The Pacific waters off the northern coast of California are cold, ranging from 45-58 degrees F. Diving here is known for the strong pulling and pushing surge making diving challenging. The Giant kelp beds are world renown offering an underwater world of dark twisting fronds.
Bodega Bay is about an hour north of the San Francisco Bay. UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory is stationed on Bodega Bay. The research center focuses on marine and onshore conservation and research. BML offers classes and laboratories as well as dive training facilities. For those interested in hunting for abalone, the beautiful iridescent shells are found off the beach at many of the shore dive locations near Bodega Bay. Windmill Cove is one such shore dive, once you push past the surge the area remains fairly shallow and you can find the abalone shells and an abundance of life at just 20 feet. Like most shore dives off the northern coast of California, this dive is not for the inexperienced diver, the waters are chilly so a wet suit or dry suit is highly recommended.
Bodega Bay is one of the points of the “Red Triangle”. The Farralon Islands 20 miles off the coast of San Francisco and Pidgeon Point with its famous lighthouse south of the Bay Area make up the obtuse triangle notorious known as the territory of the Great White shark. The more likely inhabits of the Red Triangle are elephant seals, harbor seals, sea otters and sea lions. About 40% of Great White attacks on humans in the United States have taken place in this zone and the Red Triangle accounts for about 10% of the world's Great White attacks. Still, encounters or even sightings of Great Whites are very rare. According to a University of Florida webpage shark attacks in the USA (including the Hawaiian Islands) total 1,005 versus 2,463 shark attacks worldwide. 44 of the attacks in the USA were fatal versus 471 fatalities worldwide. Almost half of the world's recorded shark attacks are in the United States. Still...I defend that the magnificent creatures are not so interested in human flesh. Consider how many millions if not billions of people swim in the oceans of the world each year, looking at the numbers, the chances are very slim of being attacked by a shark.
Swimming and diving among the swaying, crowded kelp beds can easily psyche a diver out...knowing that the huge, notorious Great White may be looking for lunch. Their meals, the seals and sea lions are a much more common sights as they suddenly dart into your vision. Their quick entrance and exit from your view gets your heart racing, challenging you to control your breath, relax and enjoy the underwater thrill of diving off northern California's extensive coastline.
Monterey Bay is known to offer the most popular and accessible dive sites in the region. Coast Guard Pier known by most as simply Breakwater is a site in just 10-65 feet of water right offshore. Breakwater is perfect for beginners and novice divers giving an opportunity to move through a kelp forest without tremendous surge. Lover's Point is another popular shore dive off Monterey where divers can mingle with kayakers and harbor seals.
The wilderness of Big Sur south of Monterey Bay is remote, offering experienced divers opportunities to shore dive into the Giant kelp forests that line the coast. It is a must to don a dry suit, build your courage and brave the cold pounding surge to get out deep enough and away from rocks to experience some peace in the ever moving, pulsating world of underwater Big Sur. Garrapata State Park in the far northern realm of Big Sur offers unmarked shore dive spots. Jade Cove off Gorda, California is another popular dive site that is no named for the green jade stone divers strong enough to brave the intense surge hunt for along the bottom. Hikers beware, all along the Big Sur coast and along most of northern California's coast there is Poison Oak. A low shrubby plant that is irritating at best to most people, wear pants and make sure your ankles are covered when rummaging through the wild coast brush to get to the beaches.
The steep marine terraces and hidden coves of Big Sur offer unlimited diving potential along the vast coastline for those equipped to explore. The water is known to surge even at depths of 70 feet challenging both the swimmer and the quality and visibility of the water. Maneuvering around seamounts and rock pinnacles challenges even experienced divers. Then there is the hazards of jellyfish like the Lion's mane or the Fried egg jellyfish to looks like a yolk are to be avoided. Once you get in a relatively calm spot you will delight at the colorful and abundant strawberry anemones that carpet the bottom and the occasional, hard to spot wolf eel that is not really an eel at all. The eel look alike is in the class of ray-finned fishes. Partington Point is a shallow, relatively easy dive site for Big Sur whose rock walls are completely covered with sharpnose crabs.
Great local shop. dean is super helpful and certified my 14 year old in the sound. he is patient and knowledgeable. the shop is fully stocked and really cute. I've been diving for 25 years and I wanted my daughter in good hands and she was.