Diving La Jolla Shores - First Time Diving On Our Own

  • Updated: December 15, 2018
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

December 15th, 2018

As I've recounted elsewhere the last few weeks have been a somewhat hurried progression towards getting our Open Water diving certs and starting Advanced Open Water classes in order to get ready for some diving-centric plans around New Years.

Friday Kristen and I had both taken the morning off work in order to do our 4th and final Open Water cert dive at Crescent Bay in Laguna. We did that instead of waiting for Saturday since that way we could rent two tanks and get out on our own. Also we were going to be down towards San Diego anyway since we were scheduled to be on a boat with Sea Stallion on Sunday for a few specialty dives so it all worked out.
So after a frantic bit of prep we drove down to La Jolla bright and early Saturday morning.

We arrived at Kellog Park a little before 8 and managed to score the last two parking spots on Vallecitos which offers the shortest approach to the entry beach.

Kellogs Park is where all the local classes are run and we could see multiple groups getting geared up nearby on the grass.

It took us a bit to get geared up and ready to go. For the record the hardest part is making sure you're not the first one into your wetsuit having to sit around waiting for the others as 7mm neoprene can get a bit warm.

I wanted to dive here because I've done snorkel trips in the past that were a lot of fun and Jen had been out here just the week before and described it as just a magical day. Also the location has the advantage that the waves tend to be gentle which is nice though as it turns out you have to swim out quite a ways.

We had occasional bigger waves come in but nothing came close to knocking us over. Granted I did look over a few times after shrugging off a wave to see the slightly shorter Jen get slapped in the face but hey, it's all part of the fun.

Unfortunately it was right about when we were transitioning from walking to putting fins on and swimming that I felt my GoPro move. I thought the clip had come undone somehow, pushed it back in, felt it click, and then somehow it was gone.


We looked around for about 5 minutes and talked to a few groups of divers passing by before deciding it was probably lost. So we went it, did a fun little dive of about 30 minutes (at which point I'd used all my air) and then came back in.

We talked to a guy searching the beach with a metal detector and he told us he was 90% sure it was right in the zone where I'd lost it just tumbling in place in the surf. So we dropped off our tanks, grabbed our masks and fins, and wandered back out.

And low and behold we found it!

It turned out that part of the clip that connected the GoPro to the stick had broken. It probably broke partially and when I pushed it back into the mount the click was it breaking the rest of the way.

So lesson learned and from here on out that bloody thing is going to be attached to a retractor.

We planned to do the second dive at La Jolla Cove which is a separate site located nearby. the biggest challenge this late in the day was just finding parking and we had to circle the loop 3 times before we managed to get a spot within a reasonable walking distance.

Surveying our entry point from above not everyone was comfortable with the size of the waves rolling in. I pointed out that on the plus side if we made complete fools of ourselves at least we'd have a huge audience of people watching from the sidewalk above but that didn't seem to help.

So somewhat reluctantly we reloaded all the gear into the jeep and headed back to La Jolla Shores for another dive hopefully with a little less GoPro loss-age.

Vallecitos was short term parking by now meaning we had to park in the main lot and walk.

I would describe us strutting along like a group of awesomely geared badasses but Jen would like you all to know it was horrible and miserable and nearly broke her in half.

Fortunately the weight all fades away the moment you're fully submerged leaving you feeling like your flying.

We dropped down once we were out a fair ways and found ourselves in a field of sand dollars. I had a collection of their shells as a child but it was neat to see them in their naturalenvironmentt. (I assume they were sticking up like that due to the current)

I also noticed a small pipefish as we were swimming out. I motioned for the girls to come over and see but Jen inadvertently kicked up a bunch of sand and so never got to see him.

The reef is more of a cliff wall down around 50-60 ft and a fair distance from the shore.

I didn't have any sort of light for the GoPro so the already not overly visually impressive area really didn't come across well in the pictures.

Still, we had fun!

The coolest thing we saw was probably these nudibranchs which were brilliantly colored but I unfortunatly didn't know that trying to take pictures with the GoPro (vs video and getting screencaps later) was a losing proposition so this is the best photo I have of them.

We also came across this guy right at the end and a number of fish moving too quickly for good photos.

We saw a number of fish including what I think may have been octopi hiding in recesses but I just didn't get much usable down there picture wise.

Our dive plan was to hit the reef, head to the right until we hit our designated air limit, then turn back toward the beach and ascend. As it turned out it was a good thing we'd just taken the underwater nav course as when we hit the limit we'd come to a point on the reef with drops on both sides. This was somewhat confusing since following the planned compass bearing meant swimming out over a big drop which sure felt like we were headed out into open water.

We trusted the compass bearing and came up slowly. Since there was no floor that meant our safty stop was done hanging in blue water which can be a bit disorienting when you have three people all being tossed around by the current.

We surfaced pointed right at the correct spot and just had a slightly long swim back in. (I'm rapidly developing a strong prefference against surface swimming.)

We only had two tanks each so that was the end of diving for the day. After cleaning off and crawling all the way back to the car we had to say goodbye to Jen who was driving back to OC to return the rental tanks.

Kristen and I had elected to stay down in San Diego and had a stop at the Kumayaay Lake Campground.

It's a nice campground with warm -ish showers and relatively quiet. It's only open for camping on Fridays and Saturdays but that worked for us and we settled down for a nice campfire and Kristen cooked a warm dinner of black bean and squash casserole.

Next up, navigation and wreck cert dives off the Humbolt with Sea Stallion and company!

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