With the unusual persistence of warm water currents moving by California there is no doubt that we are experiencing the effects of an oncoming El Nino. While common conditions for the summer months along the central California coast are filled with algal blooms and poor visibility we have been fortunate enough to see one of the best summers for diving in many years. Along with calm swells the algal bloom as almost been non existent, providing divers that venture into the unknown to be pleasantly surprised with the above average visibility of dives and abundance of life found in the area. Large numbers of humpback whales have been spotted and some fish that are normally found in southern California such as the Sheepshead have been seen venturing north. So if you are in the Central or Southern California area now is the time to get in the water because great things are beginning to happen.
Central California diving is coveted as some of the best cold water diving in the world. The kelp forest provide a unique environment that can only be found in California. Diving in the kelp forest should be in every divers bucket list, and while many divers will make the trip to monterey and dive Breakwater, my suggestion is to head a little further south to Carmel. Carmel is not as frequently dived and the structure that can be found on many dive sites is unparalleled. With all of this being said there are a few misconceptions people have about diving in California. First California diving is completely different from diving anywhere else in the world. If you are not familiar with Monterey or Carmel I highly recommend hiring a guide they will help with gear and help you find the little treasures that hide in all the different nooks and crannies. Second, the summer is the worst time to dive, because of plankton blooms in the summer visibility degrades in the summer, the swells tend to be much lighter in the summer but this lack of movement allows the water to become stagnant. Third, the water is cold no matter the time of year, average yearly highs in Monterey are in the mid 50’s while Lows are in the mid 40’s, average temperature is 50 degrees. The best time to dive California is in the winter and spring, winter storms wash out all the junk that collects during the fall. Cold water is also a sign of upwelling, meaning that cold very clear water is coming up from deeper waters to replace surface waters displaced by winds. Upwelling normally occurs in the winter and spring along the California coast. The divers that are well prepared (usually the drysuit divers) are able to capitalize on these cold waters and on occasion find visibility of 60-150 ft. While many divers who are used to warm water and consistent visibility this may not sound amazing, but along the coast average visibility is about 20ft and can be as bad as 2 ft at times. So when reports of 100ft visibility are heard it is not uncommon to see divers flood the waters. So when you hear that the water temp is reaching its seasonal low its time to pick up your gear and get in the water.