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Intro, New Diver from NorCal, specific site questions about Van Damme

Discussion in 'Introductions and Greets' started by kkmcwhat, Oct 14, 2020.

  1. kkmcwhat

    kkmcwhat Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Oakland, CA
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    Hey SCUBA Board,

    I'm new to diving (SCUBA certified in December, freediving for a year before that, been on six tank dives since cert, Monterey, Caspar, Mendocino Headlands), and I'm here to check out info about northern California dives/meet folks/get specific routes and tips for places to explore. I have a buddy I go with, but I'm also open to meeting new folks!

    If anybody sees this and happens to know a good suggestions for a route at Van Damm, I'd love to hear specifics. I freedove the north side of the cove (pretty close to shore), and it was neat in the rocks/coves, but largely sandy and not great vis otherwise. Is there a typical route people take with tanks? It'll be my first time tank diving there, and I'd love any recommendations.

    Happy diving,

    k
     
    wnissen likes this.
  2. wnissen

    wnissen ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Livermore, Calif.
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    Welcome! Never really did freediving, was thinking about it when the abalone fishery dwindled. The activity on Scubaboard is mainly focused on the Monterey area, but there are absolutely people who frequent Van Damme in the Northern California forum. I would post again there. To mention one person, @Eric Sedletzky lives in the North Bay and has extensive knowledge of the sites. Bruce Watkins has literally written the book on California diving, he has a somewhat dated page on Van Damme State Park - California Diving News that will probably still be useful. If it were me I would try to hire a local divemaster who would definitely know where to go. Hope you have great dives!
     
  3. kkmcwhat

    kkmcwhat Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Oakland, CA
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    Thanks so much! I'll look into all of these!
     
    wnissen likes this.
  4. Eric Sedletzky

    Eric Sedletzky Great White

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Santa Rosa, CA
    4,242
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    Hi K,
    First off, welcome to scubaboard!
    I’ve tank dived Vandamme many times, never from shore though. I always used my kayak and went to the outside of the keyhole rock where there is a nice wall that starts about 40’ and plunges down to about 110’ - 118’ (deepest). There are some amazing hallways that seem perfectly symmetrical almost like you are diving on abandoned city streets with towering skyscrapers around you. It would be a very long surface swim to get out there. Some GUE friends of mine from SoCal did scooter out there once and found the spot.
    Other places you might want to consider are Albion Cove, Russian Gulch State Park, Mendocino Headlands, Mendocino Beach which leads out to the point, and several other small beaches and coves.
    One thing that I can’t recommend enough is to get a kayak. Most of the best stuff is easily accessible by kayak. You don’t really even need a boat, even though there are some really cool offshore spots only accessible by boat like Colby Reef and the string of pinnacles between Albion and VanDamme, those might be a little bit of a push with a yak. But still, a yak gives you so much more freedom. A boat is super nice but can become a hassle trying to launch which is basically either Albion or Fort Bragg way to the north. Albion is tide sensitive to get back up the river and to launch and retrieve, whereas a kayak gets rolled or carried to any beach and you’re off.
    Sonoma County might actually be a better option for shore diving.
     
    wnissen likes this.
  5. Akimbo

    Akimbo Lift to Freedom Volunteer Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    10,142
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    Welcome aboard. Eric's advice is spot on.

    Why do you ask about Van Damme? It is a really long drive from Oakland, probably about twice as long as Monterey. The camp ground across the street is really nice but Scuba diving can't compete with Monterey. The dive shop closed so there's no place to get fills. Freediving spearfishing is good but so is the Sonoma coast.
     
    wnissen likes this.
  6. wnissen

    wnissen ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Livermore, Calif.
    537
    311
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    Awesome, I knew you'd get good info. If you were interested in Monterey, my local dive shop (LDS) is having a distanced fun dive at the Monterey Wharf #2 (aka Del Monte Beach) on Sunday. I already have a buddy for this event, but you would be able to get paired with someone. If you're interested let me know and I'll private message (PM) you the details. I would guess there will be at least one person there who has experience with the North Bay.
     
    kkmcwhat likes this.
  7. kkmcwhat

    kkmcwhat Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Oakland, CA
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    E! Thanks so much for the intro!

    I'm looking Van Damme for this weekend mostly because I'll be in the area already (I stay in Fort Bragg often; am going up for chores on Saturday, hoping to dive on the way back home Sunday), and because it'll be my first time back in the water after a hip operation (not a replacement, but something like it; done in June). I wanted a super gentle entry/protected spot in terms of conditions, and I can't do a lot of scrambling down shorelines yet (although, this is sort of the test-run to see how I do with full gear/weight/etc), just to see how it all feels, to get myself re-acquainted with what is a relatively new skillset already, etc. I've been to the headlands for freediving before (pre-op), and I think it's a bit steep, but Russian Gulch I've never done from the beach - would you say, is that a more interesting dive in terms of where I could get, on a surface swim than Van Damme?

    Re: kayaks, I'm 100% with you; my partner (and dive buddy) has a royak, and we've been surfing craigslist to see about getting one too. So, I'm with you there, just not quite up to speed yet :)

    Great info to have about Albion/FB; I've looked into a boat, and I think it's just too much of an investment/hassle right now, both in terms of ocean logistics, sure, but also storage, etc.

    All in all, thanks a bunch! This is excellent info!
     
    Eric Sedletzky likes this.
  8. kkmcwhat

    kkmcwhat Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Oakland, CA
    13
    6
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    This time around, I'm up north already (for Saturday chores), but I'll definitely PM the next time I'm headed down to Monterey!
     
    wnissen likes this.
  9. runsongas

    runsongas Great White

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: California - Bay Area
    4,178
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    stop by steele's discount scuba and talk to jim
     
    kkmcwhat likes this.
  10. kkmcwhat

    kkmcwhat Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Oakland, CA
    13
    6
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    Hi! I'm already going to be north, and yeah, so sad about Sub Surface :/ Thanks for the broader, but it's sort of an area-specific trip at the moment!
     

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