Friday night we met up with some friends a little after 8:00, piled into one friend's pickup truck with all our gear, and took off for a night dive. We drove down to Laguna Beach (about an hour away), parked the truck & walked down a fairly formidable (paved) hill to assess the conditions. There were only small waves and a bit of current, so the dive was a go. Back up the hill, where we donned our wetsuits and assembled the gear. Back down the hill, this time with forty-plus pounds of stuff on our backs. Trudged across the sand and got ready to make our first shore entry.
Here's something you may not know: pulling on full-foot fins in 4.5 feet of water, with waves, and with a full complement of gear on your back...not very easy. Fortunately, I was with good friends who held on to me and made sure I didn't drift away every time I ducked underwater to tug at the fins, and I eventually was ready to go. A short surface swim later, we descended into the darkness.
I'd heard good things about this dive site and was excited about the possibility of seeing some neat things. I was not disappointed! Not five minutes into our dive, we came across a moderately-sized ray (not sure what kind) and a big ol crab. I'm talking 3-4 feet wide, this thing. Could have been a spider crab or a sheep crab; hard to tell which. There were, of course, the usual complement of urchins, though not as many fish as I've seen in other places. We saw a tiny halibut, about two or three inches in diameter.
At one point, I was swimming along when I noticed something moving underneath me. I looked down to see this:
A little horn shark was down there just chilling, swimming beneath me in the opposite direction, close enough that if I hadn't had my arms pulled up against my body, I could have touched it. (Before anybody gets all freaked out, they are really pretty docile.) Super cool. :)
Half an hour after we descended, we were making our way back up to the shore. The waves had really picked up during that time, so we got tumbled around a little bit trying to get out, all weak and tired and trying to get our legs used to the idea of not being weightless anymore. On our way back across the sand, we passed some people who had come down for a beach party or something. They said we were insane; they may have been right. ;) At last, one final challenge remained. We had to get back up the hill to the truck. Standing at the bottom looking up, Tom reminded me of how hard we thought it was to just stand by the pool wearing all that gear, that first weekend of our certification class way back when. I agreed that yes, had someone at that point shown me a picture of this hill and said, "You're going to haul all your stuff up that, after a dive, in the dark, soaking wet," I'd have said they were out of their freaking mind. In the end, it was of course a bitch - Stair Master, I laugh at you - but we managed. Taking my tank and BCD off up at the truck never felt so heavenly. Got dried off and packed up, and we were on our way home again.
Tune in tomorrow for photos from the celebratory surf & turf dinner we had the next night!