Our First Dive on the West Coast

As some of you may know, I come from a family of SCUBA divers (from now on I’ll just say “divers” or “diving”, but I mean the SCUBA variety, not the free/olympic/etc variety… though I am very interested in giving freediving a shot). Still, despite having dove in a number of locations around the world (Michigan, Mexico, Belize, Virgin Islands, Thailand, etc…) I had never been diving in the Pacific.

Lindsay and I decided that it was probably a good time to do something about that. We had all of our dive gear out here (thanks family!) so there wasn’t much stopping us. Well two small problems:

-We didn’t have hoods or gloves
-We didn’t know where to dive

I DO know that the water here in Northern California is cold, and that there are sometimes serious waves, so diving here isn’t as “easy” as it might be somewhere like the Caribbean. Michigan has the same cold (or even colder) water, but is fresh water (requiring less weight) and also the water is generally a bit gentler.

I did some research, and luckily there was a pretty clear path for new Pacific coast divers: Breakwater Cove (or just “Breakwater”). Breakwater is in Monterey, CA which is a convenient(ish) 2-3 hour drive (depending on traffic) from Oakland. The Breakwater is very well protected from the open ocean, so you don’t have to battle breaking waves to get into the water, and the surge is generally pretty gentle.

We decided to leave on Friday evening after work. We camped over night at a great little campground (whose name I’m forgetting) and met some very nice freedivers who were going spearfishing in the morning. They were actually super helpful and walked us through the mental process of what to expect in the morning and gave us some tips about WHERE on Breakwater the diving was best.

Next morning we woke up early and headed to the dive shop. The dive shop seemed pretty nice. We rented weight (27lbs for me, 23lbs for Lindsay), hoods, gloves, and tanks. Sadly, this adds up (8 x 2 + 8 x 2 + 8 x 2 + 10 x 2). It’s a pretty quick walk from the dive shop to the grass where you “suit up” (see video below) so we just carried our equipment.

There is a really nice grassy area to get setup, and there are TONS of divers there getting ready, coming out of the water, etc. It’s pretty great in my opinion because it feels like you’re surrounded by dive culture. Of course many of the divers are part of dive classes, but I’d bet an almost equal part are just regular people like Lindz and I out for a dive.

The dive itself was great. We saw a bunch of starfish, anemones, kelp, an otter, and a bunch of other stuff. If I were to say my favorite thing about the dive, it’s that unlike many other places I’ve been diving, EVERYTHING is covered by living something or other. Even the sand is covered by hermit crabs, sand dollars, and all sorts of things. Also, swimming through the kelp is pretty awesome and a different experience that I’d never had.

Here is a short, not particularly exciting video from the experience:

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