the New Monterey Diver
Needs to Know
This page is written for the certified SCUBA diver who has not dived
before, whether a visitor or a diver who is newly moved to this area.
The diving in Monterey is world-class and incredibly rich in
life. Compared to the tropics, the water is cold and the viz
not as good. However, it's all relative: one transplanted Brit
that Monterey has warm water and good vis.
you are a tropical diver, quarry diver, or lake diver, Monterey is NOT
what you are used to. Remember that your C-card says you are
qualified to dive in conditions similar to those you trained in, and
that wasn't Monterey.
You may think I'm being a bit emphatic here, and you're right. It's because the number of "new
to Monterey" divers that have lost their lives here is
disproportionately higher than their population in the water here.
And there often seems to be a complicating factor like "night" or
"deep" or "boat". Start with something easy (the Breakwater), get
your act together, and then move on to night, deep, or boat. If
you are newly moved here, even if you brought your buddy and partner in
life with you, find a dive club: http://www.garlic.com/~triblet/ba_diving/links/clubs.html
And fitness counts. There seem to be a disproportionately higher fraction of obviously unfit divers dying.
Water temp is typically 50F (10C), can be as low as 44F, as
57F. Probably 70% of the divers on any given day wear wetsuits, 10%
20% drysuits. It's probably more like 50, 15, 35 measured by number of
dives (dry suit divers do more dives per day and dive more days).
are typically 7 mm farmer john, jacket, and hood. More experienced
divers wear a 3 mm or 7 mm hooded vest instead of the hood. The
divers almost universally wear drysuits.
The visibility is typically in the 20-30 foot range.
90 feet (twice in 1300 dives), 60 feet happens two or three times a year. Vis in
the 10' range happens occasionally. I can remember one time I ran
into the bottom before I saw it. All the tiny creatures that make
the bad vis provide food for all the beautiful creatures we enjoy when
If you aren't used to cold water, watch your buoyancy
All the compressible neoprene or dry suit undies that provide the extra
means larger changes in buoyancy compared to tropical diving.
need to adjust your buoyancy when you change depth by more than three
four feet. Without a little bit of extra vigilance about depth
buoyancy, it's easy to get into a runaway ascent or descent
Monterey has beautiful kelp forests, but they require
There's no Kelp Monster, the kelp isn't going to attack you, but if you
aren't careful, you can feel that way. Secure all loose
Duct tape your fin straps or, better, put an inch of bicycle inner tube
on the them, so they don't snag the kelp. If you find yourself
like crazy and not going anywhere, stop and find the strand you snagged
and unsnag it. Most importantly, don't swim through the thickest
part of the kelp, swim a few feet to the side and go around it.
remember that the kelp strands will break like a carrot if you bend
sharply in two, or you can bite through them. There's more
about diving in kelp at http://www.garlic.com/~triblet/ba_diving/kelpdiving.html.
You don't want to be out of air in the middle of a kelp
on being on the surface with 500 to 800 psi to swim back to the boat or
Crawling over the top of the kelp is not a fun experience.
While you are doing a safety, you bubbles will rise up and part the kelp.
Navigation skills are important so that you surface near the
the exit point.
Sea conditions in Monterey can change greatly from day to day
hour to hour. ALWAYS eyeball conditions before unloading your
and again before entering the water. Monterey weather info is at http://www.garlic.com/~triblet/swell/wamglance.html.
There are a couple of good books on beach diving Monterey
the ba_diving bibliography page: http://www.garlic.com/~triblet/ba_diving/bibliography.html.
The best place for a first Monterey dive is probably the
And Monastery Beach requires specialized techniques most days that it's
diveable. Don't dive it without someone who knows that beach.
There are also several day boats. See http://www.garlic.com/~triblet/ba_diving/links/boats.html.
There are four dive shops in Monterey, and many more in the
Bay Area. If you are a visitor, with a couple of days notice, any
of the Monterey shops, and some of the others, can set you up with a
(at a price of course). This is a REALLY good idea for a visitor. Details are on http://www.garlic.com/~triblet/ba_diving/links/shops.html.