I met with my friend Jake aka NaturalSelection this morning and together we drove from San Francisco to a dive site near the southern border of Monterey County. 3.5 hours passed, conversation was had, snacks were eaten, and our destination was reached. We stationed the car in the gravel alongside the road and walked down to plan our entry and view the conditions. Once firm in our decision to dive we returned to the vehicle and began to suit up. Almost immediately I noticed a crucial piece of equipment missing from among the items strewn upon the gravel, where were my fins? Emotions swarmed as I realized the gravity of my failure to remember a primary piece of gear. We were 1.5 hours south of the nearest dive shop. The only consolation to my blunder was the knowledge that there remained only one reasonable course of action, dive without fins. I cursed, I laughed, and I hiked down the hill to the shore.
Swimming out was at best an annoyance, one hand pushing my float forward and the other swimming. The south swell stacked upon itself and broke, after a struggle I penetrated the breakers and moved into deeper water. We approached the kelp bed and I did a quick breathe up before making my first dive to the bottom. I landed in the sand 25 feet down and saw almost nothing, only the haze of poor visibility and a dearth of fish. I moved farther out into deeper water and then deeper inside the mass of floating kelp leaves. Before long I was dropping to depths in excess of 40 feet, sometimes swimming down, sometimes pulling myself down the stalks of kelp. I took extra care with head position and entry technique and I credit my successful descents to this attention to detail. When I reached the ocean floor I found it challenging to move laterally, my hands were occupied with the polespear and my feet offered little aquatic propulsion. I did my best to moonwalk along algae covered boulders. The sediment had been stirred up beneath the kelp canopy, darkness prevailed, and as my eyes adjusted I began to see the occasional fish. I was having a hard time lining up shots and with the first two fish I was close enough to spear I missed terribly. Finally I saw a small Blue Rockfish, with superhuman like powers I jumped some 10 feet upwards from the ocean floor and I let loose my already retracted polespear. Success, I scored my only fish of the day, an 11″ Blue, it would also be my first fish taken without fins. On one side of the coin it was a fairly disappointing catch but on the other it was a successful first attempt hunting fish in murky conditions below 40 feet of water without fins.
Upon the surface, the surge had picked up and Jake had been preoccupied expelling his stomach for sometime. He was finding very little in terms of fish, structure, or visibility and was ready to head in for a break. I stayed for a while longer and continued striking out. Soon after Jake had left the water the surge began to take its toll on my stomach as well. I regurgitated mouthful after mouthful of my breakfast and as the agitation increased I began to struggle my way back to shore with a new swimming pattern, a shove of my float, stroke, stroke, vomit, and repeat. When I reached the shore I
took a few minutes to remove my fins walked right out of the water and continued purging my stomach contents. After I composed myself, Jake told me he had seen some perch in the shallows on his way back in and that he wanted to go back out for them. He spent a few more minutes diving in what looked to me a washing machine and I rested before cleaning my tiny fish. Not my best day diving and not my worst. When he came back we headed to the car more or less skunked and drove home.