for an Oceanside-dwelling former surf grom and lifelong waterman. But it’s not the house we’re interested in. It’s his charming backyard micro-shed, where he crafts and repairs his sleek—gamine even—spearguns. Slats of cubed, wooden dowels are casually slotted in bins, while pliers and vices take up real estate in this 100-square-foot-ish workshop tucked to the side of his calming backyard veranda.

Wells grew up in San Diego and, in his youth, spent a few years at his grandparents’ Lakeside ranch, where both his father and grandfather were woodworkers. Wells remembers endless hours “in the sawdust” with his predecessors, absorbing the craft from afar. Wells’ grandfather even made spearguns, unbeknownst to Wells until he picked up the trade. “It’s unreal to see how it’s come kind of full circle,” he says.

Nate Wells of Wells Spearguns works on a custom order at his workshop in Oceanside, California
Photo Credit: Tim Kothlow
Nate Wells in his backyard Oceanside workshop.

After all, it wasn’t Wells’ family that got him into the sport. Instead, a 2014 fishing trip on a neighbor’s boat piqued his interest. “He took me offshore, and I got hooked just watching him catch yellowtail and tuna and dorado and all these things,” Wells recalls. “I was like, ‘I didn’t even know we had all this kind of stuff right here.’”

Pulling the trigger himself, he soon found, was “addicting.”

The same neighbor commissioned Wells’ first custom speargun. Wells supplemented his knowledge of woodworking with info from myriad YouTube videos and online forums.

Custom-made wooden spearguns from San Diego's Nate Wells of Wells spearguns in Oceanside
Courtesy of Wells Spearguns

“As you progress as an artist or craftsman, you start to see, ‘Oh, this is pretty rudimentary. This is pretty basic, you know? Let’s expand,’” he says. “With every batch of guns, I just keep improving.”

Ten years later, Wells is still fine-tuning his work under the eponymous moniker Wells Spearguns, but he’s got his basic materials down to a science. “I strictly use Burmese teak because of how well it holds up,” he says. It’s something people [have used] on boats forever, right? So I use it for the longevity of it—and the beauty of it, too.” Florida-based company Neptonics supplies the parts required to build the gun’s inner mechanisms.

Nate Wells founder of San Diego brand Wells Spearguns underwater spearfishing
Photo Credit: Nathan Minatta

Still, no two guns are quite the same. “I come from a surfing background, and my favorite thing was getting a custom surfboard. That’s like the dream, right?” Wells says. “That’s kind of what I tried to do with the guns.” Buyers can choose custom epoxy colors and engraving, so their device is as beautiful as it is functional.

“I love connecting with people through this, helping them find exactly what they want in this process,” Wells says. “There’s just something about all the little layers of spearfishing, you know, from building your own gear to diving with people and then bringing that catch home to friends and family.”

By Danielle Allaire

Danielle is a freelance culture journalist focusing on music, food, wine, hospitality, and arts, and founder-playwright of Yeah No Yeah Theatre company, based in San Diego. Her work has been featured in FLAUNT, Filter Magazine, and San Diego Magazine. Born and raised in Maui, she still loves a good Mai Tai.

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