James Murren
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Snorkel-Swim La Jolla

Words and photo by James Murren

sharks in the ocean

In 1970, the City of San Diego began the development of the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park, which contains two other parks within its boundary: the Ecological Reserve and the Marine Life Refuge. In total, it is comprised of some 6,000 acres of protected area. Today, the underwater park is a jewel in the coastal city with the Spanish name meaning “jewel” – La Jolla.

The earning

Snorkeling La Jolla

I wiggled my way into my wetsuit under a warm, sunny sky. Soon after, I walked to the water’s edge and slipped on my fins. Working my way past the little rolling waves of La Jolla Shores by the Marine Room, I sat back on my haunches while in the water and fit my snorkel and mask on my face.

Within a few minutes I saw bat rays and sting rays, along with a myriad of schooling fishes, likely a species of sardine. I snorkel-swam in the direction of the sea caves, knowing I would cross through the sea grasses section before getting into the rockier habitat. Out of nowhere, seemingly, from my right periphery I saw a shadowy figure: leopard shark.

He was passive, yet shark-quick in his movement. I breathed evenly and floated while a few leopards scurried across the ocean bottom. Having seen them numerous times, they no longer startle me but rather bring me immediate joy and a sense of wonder at being in their presence. The patterns of their skin shone in the sea-diffused sunlight, emanating a shimmer that only nature can create.

Over by the sea grasses, I swayed with them in the current. Back and forth, I rocked. To and fro, I rolled. Cares drifted away.

At the sea caves area, I scanned for shellfish, not seeing any this time around, though garibaldis, both bright orange adults and the blue-purple speckled juveniles, kept the mood positive. Nearing the Cove, a black cormorant darted through the water at a depth of about six feet, searching for lunch, I guessed.

I hung out in the Cove a little while, snorkeling and diving down to inspect rocky ledges for the shy dwellers of the sea. I told myself that I need to learn their names.

Turning back in the direction of the Shores, I was half-way done with my two-mile or so ocean snorkel-swim. Relaxed and content, I kicked long slow strides in the water, the diving fins doing what they were designed to do — propel with ease.

A flotilla of kayakers was out, a common occurrence in La Jolla. I had to dodge a few, messing up the state of flow that I was in. Seeking to get it back, I swam over closer to the shore line. There, gliding along the rocks, I saw something new. Later on, when home, I learned that it was a banded guitarfish.

Almost back to the Shores, more leopards and rays were present. Watching rays fly through the ocean, I thought: they look incredibly efficient at moving in this water world. I, on the other hand, wearing a second skin, fins and a viewing/breathing apparatus, was not.

At the shoreline, I pulled my fins off, removed my snorkel and mask, and then walked out of the water and on up the road to my vehicle. A mellow 1.5 hours of looking at a vast underwater wilderness made for a perfect afternoon.

The beer

New California IPA

beer in a can and in a glassThat evening, after supper, I sat in the hammock and drank a collaboration beer brewed by two iconic California breweries:  Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa and Karl Strauss Brewing Company, San Diego.

I poured a can of New California IPA into a pint glass, one specifically designed for the beer, which I picked up at Karl Strauss, San Diego’s oldest brewery. Nice head, super clean looking through the glass, light golden hue, perhaps a bit on the amber side of the color wheel and not the yellow side.

On the first taste, I got citrus and tropical sunshine right away.  It was not big bodied, as some IPAs can be, and the over-the-top bitter bite was not there. Again, I thought “clean.” At 6.5% ABV and an easy drinker, it had me thinking of a sleek West Coast IPA.

At the bottom of the glass and nothing to do but sit in the hammock and read while dusk came upon my back yard, I went over to the beer fridge and grabbed another New California IPA.