Sunday, July 27, 2008

ScubaBoard Meet & Greet - Saturday, July 19th, 2008

It was a foggy morning waiting us when we woke up to begin our drive down to Monterey. While I had hoped that the weather would open up a bit, we got to Monterey and it was just as foggy as it had been outside our front door in San Francisco. Despite this, our spirits were not damped as we pulled into the El Torito parking lot to meet the other SB’ers who were coming to the M&G. Much to my surprise, one of my OW instructors, Joe Sparks was there too! How great this was going to be.

Soon the divers were showing up and we were all getting our gear set up, suits on and hiking the gear down the sloping beach between the hotel and the restaurant to start the dives. Joining us were two guys named Devin, Robin, Ron, Carrie, Jeff, Brandon, Katherine, Dannobee and two of his friends (although I think his friends ended up not diving with us in the end). When we got on the sand, we designated buddy groups and headed into the water – Mark and I bringing up the rear as we hadn’t walked down with our gear, but were suiting up on the beach instead (for whatever reason). But soon we were off into the water, only to hear that the cove was pretty soupy. With that in mind, Jeff led us along the surface, following the sand channel, skirting around the kelp. We dropped down en masse and Robin, Mark and I headed off into the kelp for Robin to try out his new dSLR housing that makes him look like a real professional. As I was leading, I thought the kelp would be the best area to get some good shots – macro, wide angle, etc. Plus, it has been so long since I’d seen such beautiful kelp that I couldn’t wait to get exploring!

And the kelp didn’t disappoint! While the visibility was less than what we were accustomed to in Mexico (hahaha!) it was still pretty good by Monterey standards. We had about 15-20 feet outside of the cove, considerably less inside. While we tinkered around in the kelp, we were soon joined by another dive buddy who clamped on to Mark’s bright yellow fins – a seal! Always a joy-filled event when these playful ones come along on our dive. But you have to keep them entertained. If we stopped swimming, ergo stopped entertaining, the seal would bolt. Only for us to see them on the surface just above us, floating around. I’d motion that Mark or Robin should start kicking as the seals were infinitely more interested in their colorful fins than my black ones. And when they did start kicking, down they’d come to play some more. So adorable. Soon a second one came and the two would lay on the floor, facing one another engaged in what appeared to be some sort of dialogue. Super cute. Soon it seemed they’d found other playmates and we were off to find more things to photograph.

Check out the video!

I was in the lead and so I decided we’d head into another bunch of kelp – thick and beautiful, blocking the overhead sun from filtering down to the bottom. It was majestic. You hear people talking about “soaring through underwater redwoods” – sitting inside of a kelp cathedral. It was just like that. Everywhere, tiny senoritas darted in and out of the kelp, joined by rock kelpfish, and what appeared to be juvenile rock kelpfish. It was serene, and, for a few moments – as tacky as this might sound – it was our space. Our own little cathedral. Just amazing.

Soon we headed back as Mark was getting low on air having dove the LP steel Luxfer. I walked up on shore with 1800 in my tank still, 47 minutes down. Not too bad on the air consumption. A surface interval was shared between all the divers, giddily chatting about their various seal encounters, anxious to see photos from one another. Soon we were heading back into the water as I was beginning to cool off in the shadowy day. Mark and Robin swapped out their tanks and I would dive the same since I had plenty of air left in it. Entering we prepared ourselves for the long surface swim outside the cove. Swimming around the kelp made the journey more difficult but because Robin wasn’t sporting a snorkel, it made it impossible for him to swim on his belly to avoid getting entangled. So, around we went! Soon Ron was kicking out to join us since Devin was not going to be doing a second dive as he was experiencing a bit of tooth pain, possibly a reverse squeeze.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at the dive site, Ron realized that he had lost his mask that he wears on the backside of his head. Lesson to all – not the best place for it, especially when around grabby kelp! So Robin, Mark and I descended while Ron swam back in search of the mask. We had decided to do a kelp tour, with a northernly direction on a compass heading of 0-30 degrees. Returning around 180 and then 220-240 degrees back to the shore. On the surface this seemed like an awesome venture there appeared to be just tons of kelp in that area. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as great when we got down there. Oh well.

The dive was still fun – rushing over boulders, peeking in pipes. On the way back, we hit the surge and the algae on the bottom caused Robin and I to get a bit of vertigo since the bottom was doing all kinds of crazy things! It was pretty awesome though.

After the dive, drying off, and then into El Torito for a group lunch. I think there were about 11 of us hanging out, lunching and sharing stories, experiences, photos, etc. It was a great. I had a really awesome time and hope that people enjoyed themselves. If you didn’t though – at least I did! Hahaha. :)

Favorite Photo of the Day:

Robin's Seal Baited Fins - Gets 'em everytime!

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