Posted by seahunt on June 29, 2000 at 08:19:26:
I saw an ad for dive gear on the back of a Sears catalog.
Literature never inspired me so much. That time, it led me to
Cal Aquatics. This was the first dive shop in the San Fernando
I was 14 at the time. I got my mother to drive me across
the valley to the shop. In the long run I think back that I must
have driven these poor people crazy. I had enormous energy and
much of it came out of my mouth. At that age, I was also much
bigger than most adults. I doubt that Shirley knew what she was
getting into when she signed me up for Jim Badger's basic NAUI
scuba class. We had this exhaustive 19 hour class, or was it 20?
Hey, there was a lot less to learn back then. There were no BC's.
No submersible pressure guages...
Class started June 30, 1970. The first pool session was two days
later. That makes it about 30 years, since I first tried scuba.
What a long, strange, wonderful trip it's been.
Aside from a NITROX ticket, that NAUI Beginning Scuba Diver
C-card is still my only legitimate official certification. I
think it has been enough.
For your amusement, may I offer the latest essay I have written
for my site. One day, I will even get my FTP connection up again
and I will actually post it... .... Also, my site is now double
the size. When I can, I will put up a bunch more pics too.
...Walk in the forest. Swim in the mud.
Pidgin Point got its name from the liner Carrier Pidgin, that
tested its hull against the rocks there (it lost). It is on the
coast between Santa Cruz and San Francisco on the seaward side
of the San Francisco Peninsula. It is about 30 miles north of
Santa Cruz and about 5 miles past Ano Neuvo Island. That means
that it is white shark central, well within the so called white
triangle. The coast there is a place of wind swept beauty
beneath redwood covered slopes. It is a place of mists, winds,
waves, sea weeds, rock, whale bones and open ocean. Its
remoteness and harshness preserve its wild beauty. Its exposure
to the currents make for lush diving.
I probably spent more time diving at Pidgin Point than anywhere
else I have ever visited.
There are two distinctly different areas to dive there. There
are the west facing shores north of the light house and the
south facing beaches below the light house. It can be rough on
one side and fairly calm on the other.
As you drive along the coast, there is a fronatage road that
starts about a mile up on both sides of the light house. North
of the light house, the road goes perhaps a hundred feet from
the waters edge and there is easy access to entries all along
the road. Mostly it is rock entries and it is fully exposed to
the north swell, so it is rarely calm. Still, this side is a bit
deeper and better for scuba, with decent visibility much of the
time. That means 10 to 30 feet on a decent day. People used to
camp along this beautiful shore, but they no longer allow it,
though it is still a great place to visit for day use.
The commonest place for divers to enter the water is at the
small beach that is the first accessable part of the shore,
north of the fences of the light house. It is easy to get to and
a fairly easy entry... if you are careful of the waves. There
are lots of fish on the reefs and there were lots of
invertebrates before the otters got there. Still, there is a lot
to see there that the otters don't eat including sponges, stars
and hydrocorals. It is also an incredibly thick algae garden
that is fun to explore through. You never know what you will see
if you look in the holes under the rocks.
My place to dive though, was south of the light house. A few
hundred yards south of the light house are areas of the frontage
road where you can pull off onto the bluffs over the shore. The
cliffs there are about 30 feet high and there are a number of
ways down them to the small beaches of the shore. The good part
about the south side is that it was often protected from the
north and west swell. The bad part was that it was still exposed
to the south swell. One other thing. Visibility there is a
challenge. The geology of the area is called mudstone. 6 feet of
vis is a pretty good day. Since I was mostly there to free dive
for abalone though, it really didn't matter much. You spend your
time swimming through rocks and thick kelp such that often you
can't look more than a couple of feet anyway. Since the water is
shallow, there is a lot of light and there is a lot to see. Still,
on a poor day, it is hard to see your outstretched hand. On a bad
day, it was blackout on the bottom. Plankton blooms are serious in
the nutrient rich waters there. Even on good days, fish watching
tends to be eyeball to eyeball encounters under rocks.
I first went there with my intertidal algae classes. At low tide,
the tidepools and tidal rocks extend far from shore. There is an
incredible diversity of algae species. It is beautiful and crisp
at the dawn low tide. There is a large rock starting near the
shore that draws one to try to figure out how to get to it
without getting into the cold water. The cove, protected just
inside the point below the light house is like a lake. After
seeing it once, I wanted to dive it. There was miles of reef to
explore. Actually, it was a while before I did a lot of diving
there though. I had found another very fun place closer to Santa
Cruz. It was not until I decided that
was too dangerous to dive that I really spent a lot of time at
I did a lot of diving in the protected cove, but so had a lot of
other people. It was great swimming for hours in the calm waters.
There were occasional abalone and some in front of the big rock.
I knew a few good places to look, but really I knew that it was
far less visited further south where it was less protected.
I learned the entries a few hundred yards south of the point.
They could be a challenge. The shore tended to drop off in
shelves. First you had to walk through the shallow rocks. Then
you had to bounce through the shallows and get to a swimming
depth. That is serious surf zone though, so you have to continue
out to the areas between 6 and 12 feet. That is a great dive
zone. Beyond that there is more drop offs, but that area
seriously belongs to the landlord. Still, that allowed for an
area 100 yards wide by miles long and far more than I could
At the Channel Islands, I had gotten comfortable freediving to 70
feet and had gone over 100. It made for lots of bottom time in
these shallow waters.
Even though it is at best a surgy area and a wave zone at worst,
since you are swimming right on the bottom, usually between rocks,
you don't much notice the surge. Also, it is just part of the
diving there and you don't notice it. There is lots to hold on to
and often that is just a good idea.
I should mention that before you enter the water you look for
sea lions. If they are calm and sleeping, go diving. If they are
panicked as they occasionally were, you don't go in the water. I
have seen whales swimming along where the outer reef drops past
12 feet. They follow the contour of the reef. I suspect that the
great whites do too. While I never saw any sharks there while I
was diving, apparently a diver got hit and killed just as I was
driving away once. He had been resting on his float with his
legs hanging down. He was in 12 feet of water.
Then after you get tired exploring, swim on in to the tidepools
where the water is about 2 feet deep. It is great diving. It's
so shallow that effectively the visibility is unlimited. The sun
makes the colors brilliant. You just drift over the holes and
cracks checking out the anemones, crabs, shrimp, limpits, fish,
algaes, coralinas and other inhabitants of this lush diverse
At this time, when I was in school, I didn't have a car, so I
would get my friend Dan to drive me up there. I would dive while
he and Liz would explore the beaches. The we would go back and
have a cooking competition mixed with an abalone eating
The water is cold there, but diving with a light wetsuit, I
never seemed to get cold. Young is wonderful.
Actualy, I think it might have been lucky that I was wearing a
light wetsuit with 1/8 inth sleeves. I habitually forgot my
weightbelt, but I would just find a flat rock and slide it in
up under the front of my sleeves.
This was also where I made my first memorable
dive. I was so blasted I didn't even know I was high.. until I
found myself somewhere that I didn't belong.
After school I went back to LA and visited the Channel Islands,
but I love the Bay Area and the beauty of Northern California. I
moved to San Jose after a few years. The journey getting there,
following the Spring, via Santa Cruz, Humbolt County, Oregon and
Yellowstone would make for a good story, but then I was there in
San Jose, near my personal paradise, Santa Cruz. Maybe I'm just
easy to please... or maybe there is just more to that story,
like maybe a lady.
On a Friday night, I would drive my van to the bluffs south of
the light house. Pizza, donuts and a book were all I needed.
Wake up. If it was too rough, go back to Santa Cruz and
Otherwise, gear up and look for an entry I hadn't tried
recently. The calmer the water, the further south the entry. I
might find a cave to try to explore or offshore rocks to climb
on. I might find sea lions that wanted to play. I might find an
elephant seal that completely ignored me. I might see fish or
invertebrates, common or rare with bright colors or drab. I
usually picked up a tasty dinner. Really though, it was
guarenteed that I would be rejuvenated by the wonders of the
beautiful shallow reefs of Pidgin Point.
If you like this little tale of the fun of California Diving,
there are many more like it (probably better) at
Enjoy the diving, seahunt
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