ADP Journal: Weekend #8, Part One

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 1:52 pm

We had quite a weekend September 16/17.

Saturday started out in Malibu, where we made a shore dive at Point Dume. The night before, our course director emailed out instructions. The basic outline was: enter the water in front of the lifeguard tower, surface swim out to the pinnacles, dive around the pinnacles, and navigate back to the lifeguard tower underwater. We were to estimate the distance from the tower to the pinnacles (by counting fin kicks). The details of compass headings and air consumption calculations were left up to us.

The pinnacles at Point Dume are notorious for their often strong and unpredictable currents, which can make compass headings hard to follow, distances impossible to accurately measure, and air a precious commodity as divers struggle to swim up-current. Luckily for us, we arrived to discover a reverse of the normal current situation: we’d have a hard swim out to the pinnacles, but an easy ride back (assuming nothing changed while we were diving).


Meca and I, having about the same air consumption and nearly-identical gear configurations, were assigned as a buddy team (much to our delight). The surf wasn’t too bad, or else I’m just getting used to it – a bit of both, I suspect. It was a surprisingly long swim from our entry straight out to where our instructors anchored the float in about 25 feet of water. We stopped there for a moment to catch our breath, and took a compass heading out to where we could see one of the pinnacles breaking the surface of the water.

And then it was time to start counting kicks.

The current was indeed running northwest, at about .3 knots as I later calculated. That may not sound like much, but it’s plenty when you’re in full scuba gear and trying to cover a 400 meter distance (which is what it turned out to be). And keeping track of your kicks. And (in Meca’s case) battling seasickness.

We alternated between snorkeling on our stomachs and kicking on our backs, leapfrogging with another team who’d entered the water along with us and joking about how little distance we seemed to covering. We kicked, and kicked, and kicked for FORTY MINUTES.

Once we finally reached the pinnacles, we couldn’t stop kicking and rest – every pause would push you back away from your goal. So Meca and I quickly did our final checks and dropped down to the base of the middle pinnacle (in about 30 feet), where we could relax out of the current and catch our breath as we perused the area.

I’ve often heard the Point Dume pinnacles described as one of the best shore dives in the area, both for the abundance of marine life and the good visibility the site frequently enjoys. Vis was only about 15 or 20 feet today, but that’s not half bad for a beach dive around here.

And the life really was incredible. We circled the middle pinnacle (which is fairly small) and then swung around to the deeper pinnacle (much larger and odd-shaped). One of our tasks for the day was to write down 10 species we hadn’t “handed in” on a previous ADP dive; usually we’re responsible for writing down 5 new species, and a few folks were concerned about finding 10. Really not a problem, and I didn’t even have to resort to listing boring things like algae or garibaldi.

We saw a sleeping horn shark, two well-camoflauged cabezons, a zebra goby (the second one I’ve ever seen), sunflower stars (further south than I’ve ever seen), half a dozen other varieties of starfish, schooling blacksmith and senoritas, sea pansies and sand dollars. I could have spent an hour poking around the pinnacles – but alas, we had to conserve two-thirds of our air for the swim back.

Sea pansy with the sand blown off:

I was hoping to scare up more interesting critters in the sand on the way back to the float, but didn’t see anything other than sand dollars and a small sole the whole (20 minute) swim back. We tooled along on a reverse heading from the one that took us to the pinnacles, staying in about 25 feet of water. When I reached 800 psi, we surfaced to see if we were close to (or past) the float, and discovered we were about 100 meters short of it. Since the current was still pushing us towards the float, we decided to just stay on the surface and make our way towards shore.

Up til then, I’d been surprisingly un-sore considering the amount of kicking involved. But as soon as I had to start walking up the sandy beach – whoah. My ankles hurt. My thighs didn’t want to work. My feet were almost numb.

And we weren’t done – we still had underwater hockey!

Most of us didn’t even have time for lunch (and by “most of us”, I do NOT include me – this sort of thing is why McDonald’s drive thrus were invented), and we all assembled sandy, sore and tired at a community pool in Santa Clarita after an hour’s drive.

What is underwater hockey, you ask? Well – it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Two PVC “goals” are laid down at either end of the 7′ deep part of the pool, and a heavy “puck” is dropped onto the bottom. The players are in fins, mask and snorkel, and carry handheld “sticks” to shove the puck around with. So the trick is to dive down, push the puck towards your goal (while keeping the other team from nabbing it), and hand off to another teammember before you run out of air and drown. Then you bob on the surface, not quite long enough to catch your breath, before dropping back down to keep your teammate from drowning. And so on, until someone scores a goal.

Just warming up:

It reminded me of a boxing match, in that play becomes more and more sluggish the longer you go before scoring a goal. “The best way to rest is to score,” I heard more than once, and they weren’t kidding.

In one sense, I’m not a competitive person – I don’t really care if I win or lose. But in another sense, I am competitive – I’m determined not to suck. We were joining a regular underwater hockey team’s scrimmage, and there were plenty of really good players to embarrass ourselves in front of. So I pretty much went all-out, and was rewarded by making one of my (winning) team’s goals. And scraping some interesting patches of skin off my legs on the bottom of the pool. And inhaling more pool water than is really good for you.

But it was fun.

The original plan for Saturday night was to all drive up to Lake Castaic and camp out together – but things were thrown a bit out-of-whack by the inordinate amount of time needed to fill 10 scuba tanks at the local Sport Chalet. We killed the two hours of tank-fill time getting dinner, by which time it was almost dark. A few folks headed on up to camp, but I opted for the 30-minute drive home and 45-minute morning drive. I’d been waffling on the “camping” thing all summer, so this was not a big surprise to anyone.

And the weekend was only halfway over!


  1. Underwater hockey looks like fun! I wanna play!

    Comment by Kathy Brantley — 9/27/2006 @ 8:37 am

  2. Yes, it does look like fun… very kewl.

    Comment by Ben — 9/27/2006 @ 3:47 pm

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