Went out to the coast yesterday and had a pretty stellar day out there. Wasn’t diving just then, but I stopped and hung out at the beach for a little bit to enjoy the 70-something degree sunny weather we had. Yeah…supposedly it’s winter, but you wouldn’t know it.
Anyway, it got me thinking about some of the diving I’ve gotten to do out here. If you guys are familiar at all with my background you know I learned to dive in cold water originally, but then moved to FL to get some place a BIT warmer. Well, I just finished a move to NorCal so I feel like it’s kind of come full circle water-temp wise. Wasn’t super excited to be heading back to 40-degree water temps, but since donning my 7mm a few times and heading out for some west coast hunts I’m finding it’s really worth it.
The key to any cold-water sport (or cold-weather in general for that matter) is good gear. I wouldn’t go hiking in winter in sweats and tennis shoes. I put on my good waterproof pants, hiking boots and layer up the jackets. It’s the same for the water. Good, well-fitted wetsuits are invaluable when you’re jumping in off the North coast here. I personally don my 7mm Oceaner custom competitive suit for all my NorCal outings. Whatever brand you use (there’s a few really good options out there), the most important feature is the fit. I have friends up here who borrow suits, etc., which is fine once in a while, but loose or too-tight suits drastically affect your heat-retention. Flushing is definitely the worst problem with an ill-fitting suit, but even those loose, baggy areas (often times under the arms you’ll see that) create a pocket of cold water that your body isn’t able to effectively heat.
I went out early last September to go after some abalone and was pretty worried about how cold I’d get when I heard it was about 47 degrees. But with the gear I used I was able to stay in for about an hour and a half and got two decent sized abs! I’m not going to say I was hot by any means, but apparently 7mm freediving suit (with hood)+ 5mm gloves + 5mm socks = happy Erin. And yes, I’m entirely aware how very cool I look in all this gear! As most of you know, freediving isn’t necessarily the most stylish sport, but the right gear definitely helps you get the job done.
What I didn’t mention yet was how incredible that day was, even if the water was a little chilly. It was sunny and the ocean was amazingly calm for that area. We even had something like 30 feet of visibility and the colors on the bottom rivaled even what you’d see at a Florida Keys reef (and it’s probably dove much less here). All this combined to a pretty successful day where I got my first two abalone ever (2 8-inch abs pictured below) and my dive buddies, who were on a mission for scallops, picked up a pretty good haul too. Needless to say we had a pretty sweet dinner that night.
So, even if you’re a warm water wuss like me, I’d really encourage you to check out some of the dive spots around Northern California. Plus it’s mostly shore diving so you don’t have to pay for a boat and all that mess. Just get some good, warm gear and get ready for a surprisingly awesome day of diving.