Someone asked me once what I like to do in my spare time, to relax and unwind from a stressful job. Well for a start I have precious little spare time and a family, but I would like share with you one of the activities that I challenge anyone not find relaxing.
Southern California is home to some truly beautiful coastlines and Santa Ramona is no exception. Visitors from all over the world stop to watch the gorgeous coastal sunsets or swim in the ocean here. This coastline's protective features and the efforts of conservationists have created a balanced aquatic ecosystem in Southern California. Many of the fish in Southern California are used to the presence of divers and show a curiosity when a human passes by their home. Have a Garibaldi stare you down while you pass by the mating spot he created through hard work. He will be so territorial that he'll click and "charge" at you to keep you from challenging any potential mating scenario. Go on a night dive and you'll have a well fed sea lion follow along using your lights to help them hunt down unsuspecting prey.
The ocean currents make the kelp and seagrasses sway mildly in the water, adding to the relaxing effect scuba diving gives you. Meanwhile, the waters are an average temperature of 73.3°F in summer and 60°F in winter. Warm enough to dive without a wetsuit, although I would not recommend it. The fertile waters of California create an unprecedented diving experience that no one should miss.
On just one early morning dive, on which I happened to take along my underwater camera, I drifted along through a Shoal of Red Snappers who did not seem to mind me photographing them one bit. In fact they seemed quite happy to just play around me. Moving along I followed an Eagal Ray as he drifted on his majestic way, out to the deeper water, further along the coast. A couple large Tiger Groupers swim past me as I am following the Eagal Ray, distinctive from their stripped appearance. Then to my surprise a Leafy Sea Dragon drifts into view. This creature is Much like the seahorse and can easily been mistaken for a stray piece of seaweed that has broken off from a patch, so keep your eyes peeled.
Then I came across the rarest of all sea creatures, so rare it does not have a name yet so I gave it one 'The rarely spotted, less common Cola Sea anemone' let me know what you think of the name.
While studying this strange creature I then spotted a small family of Moon Jellyfish as they bobbed about in front of me. Moon Jellyfish or Aurelia aurita which is their scientific name are one of few jelly fish in the world that do not normally sting humans, so they are quite safe and wonder to behold. On this occasion I lingered so long just watching them bob about that I hardly notice that my air tank is almost run out until I felt my regulator suck and in all the years I have been diving I can say, I have almost never, ever had my regulator suck without warning. I was reaching into my reserve tank and I knew I needed to get up fast as I could to the maximum safe depth where I was not going will not form nitrogen bubbles in my blood. Reaching my safety stop I drifted watching the ocean perform its timeless dance around me for a few minutes while I decompressed and from there I ascended slowly back the surface, and the beach before I run out of air.
Sometimes I will bring a second tank and go back in after I have had a chance to rest for a while, but on this dive I only had one, so after an hour underwater and burning off 600 calories, which is about average, I sat and watched the last throws of sunrise on the waves, lost in thoughts of galleons and ships of old, of the dolphins and sharks further out in the deeper waters that I did not venture too on this occasion.
Once you’ve learnt to relax in the water and are comfortable and confident with what you’re doing, scuba diving can be great for stress relief. It offers mindfulness, or what many people refer to as “being in the moment”. When you’re scuba diving, all you’re thinking about is diving – your breathing, your buoyancy and what you’re seeing – it’s meditative. For others the best part is the escape – away from the pressures of work,mobile phones, emails, traffic jams – and the peace and quiet. After a dive, I always feel relaxed and peaceful. Numerous studies have shown the health benefits of nature, or ecotherapy, particularly as we become more connected to technology.
The social side of diving can form great camaraderies. I started diving as a 16-year-old on my own and made some amazing friends at the time. Meeting people, going places and sharing memories – what else is there?