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Re-discovering the forgotten Zuma Beach Reef


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Posted by scottfiji on July 15, 2006 at 09:01:12:

I first heard rumors of a reef at Zuma beach from Seahunt. Since he had been there before, I knew it existed. A reef deep in the middle of the sand on a large beach would not be easy to find, I would need an exact location. Seahunt's post resulted in some GPS coordinates that led me to a location on a map.

But to confirm I knew I had to talk to some lifeguards. The first lifeguard I asked worked at Point Dume, and thought he knew where the reef was. It did not match up with the GPs coordinates. Ok, more data was needed. Yesterday, dive gear was packed, I made my way to Zuma beach, and started information gathering.

I got wildly different answers from different lifeguards. Of course, some lifeguards were new, and didn't know. But one of them instantly gave an answer that lined up with frank's answer, and he said he'd free-dove it before. ah-ha, that was the info that I needed. the depth matched the depth's that I'd heard also.

we moved the car closer to the spot, I geared up, and walked to the beach. the final check would be with the lifeguards closest to the spot, they should know!

As I approached the high tide line, 2 lifeguards nearby walked over. "There's nothing but sand out there" one bolted out. "You better have a buoy" another said. Ok, I see whats going on here. They dont want a bunch of divers showing up needing rescues. "Well I just go in and make sure its just sand" I said.


A mild riptide quickly brought me out to sea, perfect! Saving me a long swim out. I had also drifed slightly west, which was also fine with me. I dropped down into 26ft of water. Set direction south, and started swimming. sand, sand, sand. It only took a few minutes to hit my target depth of 48ft, still nothing. I swam for 1 more minute, to 51 ft, then turned around, came back to 48ft, and turned east.

After just a few minutes, you can imagine my surprise when a school of senoritas showed up in front of my face! and they weren't moving. there was reef under my gloves. did I find it? I snapped a photo, swam a little more, and a large dark object in the sand appeared - the famous Zuma reef! I couldn't believe it was there, right where I suspected.

this was not a spectacular reef, with huge pinnacles, or giant kelp. but it was a reef, with senoritas, blacksmith, a scorpionfish, a few nudibrachs, perch, sheephead, painted greenlings, and a cute 10-inch cabezon. An oasis in the desert!

It ran east-west and streched from 47ft to 50ft. What was interesting here was there were large "plants" 3-4 feet tall, that turned out to be hydroids! (Or algae covered with hydroids). anyways, I had never seen them before, and they were beautiful. there were many gorgonians and sea fans also.

Vis was not great, there was a lot of sand blowing around, but I did manage a few photos. I spooked a large halibut just outside the reef on my way back. The trip back to the beach was uneventful, I saw a few small flatfish, a thornback ray, and a few crabs. Swimming through the riptide was easier then I thought, I just had to stay put during the long out-flows, and ride in fast during the south-bound surges.

I surfaced right where I wanted to be, in 7ft of water, with pleny of air to spare, my girlfriend standing on the beach (she didn't dive due to a cold). Success was at hand!

Doripsilla alpopuncta nudibranch


Chestnut Cowrie


Sea Fans and Gorgonians


a "red" orange puffball sponge


Very large Hydroid


Sponge, with Featherduster worm, Chestnut Cowrie, Hydroid, and Lemon Nudibranch


Featherduster worms


Painted Greenling


Young Cabezon


Another view of the young cabezon



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