Carmel and Big Sur Diving


Video Transcript

Most of us have only seen Big Sur from the land or maybe from the air but the view from the water is at least as beautiful and so is the scenery below the waves. When you're in the water off of the Big Sur Coast, you never know what you might see, "You have migrating gray whales, you have California sea lions, you have harbor seals,” says Big Sur dive
enthusiast, Alan Studley.  

Friendly wildlife is just one of the many reasons why Big Sur is a popular dive destination. "Many hundreds of dives later I still see something new every time I go into the ocean," says diver Clinton Bauder. Here, you can see colorful cliffs, a myriad of sea creatures and amazing underwater landscapes. This area is as dramatic as Yosemite or the Grand Canyon,” says Big Sur native Pat Lovejoy.

I wanted to experience Big Sur's underwater world for myself so we enlisted the help of a group of veteran divers to show us around. I enjoy sharing the experience and the topography, the animals, the experiencing it with new people," says dive instructor Jim Thompson.

We board Jim Capwell's dive boat "The Escapade" and we've joined by three underwater photographers: Jim Thompson, Alan Studley and Clinton Bauder as well as Big Sur native and dive expert, Pat Lovejoy. "It's about the most pristine diving you can get in California," says Pat.

On this trip we explore the waters off of the Big Sur coast beginning at historic Point Lobos State Reserve, just south of Carmel. Then, we head a few miles further south to check out the colorful aquatic terrain.

As we begin our journey out of the Monterey marina, we see sea lions basking on the breakwater. They are a preview of some of the animals that await us off shore. According to Pat, these waters are teeming with life because of the unique underwater topography. Deep canyons just off shore create upwellings bringing nutrients up to the surface for all kinds of sea creatures.

Pat explains, "the currents carry it further south to where we're going and supply that area as well with an abundance of marine life that you can’t find almost anywhere else in California.” And one of the best places to spot abundant marine life is at Point Lobos Marine Reserve, America’s first underwater reserve.

"Around 1960 they decided that in order to protect the interface of the marine and the terrestrial area that they should provide about 750 acres of reserve here," says Pat.

Pat knows this reserve's history well. When he's not diving, he's a volunteer docent at Point Lobos, “From a historical perspective for divers this is the first commercial diving in California took place. Japanese marine biologist named Gennosuke Kodani came here in the late 1890’s, saw the amount of abalone and brought divers over here from Japan and taught them to dive and bring the abalone up." Although abalone is no longer harvested here, there is a museum at Point Lobos where visitors can learn all about the area's marine history. These days, the diving equipment has changed quite a bit and you now have to have a permit from the park to dive here. But the aquatic environment has remained beautiful and pristine.

"The fish here haven’t been hunted, they come right up to you, you can get in big clouds of fish," Pat says. Pat says this marine reserve's protected waters has helped keep marine life in Big Sur thriving, "So the areas we're going go diving from here on south are going be higher in biodiversity because of the fact that the reserve is here.

As we weigh anchor and head off towards our first dive spot, we have a chance to relax and admire the Big Sur coastline from a seldom seen perspective, "The power of the mountains is really evident because when you’re right on it the shore looking at it its kinda tall, its like being up too close to the movie screen but when you get back out here you can see it and get the real effect."

It’s a point of view our boat captain Jim Capwell gets to enjoy everyday, "Whether its sun shining or whether the ocean is rough whether its smooth, each time it has a little bit different personality for it so there's never the opportunity to get bored with it." Today, the weather is clear and the water is relatively calm by Big Sur standards – excellent conditions for both divers and sea lions.

As expected there’s plenty of action below the surface and those who head down are treated to an amazing show. Underwater photographer Jim Thompson says, "You can't imagine that a thing that weighs you know a thousand pounds can move like a cat. "Pat says the sea lions are as loud underwater as they are topside, they all have varying personalities some of them are somewhat aggressive and run at you and blow bubbles, other ones come up rather timidly and look in your mask to see what’s going on, some stand upside down on their head and do corkscrews.”

Before our day is done, I finally get my opportunity to experience Big Sur’s underwater beauty as few miles north in Carmel Bay. As I head down into the water, I get glimpses of life all around and begin to understand why these guys enjoy diving in Big Sur so much. During my short dive we see colorful life everywhere, providing perfect hiding places for the abundant sea creatures who make their home here. As I come to the surface, I’m reminded yet again of what a truly amazing place this is and all aboard seem to share that sentiment.

“I can be at the boat dock and be down here and completely escape from all the hubbub of city life and once you of course you go underneath the water all that just completely evaporates and you forget that any of that ever existed. Just concentrate on the incredible relatively unspoiled marine environment we have here, its just an incredible privilege,” says Jim Thompson.

It has been a wonderful privilege to explore this wild and exotic yet vulnerable liquid environment – one that deserves as much protection as the magnificent land of Big Sur that rises above it.

Pat says, “And if we want to preserve these prime pieces of ocean for our grandchildren and their children now’s the time to do it…its been called the greatest meeting of land and water in the world and that's not an understatement."

Alan Studley sent a message recently saying, "Just after our Big Sur shoot with Doug we started on a 2 1/2 year diving project to capture the California Coast best dive spots in a moving format. Meaning, we mounted cameras on industrial scooters to cover large reef areas. We produced a two disc divesite guide, with narration, music, & maps. Educational & entertaining. We tried to tag a town with most sites. So it orients you to the surface activities." For more information go to: Dive Site Videos.

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