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So, When's the Best time to dive a particular shore site?

Discussion in 'SoCal' started by HBDiveGirl, Dec 9, 2008.

  1. HBDiveGirl

    HBDiveGirl DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Underwater SoCal. There's no place I'd rather be
    Here's a post I made over on Dive Matrix in response to an excellent question from a local diver asking when was the best time to dive particular shore sites in Los Angeles.
    [Click HERE to link to the complete thread.]

    Currents, Tides, and Swell.

    Each site has a unique combination of limiting factors:

    Sites with Loooooong boulder fields between the shore and the dive site are best dived on high tide. Low tides expose the slippery pumpkin patch of rocks, boulders, and ankle busters. White's Point and Malaga Cove are easiest at high tide. Marineland: The high tide puts you up on the more manageable rocks, whereas low tide has you stumbling over very irregular rocks.

    Tidal Exchanges:
    Sites that are often swept by large currents (Pt. Dume) are best dived when the tidal exchange is small. The difference between the high tide and the low tide is "the exchange." 2 foot exchange is small. 8 foot exchange is NOT. The bigger the tidal exchange, the more water is moving which could potentially turn into massive currents.
    WOTADs (Weird One Tide A Day) mean the water is barely moving during the exchange. The slope on the tide graph is very shallow. Check out November 3, 2008, on www.tidelines.com. THAT is a WOTAD.
    If your dive day has a big exchange, try to dive just before the highest tide (pushing tide), so there is less water moving.
    Try NOT to dive on the steepest slopes of the tide graph.
    The Lowest tide often creates murkier water due to debris being dragged out into the water as it recedes.. but not always.

    Diving and surf just don't go together. Sometime you CAN get in when the surf is big... but my experience has been than conditions are often poor. If you just want to get wet, fine. If you want to get a good dive and see many things, you might want to pass.

    Some sites are just dangerous when the surf is more than 2 feet.
    Marineland is classic. You've heard/read of a bunch of us braving measurable surf to get in at Marineland, but I've backed way off on this. The risk of injury is significant, and larger swells produce rotten dive conditions. My call? It's not worth it. The next generation of new divers will likely have to learn as I did. The water movement at Marineland is vicious.
    Pt. Dume is a sandy beach, so surf there won't pummel your dome into a hunk of granite, but.... it's a ferocious shore break. Straight up and then it comes slamming down like a hammer on an anvil. I won't dive it with surf greater than 2 feet.... and I'm very comfortable with surf entries.
    Vet's Park? It depends. I have to actually look at it. Sometimes 2-3 foot surf breaks in place. The waves are tall but soft, and don't move the water around much. Other times, 3 foot waves are explosive and will haul your sorry carcass up and down the beach until you see the error of your ways. Watch them and listen.

    Swell Direction:
    Find a swell prediction site that shows maps, and know the location of the dive sites you want to dive. If a swell is hammering Old Marineland, Vets is likely protected.
    If Malaga is getting hammered, Marineland may be calmer.

    Best advice:
    • Go look. You can always cancel once you see it. If you cancel from home, you may miss diving good conditions because the predictions were wrong.
    • Have a back-up plan...or better, two back-up plans.
    • Go with someone who is familiar with the site the first time
    • Get a book with good advice
    • Plot out the site on a swell prediction website and learn how to read it.
    • Thumb the dive if anyone on the team is anxious. Period.
    I wish you all great adventures in SoCal shore diving.
    Dive safely and Have FUN!

    What information do YOU use to decide when to shore dive?

    calicant and NJ Divermaster like this.
  2. MaxBottomtime

    MaxBottomtime Divemaster

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Torrance, CA
    Of course, low tide at Marineland also exposes the gravel entry/exit, making it much easier. There are so many tradeoffs! :(
    mbrownsen likes this.
  3. ligersandtions

    ligersandtions DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: San Pedro, CA
    Thanks for posting that, Dette! I should have thought to post that over here as well! Hopefully Marineland will be diveable this weekend....I'm looking forward to it!
  4. Teamcasa

    Teamcasa Sr. Moderator ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Near Pasadena, CA

    A ScubaBoard Staff Message...

    ...Thank you Claudette, I have stuck this thread and hope many local shore/beach divers benefit from its valuable content. Other members, please feel free to add your experiences as well....
  5. SPKelpDiver

    SPKelpDiver Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: San Pedro, CA
    Nice post. Just the other day I was exiting Marineland on a lowtide. It was Dec 12, and there was a serious tide transition of 7 feet. We were exiting on a mid/low tide when the water was coming in. I was really excited becauese the conditions were so good (25-30 foot vis) I didn't pay attention to the timing of the swell (small but powerful because of the tide), nor did my buddy, and we both ended up eating it. I fell on my knee then was turtled, who says back inflates put you face down. I felt my tank ping pong across the rocks as I was pulled in and out. This happened a little less then a minute but it felt like forever. I was laughing the whole time; I could almost see the event in third person. Yea...didn't feel so cool after that.
  6. HBDiveGirl

    HBDiveGirl DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Underwater SoCal. There's no place I'd rather be
    Hi SPKD... glad to hear you rolled with the punches and weren't hurt. And thank you for sharing your experience. We've all had "those days" and everybody can learn from those brave souls who debrief online or with friends. (I learned at Malaga on a rough day as I rolled merrily along the rocky shore, seeing sky-water-rocks-water-sky-water-rocks..... :scared: )

    You had a massive tide swing on that full-moon day of December 12, 2008.
    High tide was about 8AM (7.3), and the water bottomed out 9.1 feet lower at about 3:15PM that afternoon (minus 1.8).

    9 feet.

    The ocean plummeted downwards NINE FEET that day.
    Yes... there was a lotta water moving. If you dived between 10AM and 2PM, you were entering a strong river... with surf and a bouldered shore. OUCH.

    You'll be the shore-diving wizard next time, when you check the tides, and adjust your dive time if the tide swing is significant.

    That's what we did the next day: December 13.
    4 of us dived Marineland in the morning, entering at The Point at about 8AM (45 minutes before the high tide) and exiting at Cobble Beach about 20 minutes after high tide. The kelp was bent over just a little when we entered, and relaxed to full vertical upright while we were in the water. We truly caught the slack. The waves were at their calmest, with no energy added from tide movement.

    Three people on our team remembered experiences of getting hammered at OML, and we picked the time 100% based on the tide. And we plucked a good dive from a day that would get rougher as it went on.

    (Of course, on Flat-as-a-Lake days, with zero swell, tides have less effect on your entry and exit, but big tidal exchanges can create strong currents underwater that can affect your dive. Or extreme lows can expose wide expanses of boulder fields that are hard to cross with dive gear. Or, as Phil said, sometimes expose smoother sandy areas. Dive a site a lot, and you'll learn so much.)

    Dive safely, and have a great time!!!

  7. SnorkelSanDiegoScuba

    SnorkelSanDiegoScuba Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: La Jolla, California
  8. Hatul

    Hatul Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Tustin, California, United States
    The other important issue is parking. For example, you can forget mid day weekend parking at La Jolla Shores or La Jolla Cove. No matter how good the diving is, if you can't park you can't dive.

  9. NeptunusRex

    NeptunusRex Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: San Diego, Ca
    My two buddies and I hit La Jolla cove on sunday at about 30 min past the highest point in the tide. We tried to time the surf just right but ended up getting smashed by a wave. We looked like the Keystone cops rolling around in the surf with the clifftop full of tourist's "documenting" our endeavor with their cameras. I wish i could have seen it from up top. Not the most graceful entrance but it turned out to be one of the best shore dives I've ever had!
  10. tracydr

    tracydr Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: North Carolina, 3 miles from South Carolina
    Bringing this old post back up. I feel like the world's worst shore diver after being pummeled like a ping pong ball on my first attempt at La Jolla Shores and unable to get my fins on the second time ( I swear the waves were taller than me!). When is the best time to dive there? I have 2 1/2 days left. Really need a shore dive to get over my apprehension after my experience and to do a checkout dive since I want to do a night lobster boat dive Friday night.
    Thanks and any tricks/tips appreciated!

    ---------- Post Merged at 09:08 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 01:21 PM ----------

    Well, survived my entry today. Exit was pretty ugly but at least I made a dive!

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