As a life long resident of Southern California, beach diving is an activity that I find readily available, fun and relatively "FREE". California offers 1,100 miles (1,770km) of golden shore line, making is quit easy to find water to explore in. Conditions can vary with water temperatures between the low 40's to the mid 70's and surface activities ranging from 20' waves to flat, lake like conditions. A nook exists just south of Santa Barbara, offering a fair amount of protection against weather related sea conditions coming out of the north. Eight Islands lay just west to south west of the coast between Santa Barbara and San Diego. These islands provide further protection against oceans swells and are great locations to dive as well. This makes Southern California a prime location for diving, an opportunity that I really appreciate.
Beach diving entries can be a bit tricky, especially when a
diver carries a lot of equipment. Before rushing into the
water it's best to watch the ocean activities for a while
and get a good idea of the best approach. Waves often come
into the shore in sets. Between these sets is known as the
lull. Counting the number of waves in each set will help a
diver time their entry. Timing the lull gives divers an
idea of how much time they have to get in and past the surf
zone before the next set of waves come in.
The "Surf Zone" is the area between where the waves begin
to build and the highest point that water washes up on
shore. This surf zone is the most vulnerable area for a
beach diver. When times properly, a diver can get through
this area before the next set of waves roll in. Stopping to
but gear on exposes the diver to being "Creamed" and possibly loose gear or
Here Bryan and I enter for a scooter dive just behind a
rocky outcropping. This provided protection from the
incoming waves on the other side of the rocks. Many divers
throughout the world do not acquire thorough training in
beach diving entries and exits. Dive shops along the
California Coast are capable of offering this sort of
training for visiting divers.
Waves and rocks become an addition to any risk assessment
that divers should make in preparation for beach diving. I
like to look at reports of local conditions before heading
out to the beach for a dive. After arriving, I will watch
the surface conditions for a while and look for potential
contingency exit points, should conditions change. A diver
should "NEVER" enter the water if they are second guessing
themselves. The mood has already been set. And never give
in to peer pressure to make the dive. Live to dive another
day. Wait for a day that if flat calm. You have little
investment in the days dive other than fuel money to get to
Here diver are learning how to beach dive. Standing up with
fins on in the surf zone exposes a diver to being hammered
by waves. The "beach crawl" is favorable when surf is
present. During a "beach crawl" the regulator stays in your
mouth and all gear is in place as though the diver is still
diving. If a diver were to get hit by a wave, they will
still be able to swim in or out and best of all, they can
still breathe. Standing up in the surf zone and removing
gear exposes the diver to a potentially disastrous
situation if a wave were to come through.
In the early 1980's a weather disruption called an El Nino Effect hit Southern California.
This raised the local oceans temperatures to near 80
degrees Fahrenheit. It was a nice change as topical
species began to inhabit our waters, but what was soon
realized is that our natural resources such as kelp
was dying and native species were moving northward.
California is famous for its lush kelp forest and they
were quickly missed. Seasonal changes eventually
lowered water temperature but an increasing population
of Echinoideans, such as sea stars and
particularly sea urchins, were devouring the new kelp
before it could grow. 25 years later, we are beginning
to see the kelp beds return to the beaches of Southern
California. But since then, human population has
increased, along with excessive nitrates levels being
introduced in our waters. With any luck, our kelp beds
will fill in and become the lush, vibrant habitats
that they once were.
Marine life can vary from beach to beach. Many species of
fish, invertebrate and plants can make up a reef community.
These residents will have a symbiotic relationship that
keeps a complex ecosystem existing. Hunting and collecting
can greatly impact a reef community. These are fragile
environments and can be ruined by the uneducated intruder.
Most divers will dive to see and interact with the marine
life in a positive way. Destroying it only detracts from
our sport and we should all share in the responsibility of
preserving it he best we can.
The California Sea Lion is one of our more
famous residents on California beaches and rockeries.
They are highly intelligent marine mammal and
sometimes interact with divers. They can grow in
excess of 600 lbs and swim like acrobats. At times,
sea lions will give a diver a mild nip of affection
during play time. Larger sea lions, particularly
bulls, like to stay to themselves. It's best to let
sea lions come to you rather than you go to them.
Divers should never approach a seal lion during mating
season. They are generally friendly animals but they
are still wild animals, capable of biting. I have
never heard of anyone suffering a violent bit while
minding their own business.
There are many great beach dives along California's coast.
Divers Cove in Laguna Beach is one of my favorites. It is
making a slow comeback from El Nino's havoc and I'm looking
forward to many years of good diving to come. Divers Cove
is a game preserve when accessed from the beach. This makes
it a great place to dive with plenty of marine life, well
tempered waters and reasonable protection from ocean
swells. Laguna Beach plays host to many other nice diving
locations as well. This map shows several of the beaches
and street access to them.
Image borrowed from Laguna Pages
This site is NOT intended to teach anyone how they should
dive. It is simply reflecting on what I have done and
continue to do and is my opinion only. Proper dive training
should be gained before attempting anything involving the
use of a Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus