Dive into La Jolla Cove
Hold your breath.
Dive, into the blue, into the blurry blue water.
Summer and the beach tend to be synonymous with each other. What better place to go on a hot day than the ocean; the smell of the fresh salt air, cool breeze coming in from the sea, and the warm sun that glistens on the crests of ocean waves.
Down in San Diego, California, there are so many beaches that each have their own flavor and one of the most important and the most special is the beach next La Jolla cove/Scripps beach. I can’t say this completely objectively though since I did live on Torrey Pines and went to Scripps beach every other day while in university.
Scanning activities on Groupon I found a kayaking and snorkeling tour at La Jolla Cove from Everyday California snatched up that deal and booking it for a morning departure, at 9:20. The tour itself was $40 with the discount and the price only included the 2 hour tour. The wetsuit rental and a locker was an additional fee, but it was worth it, especially for the comfort and warmth the wetsuit gave.
That morning I had to make a new friend because the tour only consisted of double kayaks, but luckily I “got stuck with” a cool dude who was fun to chat with. I’ve never been the best at talking to strangers right away, but practice makes perfect.
When we walked out into the ocean I was grateful that I brought my own diving boots, cause I could see and hear people cringing from the cold.
Sitting in the front (being the smaller one of the two) I sat down sideways and swung my feet forward and placed my gear snorkel gear down between my legs. With my partner safely on behind me we started paddling out over the breaking waves. This could be the most nerve-racking part of ocean kayaking, just because of the ‘what ifs’, pretty much what if we capsized. Then the logical part of the brain says, “you’ll get wet… you’re still on the beach so there is nothing to be freaked out”. And surprisingly that though actually works, even though the entire train of thought only lasts about five seconds.
Paddling over the waves was also surprisingly relaxing; the water continued to pull the boat to sea while sending it up and then down again. Depending on the weight inside the vessel the down part could either be a gentle slope or, in our case, a sharper drop, made it feel like a small rollercoaster but without seatbelts.
While waiting for the guides at the pink buoy meet-up spot my partner and I noticed bubbling coming up beside us. I just figured that feeding fish were causing it, but maybe it was something bigger. As our guide was delivering some background on the area whatever was bubbling (or what took advantage of the frenzy) came up near our kayaks, DOLPHINS!
I immediately wanted to jump in the water with them, but the pod was slowly swimming away. Luckily, they were headed the same direction as we were, so casually, and of course outside the 50 foot distance that the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) law dictates, we followed.
The ocean floor continued to drop as we got closer to the coves and the environment changed as well from barren sand to a sea grass field to the rock bottom covered in kelp forests.
Once next to the caves the guide anchored his kayak and roped the rest together so we could start snorkeling.
Just like in a normal boat the easiest way to get out is to slip on your fins, fit on the mask and fall out backwards in a seated position. With a circle of kayaks together it gets a bit trickier, since you don’t want to either fall into another kayak or hit a body part on one either. Instead, I had to roll out sideways and backwards, feeling like a fish flopping its way back home. The lack of grace continued when I rose up out of the water and almost hit my head on my own kayak before swimming backwards to safety.
We shortly left the area next to the kayaks for the beachy local around fallen cliff rocks where the sea-lion were hanging out. We were warned to keep clear of the rocks because the waves were crashing against them hard, and we don’t want to be caught up in that. But while most were closely following the guide I went slightly closer to the open sea and I would often dive down to get a better look at what lived down there.
I saw orange fish that, according to the guide was the California State Marine Fish, the Garibaldi and, of course, he was right. Along with that species of fish there were also smaller blue and silver and even larger grey fishes. At first, looking down there seems to be nothing to see, but as you dive deeper into the murky water everything comes into view and there is a just other world down there.
On the Way Back
The tour was ending; we had to climb back into the kayaks and head back to shore. The guide told us that we would climb back into the kayaks as if we were getting out of a pool and then turn our bodies to sit inside before bringing our legs in. I wanted to look graceful coming out, even if the guide said that wouldn’t happen. While I didn’t get it on film I think I looked like Ariel rising up on that rock, except with a snorkel mask on my face and WAY messier hair.
All that would soon be for not though, because when my partner climbed aboard he capsized the boat. I had already taken off my camera air band, snorkel mask, and my sunglasses were sitting where my feet would go and they all fell out and started sinking to the bottom. Without my mask I wouldn’t be able to see anything underwater and would never be able to find my stuff. I genuinely freaked out for a second, but it didn’t have enough time to settle because before I knew it the guide rose back out of the water with all my stuff in hand. He was so fast; it was amazing.
We flipped the kayak back over and once again we climbed in, I didn’t feel quite as graceful that time, and paddled back to shore.
One at a time the tour kayaks surfed their way into land, and no, that doesn’t involve standing in the kayak. We held back to be one of the land in so I could listen to all of the guides stupid jokes and dad puns, after all, it was father’s day.
On My Own
All around me was blue, but not a simple blue, a light blue with a tinge of green (but not enough to be teal) and flowing lines of gold from the rays of sun. It seemed, at any point, that if you put a hand in front of your face the water would be too murky to see it. But when I stretched my hands in front, to make swimming forward easier and to warm up my arms a bit in the chillier water, they were perfectly clear. Diving deeper you could even get a detailed view of the sandy bottom or the rocks that were purposely sunk to build a base for plants to grow on.
Even though during the tour we had seen the coves and snorkeled near the sea lions, that was not enough time for me so I decided to go back on my own (luckily the wetsuit I rented for the tour was mine to use all day). The swim over was long and a bit tiring, having to stop several times to take a short break and reorient myself as the currents kept pushing me in the wrong direction. That was where frustration worked its way in as well; I had to keep my head more or less above water most of the time to see if I was even heading straight.
But even though I was swimming through a fog keeping my face down was more relaxing and more enjoyable than looking toward the final destination. In deep enough water down just became a deeper blue with scattered shadows. Most had no particular shape, just blobs that were out of reach, even when I swam straight down I couldn’t quite reach a point were they were clear enough to see.
Continuing forward, kelp forests grew up around me. I was constantly getting tangled while swimming through the brown and red algae along with long blades of sea grass. The long pieces wrapped themselves around my mask, snorkel, arm-strapped phone case, and body in general, but they were never strong enough nor tight enough to be an issue of safety, just a nuisance. Gliding through the water, my hands stroke ahead, pushing the strands off to the side while the sound of clicking surrounds me the entire time. I couldn’t pinpoint what it the source would have been, though my best guess would be a pod of dolphins, but I’ll never know for sure or where they possibly could have been.
When I finally reached the cove and the sea-lion rocks I dove around for a while, attempting to get decent pictures of the animals around me but my phone in its water proof case/bag didn’t have clear enough resolution on the things I wanted focus on, heartbreak still surrounds the loss of my gopro.
I had almost made it back to shore when I could look down and see a swirling. Diving to the bottom I was surrounded by long sea grass swaying to and fro with the waves. For some reason colour came back into the world around me, the greens were bolder, and the sand was brighter. I hadn’t been down for more than a few seconds, but it seemed like so much longer, in a good way. I watched a large grey fish swim by underneath me, and lost track of it too quickly almost as if it was just a ghost.
I swirled around that area for a bit longer, but eventually I decided to return to land, leaving my mysical realm of pure joy behind me.
Celebrate Your Victory
Once your day on the water is over Avenida De La Playa has plenty of restaurants and shops to spend your time. I skipped the shops and went for a nice drink instead. Restaurants like Sushi Mori, Barbarella Restaurant & Bar, Shoreline Kitchen, etc, all looked like they would have good food, but either not what I was in the mood for or a bit fancier than I wanted. So I ended up sitting at the end of an overcrowded bar inside Shore Rider Bar. I ordered a white sangria, which was light, fruity, and extremely satisfying on that hot day and eventually had a conversation to the two men that were sitting next to me. They were in a large group of family friends celebrating father’s day. They shared some stories and some mimosa with me before I had to leave.
But that is defiantly a bar that I would return to, given the chance. Just like the coves and beach itself, the whole experience is one that I would like to revisit.
Have you ever been to San Diego, to the Pacific Ocean? What is the place that brings you the most joy?