Community Advisory Council

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper


Brent Alspach

brett_alspach_coastkeeperCommunity: Oceanside

Key Issues: I would like to make sure the public is educated about water supply and treatment issues: the need to conserve more; the benefits (and safety) of reuse and desalination; the true costs of water supplies weighed against the benefits. Ideally, I would like our local population to be educated enough to make good decisions apart from the rhetoric.

Favorite Part of the Community: The weather in January is hard to beat, but I also love the landscape stretching from the coast to large hills and “mountains” within 20 miles or so and then into true mountains within about 50 miles.  Pretty cool!  Fortunately, we haven’t developed it all into suburban sprawl yet.  Hopefully we can preserve open space while targeting focused, smart growth.  

Margarita Diaz

margarita_diaz_coastkeeperCommunity: Tijuana

Key Issues: Bi-national water issues and water quality

Favorite Part of the Community: My favorite part is that Tijuana is a coastal community.



Jenny Kressel

jenny_kressel_coastkeeprCommunity: Mission Hills

Key Issues: Clean beaches and waterways so people can safely enjoy swimming and playing at the beach as well as representing triathletes that train in the ocean and bay.

Favorite Part of the Community: I absolutely love living in Mission Hills because it’s a walkable community; I can save on gas and help the environment by walking to restaurants, grocery stores, parks from where I live!  

Taya Lazootin

taya_lazootin_coastkeeprCommunity: College Area (with roots in North County)

Key Issues: Anthropogenic impact on our waterways, both fresh water and marine. I am interested in looking at the effects of pollution on marine habitats and would like to devise plans to both minimize pollution levels from residences and stimulate awareness about them.

Favorite Part of the Community: I live near San Diego State University, and it’s great to live in such an active place. My favorite part of living in San Diego is that the weather allows me to experience all that San Diego has to offer anytime of the year. I can spend quality time in Balboa Park, see a play or musical, go to a great concert, eat foreign cuisine, walk around one of the museums, hike in Mission Trails, go to a baseball or football game and, of course, swim in the ocean at pretty much anytime of the year.

Harry Orgovan

harry_orgovan_coastkeeperCommunity: Chula Vista (born and raised)

Key Issues: Storm drain runoff, water monitoring, water salinity, water clarity and quality of water as a home for wildlife.

Favorite Part of the Community: Exploring the Wildlife Reserve and Refuge in my local community. Owning and operating a kayak rental and tour business on San Diego Bay brings me in close contact with the water on a daily basis. 

Allison Price

allison_price_coastkeeperCommunity: Mission Valley

Key Issues: Since I work in the healthcare field, safety and health issues are important. I feel confident to deal with anything that makes our water safer for swimming, drinking and fishing.

Favorite Part of the Community: That I live five minutes from everywhere!  Really.


Craig Sherman

craig_sherman_coastkeeperCommunity: Carmel Valley

Key Issues: Conservation and urban runoff

Favorite Part of the Community: The canyons, lagoons and mesas around Carmel Valleyare my favorite part of the community.



Jessica Toth

jessica_toth_coastkeeperCommunity: Cardiffby the Sea

Key Issues: Water scarcity and educating residents and business about the impact of water-use choices

Favorite Part of the Community: Walkable neighborhood: schools, restaurants, food shopping, post office, library and beach.


Hector Valtierra

hector_valtierra_coastkeeperCommunity: La Mesa and El Cajon

Key Issues: While seeing a steady increase in our population and geographic distribution of society throughout the county, I am interested in finding ways to sustainably manage our local waterways and reservoirs.

Favorite Part about the Community: Lake Murray, as well as nearby Cowles Mountain and Mission Trails Regional Park, are great places to bike and hike. I also enjoy biking along the Santee stretch of the San Diego River. La Mesa Village is a favorite for unique shops and restaurants.

 Alberto (Beto) Vasquez

beto_vasquez_coastkeeperCommunity: Encanto (Raised in Logan Heights)

Key Issues: My current key issue with respect to water would be the pricing of potable water and the importance of maintaining affordable rates for San Diegans.  In addition, the provision of safe and accessible recreational water areas for local residents has been of constant concern.

Favorite Part of the Community: My favorite part of living in my community has to be attributed to the people and the unique features found within.  Southeast San Diego is not only urban but rich with a vibrant culture that truly captures the convergence of yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s generations.  Similarly, I like to think every community within San Diego has its distinct character.





Saving Our Waters and Our Wallets.

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

When I look at this photo, I see a wave I would normally kill to ride- with the exception of the surrounding wall of trash. I instantly visualize an ocean littered with garbage, paddling through oil and debris during my sunset surf. The amazing feeling I normally get just wouldn’t be the same if I had to dodge water bottles and was paranoid about swallowing the contaminated water.

Trash surrounds us everywhere we go on land. Between all the street litter, garbage days, overflowing trash cans and street sweeping, isn’t the water the one place we can get away from it all?

It is, but at a cost. According to the L.A. Times, San Diego spends close to $14 million annually on coastal cleanup efforts. Can’t you think of about 14 million ways this money could be used better? Yes, I want my waters to be clean so I can swim, surf and snorkel, but why do we have to spend so much money cleaning them up when we can simply prevent the problem in the first place?

One of the biggest inhibitors to keeping our waters clean is urban runoff. This is the water that runs through populated, man-made areas and picks up oil, grease, pesticides, metals and other toxic chemicals as it trickles directly into our water bodies. This not only makes our waters gross, but also harms the marine wildlife.

To do its part in cleaning up the community, San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter get together and host regular beach cleanups throughout the county. In 2012, 4,308 volunteers removed almost 8,000 pounds of trash from San Diego beaches. And still residents pay for regular trash control from the city. Houston, we have a serious problem.

As a self-proclaimed water-lover (as I imagine most San Diegans are), I make a point to be aware of how my actions on land effect the waters I treasure and I think others should do the same. To do your part in keeping our ocean, bay and streams pollution-free, please check out some pollution prevention tips. We may live mostly on land, but we need the sea. I can’t imagine a life of polluted waters and trash littered barrels, and I will do whatever it takes to keep that photo from becoming a reality in San Diego.

Published in Marine Debris

Four Ways to Stay Informed about the San Diego Bay Shipyards Cleanup

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

The Shipyards cleanup is finally about to start. 

After decades of studies, plans, negotiations, expert reports, technical reports, legal posturing, and public hearings, we are poised to see contaminated dirt removed from San Diego Bay.  This cleanup is a critical step towards healing our bay so that it can once again be safe to feed our families fish from the bay.

TSD-Clean-Bay-Project-Maphe cleanup is slated to start by September 17 so the dredging will continue through the fall and winter months, ending before the least tern nesting season, which starts April 1.

So how can you stay on top of the cleanup progress?  What if you live or work near the shipyards and need to contact someone with a question or concern during the cleanup?  Here’s how you can stay informed:

1.  Attend a public meeting about the cleanup on Tuesday, September 10 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Barrio Station, 2175 Newton Ave, San Diego, 92113.

2.  Fill out this survey.  You can mail it back to the shipyards at: PO Box 420785, San Diego, CA 92142  or email it to  The survey lets the shipyards know how you want to stay informed about the cleanup progress–by mail, e-mail, social media or public meetings.

3.   Check out the cleanup webpage.  It contains lots of good information about the cleanup, including information about the route trucks carrying the dredged dirt will take to the highway, and a contact page where you can leave a message or get on the mailing list or e-mail list.  Information on the website is in both English and Spanish.

4.   Call the cleanup hotline at (855) 817-4397.  It contains a cleanup update message in both English and Spanish and allows you to leave a message.


Mission Bay Revealed

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper
san diego beachIn 1892, the women of ZLAC Rowing Club first set oar to water and later moved to the club’s current location on Mission Bay. In 1995 San Diego Coastkeeper set about protecting our region’s waters. On Tuesday, June 25, 2013, the groups joined to present a two hour exploration of the theme, “Is Mission Bay Gross.” Four area experts reviewed Mission Bay’s ecological history, its current water quality, the City’s plans for maintaining and improving the health of the Bay and ways community members can get involved in finding and fixing problems.
• Rob Hutsel, executive director of San Diego River Park Foundation, discussed Mission Bay’s history (complete with some great old pictures & maps) and how it was transformed into one of the biggest recreational assets in San Diego. He revealed historical changes of the course of water flowing to the Bay from the San Diego River, and the Bay’s water circulation patterns throughout the year. His presentation to come.
• Dr. John Griffith, department head of microbiology of Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, compared Mission Bay’s water quality status with similar water bodies in the region. A water quality expert, he reviewed who does the testing, what kinds of tests are done, and what connects government water quality standards and human health. His presentation to come.
• Ruth Kolb, program manager at City of San Diego Transportation and Stormwater Department, discussed how Mission Bay got its bad reputation and how the City of San Diego has acted to improve the Bay’s water quality. See her presentation here.
• Mallory Watson, Community Engagement Coordinator at San Diego Coastkeeper, shared her expertise about current problems Coastkeeper sees affecting Mission Bay’s water quality and how community members can become involved in identifying and reporting problems and improving the water quality. See her presentation here.
At the end of the evening, we concluded that Mission Bay has come a long way from gross to great. Like with all water bodies that might suffer pollution, we suggest you check the Swim Guide for the most recent closure information before diving in. But the many swimming, boating and park recreational opportunities throughout the park are unique, fantastic and we’d say that today, Mission Bay is a Gem.
Join us at future informative events and volunteer opportunities by visiting the San Diego Coastkeeper calendar.

Snorkel with the Leopard Sharks in La Jolla Shores

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

BONUS! One more special in our four-part (now five-part) “I Love My ASBS” blog series highlighting why we love San Diego’s Areas of Biological Significance.

A long time ago I went snorkeling for the first time, it was in the Caribbean’s clean tropical water, where without effort, I saw so many soft and hard colorful corals like coral fans and other beautiful species that provide a home for hundreds of fishes and invertebrates.

Snorkel with….Sharks

Let’s say that the first time I was invited to snorkel in La Jolla my expectations were really high. But then they mentioned the magic word SHARKS next to snorkel … and I was sold.

Finally the day arrived, the sun shined brightly, which helped since my tropical bones were still adapting to the cold waters, and I was impressed to see the beach so clean and neat. Did I mention that La Jolla Shores is part of the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park, establish in 1970 to protect 6,000 acres of shore to underwater habitats. The park is divided into two marine protected areas: the San Diego-Scripps State Marine Conservation Area, which runs from Scripps Pier north to Black’s Beach, and the Matlahuayl (mot-LA-who-ALL) State Marine Reserve, which runs from Scripps Pier south to La Jolla Cove. A state marine reserve is a type of marine protected area where the removal of all living marine resources is prohibited and activities like tidepooling, kayaking, snorkeling and diving are promoted. The day was perfect for some snorkel fun, I got suited up with mask on. They said no flippers needed, so I guessed we didn’t have to go so far to see these “sharks,” but to my surprise, you didn’t need a wetsuit or a mask–just luck to be in the right place at the right time in this Area of Special Biological Significance, located in the southern portion of La Jolla shores (I don’t want to tell the secret…okay, it is in front of the Marine Room). The right time is the summer time and voilà sharks start showing up with their beautiful spots. Yes, these were the leopard sharks (not the tiger sharks in case you got worried like one of my friends).

The amazing experience of meeting the locals

It was almost surreal, the sharks were four to five feet long (they can grow up to six feet) and even their cousins, the shovelnose guitarfish, came to say hello. Even when I was seeing it with my own eyes, I wanted to know why they were here, since it seems like they are hanging out in the same spot around the same time every year. A few months later I got the most recent scientific explanation from a scientist from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Dr. Andy Nosal. He is also a postdoctoral researcher at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. He explained that the leopard sharks that congregate in La Jolla shores are mostly pregnant females, which take advantage of the warmer waters during the day (from spring, summer, and fall months) and the local food source (fish and invertebrates in the sandy shores and the California Market squid that they hunt during the nights in La Jolla Submarine Canyon). Again, Mother Nature does it better–I guess if you are pregnant, warm water and yummy food is a good reason to be here, beside no predators so triple score!

What you can do

The only possible inconvenient to these sharks’ pregnancy retreat could be us, so if you want to snorkel with the leopard sharks remember not too close is the best policy. Be respectful, they are not going to hurt you. Really, their teeth are really small and are adapted to crushing their food, which doesn’t include you. If you get too close, it is possible that they just swim away. I guess like any pregnant living organism they just want to have their bellies full and relax! Come visit your Areas of Special Biological Significance like these Underwater Parks in La Jolla Shores, embrace nature with a morning snorkel with the sharks and be part of the solution if you see any illegal discharge of sewage and/or waste, inform the authorities. Obviously remember that this is your place to have fun and enjoy nature so please keep it clean!

For more information on:

Snorkel with the sharks tours:

Areas of Biological Significance
Coral Reef photo from Marine Science Today
Snorkel with the leopards sharks photo from Andy Nosal

Published in Marine Conservation

What is the National Young Farmer’s Coalition and why does San Diego Council President Todd Gloria care?

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Colorado Delta PeterMcBrideThirty million people in seven states in the Southwest use the Colorado River’s water for their survival. California—including San Diego—has more people depending upon Colorado River water than any other state.

Competing demands make the Colorado River one of the most contested and controlled rivers on Earth. Over the last decade, humans have drained all of the river’s water – all 5 trillion gallons – before it reaches the Sea of Cortez. The Colorado River is in very bad shape and deeply threatened.

In total, about twenty million Californians rely, at least in part, on the Colorado River for their drinking water, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation’s 2012 Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study. In San Diego, we import 70 percent of our water and about half of that comes from the Colorado River. Does that sound efficient or secure to you?

We say no, and it’s time to change our ways. In 2009, San Diego Coastkeeper and our partners reached a Cooperative Agreement with the City of San Diego to plan how we can reduce our dependence on imported water and secure a local water supply. This year, in 2013, City Council unanimously instructed its staff to move forward with wastewater recycling to bring us about 100 million gallons per day of clean local drinking water. Success!

But guess what? Around 78 percent of the water drained from the Colorado every year goes to agriculture. Colorado River irrigates an amazing 15 percent of our nation’s crops – so we’d better get busy on that front, too.

In California, over a half million acres of agricultural land is irrigated by the Colorado River and most of the vegetables consumed by people in the United States in winter months come from California crops irrigated by the Colorado River. The Department of Interior and the seven Colorado River states are now meeting to figure next steps on agricultural conservation and efficiency and keeping healthy flow in the river.

Thanks to the Colorado River Basin Study, we know that we could save three million acre feet per year, if only we’d take action. That’s enough to cover San Diego in 13 feet of water.

And that’s why we and Councilmember Gloria care about the National Young Farmer’s Coalition.

It’s a truism that how our young generations think and act will define the future of our society—and in this case our river. So the fact that the National Young Farmer’s Coalition supports sustainable farming and is a leader in demanding that agricultural users protect the Colorado River tells us something important. A thriving Colorado River is our future. San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria is joining farmers on July 25, Colorado River Day, in a plea to the Basin Study planning group that the outcome of their meeting is actionable proposals—things we can do NOW–to reduce agricultural pressure on the Colorado River while maintainin its strong industry here in San Diego.

This issue has been studied thoroughly, the time for action is now.

Surf the ASBS

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Part four of four in our “I Love My ASBS” blog series highlighting why we love San Diego’s Areas of Biological Significance.

surf-divaI’ve heard more than once that the best surfer is the one having the most fun. That’s a nice thought, but it’s not strictly true. If you’re dropping in, mouthing off or otherwise being rude or unsafe in the water, it doesn’t really matter how much fun you have.

I think of San Diego’s Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) similarly.

The view is gorgeous and the sand is white, but that doesn’t automatically make the ocean at La Jolla Shores, Scripps Pier or the Cove the best in San Diego. What do make them special are the habitats and creatures underwater.

With Scripps poised at the northern end of one of our ASBS, constantly studying and learning from it, and La Jolla Cove at the southern tip with breathtaking diving and snorkeling in reef and kelp forest, it can’t be beat. If you show up with a surfboard, though, La Jolla Shores or the Pier are almost always where the fun is. You’ll see the La Jolla Shores Surfing Association in the parking lot (“Surfers dedicated to the guardianship of our ocean and community,” how rad is that?), Surf Diva set up in the sand (hello economic benefit to clean water!), the San Diego Surf Ladies (there’s always someone to surf with!) hauling long and short boards into the break and sometimes me. I’m probably on an 8’11” TDK, my wetsuit has a few holes in it.

For the most part, I’m happy on a day that I catch a few waves and see that guy who is always riding the nose. And on my best day, I get a visit from one of the critters in the ASBS.

Just like the jerk or the kook, obliviousness does not excuse bad behavior. Luckily the ASBS comes with a state-funded project to protect it. The City of San Diego and UCSD/Scripps Institution of Oceanography have numerous research and infrastructure projects to keep runoff out of our water. Have you seen the new parking lot at Kellogg Park? That’s pervious pavement – a low impact development technique that lets water filter down through the ground instead of sheeting off into the ocean. You’ll notice diversion projects in the streets to prevent pollution-laced rain and urban drool – like overwatering and carwashing – from running down to our ASBS.

surfers-at-la-jolla-shoresCoastkeeper partners with them to spread the word. We host education events, celebrate World Oceans Day, Coastal Champion Awards and World Water Monitoring Day in the ASBS and write stories like this. (Start with #1 in the four-part series if you missed the diving, swimming or kayaking articles!)

So, let’s be the best surfers. Respect the people in the ocean. Respect the ocean itself.

I love my ASBS.


Photos from Surf Diva.

Published in Marine Conservation

Dredging, Drying, Trucking, and Testing: The Ins and Outs of the San Diego Bay Cleanup

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Water quality in San Diego Bay may start improving as early as September 15 of this year, when removal of the bay’s toxic sediment, the ground beneath the water, is scheduled to begin. The cleanup is slated to remove 159,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from a 63-acre site near the NASSCO and BAE Systems shipyards just south of the Coronado Bridge. Those responsible for discharging the pollutants, including landowners and their tenants, are responsible for funding the cleanup.

During the cleanup, toxic sediment will be dredged from the bay bottom using a clamshell bucket specifically designed to minimize the spread of contaminates. Sediment will be dropped onto nearby barges and transported to shore, where it will be dried and mixed with a chemical compound to promote solidification. Sediment will then be tested to determine pollutant concentration (this may also be done while the sediment is still under water, a process known as in situ sampling) and will finally be transported by truck to the appropriate landfill disposal facility.

Water quality will be monitored both during and after the cleanup to determine its success. Monitoring stations will be located 250 and 500 feet from the dredge area, and a reference station will be located at 1000 feet to provide baseline measurements. A double-layered silt curtain will also be placed around the dredge area to prevent contaminated sediment from traveling into open water, which would compromise water quality.

Measures are also in place, and further plans are being developed, to reduce the cleanup’s impact on neighborhoods adjacent to the project site. Once dry, toxic sediment may become airborne and endanger air quality. To protect air quality, the permits require dried sediment to be controlled while it is stockpiled on shore or being transported. Also, cleanup operations are scheduled to run 24 hours per day and 6 to 7 days per week*, so requirements are being designed to protect residents from the noise and air pollution associated with ongoing truck traffic.

San Diego Coastkeeper has been actively involved in determining the ins and outs of the cleanup since it was ordered by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board in 2012. Waterkeeper Jill Witkowski collaborated with other stakeholders to create a cleanup implementation plan and Coastkeeper’s work in setting the terms of the cleanup’s waste discharge permit was recently lauded by the Regional Board. Coastkeeper also submitted comments to the San Diego Unified Port District regarding the cleanup’s coastal development permits, which were issued yesterday. The final permit that must be granted before the cleanup can begin is a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit from the United States Army Corps of Engineers. This permit is necessary when a project will add any material to or remove any material from waters of the United States. If all of the required permits are issued, the long-awaited cleanup of San Diego Bay will get underway this fall. Great news for those of us who love the bay!

* Dredging is scheduled to occur between September 15 and March 31 of each of three years to avoid the nesting season of the endangered California Least Tern, which lives within the project site.

More Trouble for San Diego Fairy Shrimp

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

A little bit of redesign could save four, maybe even nine, vernal pools that house the endangered San Diego fairy shrimp. Vernal pools are unique seasonal wetlands found in southwestern coastal California and northwestern Baja California, Mexico. Vernal pools used to cover over 200 acres of San Diego, but 95-98% of that habitat has been destroyed. Although San Diego fairy shrimp are not easy to see, they play an imporant role in our environment. They eat smaller vernal pool organisms and are eaten by birds and toads. We will lose a key player in the food chain if San Diego fairy shrimp are not protected.

San Diego Coastkeeper has closely followed two projects that will greatly impact the San Diego fairy shrimp and its sensitive habitat: Brown Field Metropolitan Airpark in Otay Mesa and Castlerock near the San Diego/Santee border. 

Castlerock-MapLast Thursday was a particularly rough day for San Diego fairy shrimp because the San Diego Planning Commission approved the Castlerock project. The project plans to develop almost 204 acres of land belonging to the City of San Diego into over 400 single-family homes, but before construction begins the land may be annexed to the City of Santee. The project also plans to destroy four vernal pools that house San Diego fairy shrimp. Adding those vernal pools to the five that will be destroyed by Brown Field Metropolitan Airpark makes a total loss of nine vernal pools with San Diego fairy shrimp. 

One of Coastkeeper’s concerns about the Castlerock project is that the developer plans to destroy four vernal pools with San Diego fairy shrimp and preserve vernal pools without them. The developer plans to rebuild vernal pools to house San Diego fairy shrimp near the preserved pools. But if that habitat were suitable for San Diego fairy shrimp wouldn’t they already be living there? At the Planning Commission hearing, Commissioner Quiroz echoed our concern about relocating the San Diego fairy shrimp; she even mentioned that the relocation process seemed “backward.” 

Coastkeeper asked the Planning Commission to consider sending the project back for redesign to remove four houses from the project’s design. Eliminating those four houses would reduce the project by less than 1% and would completely avoid the vernal pools with San Diego fairy shrimp. But the Commission approved the project four votes to two with Commissioners Quiroz and Wagner voting against the project and Commissioner Peerson recusing herself.

After providing comment at the Planning Commission meeting, Coastkeeper’s next step is to ask the San Diego City Council to require the developers, of both Brown Field Metropolitan Airpark and Castlerock, to redesign the projects to avoid the vernal pools. The City Council hearing for Brown Field Metropolitan Airpark is at 2 p.m. on September 9. The City Council hearing date for Castlerock has not been set yet, but Coastkeeper will post the details when they become available.

Published in Marine Conservation

Now You Sea Me, Now You Don’t

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Part three of four in our “I Love My ASBS” blog series highlighting why we love San Diego’s Areas of Biological Significance.

How do you describe your time in the water? For some, it’s a workout- like swimming laps in the ocean, preparing for a triathlon in the coming months. For others, it’s a religion- like surfers paddling out every sunrise and sunset, no matter the size of the swell or the direction of the winds. In both of these groups, attendance in the water isn’t expected: it’s second nature.

During the past few months, I’ve been absent when Poseidon taps his trident and takes roll. In fact, this mini-exile from any saltwater has left me feeling pretty dry (insert any common excuse here). So when given the chance to finally end my dry spell in the La Jolla Cove, courtesy of Hike, Bike, Kayak, I couldn’t resist. Despite the fact that I had never kayaked before, it’s not easy to pass up an opportunity to visit (in my opinion) the most beautiful area of special biological significance (ASBS) that San Diego has to offer.

Last Wednesday I accompanied two of my esteemed water-crazy colleagues into an adventure that would last around two hours in the La Jolla Cove. One of them, honored as Commuter of the Year on land, could just as easily win the same honor in the water (she may have to wait until her next life as a blue-nose dolphin.) The other learned how to surf in Maryland and loved it so much that she moved to San Diego just to keep at it. Not to my surprise, both of them had already swum La Jolla Shores that same morning.

After we rented our gear and agreed to a trip without a guide, we approached the sands of La Jolla’s beaches. I tempered my excitement with caution while we learned how to paddle, and about the ins and outs of where to go and what is/is not allowed. There were couples, families, tourists and locals: each of them seemed to be enjoying the day despite the breezy conditions and the fickle absence of the Sun.

Soon after the three of us made it out past the break, we seemed to drift into our own separate directions for a bit. Personally, I was fine with this— being without a tour guide facilitated a freedom in this experience that I always cherish in the water. The ebb and flow of my body in the kayak coupled with the unmistakable scent of the sea evoked a familiar mind-body-environment connection that transcends the physical senses. It’s easy to “lose yourself” in this moment, especially in the La Jolla Cove.

It wasn’t long after we regrouped that we came upon a most curious sea creature bobbing its head above and below the water not more than five feet from two swimmers. Even as the three of us drew closer, the seal swam a half-circle around us, as if he came around to close his front door on our way in to greet him. Bobbing its head up and down at an unpredictable rate, “Now you see me, now you don’t” said the seal.

At first, I was sure this seal was a young pup. But upon further inspection, I took note of its salt and pepper whiskers and imagined it as an elderly man embracing the joys of a long-anticipated swim. Sticking his tongue out as he shoots through a wave, the old man isn’t acting his age— he’s a boy again. He can’t remember his age and neither can this wise, old seal playing peek-a-boo with us in the Pacific. 

Eventually he moved along, and so did we. Throughout the remainder of our expedition, the Cove came and went, along with several moaning seals that formed a dog-pile on the cliffs overhead. I have never heard the siren’s sound, but I am sure that wasn’t it. Accompanied by some stoic cormorants perched nearby, the seals seemed comfortable enough— I think their calls were an ode to self-expression. “It’s my cove, and I’ll moan if I want to.” 

On our way back, I noticed a jellyfish so bright that I swore it was yellow. As it drifted along not more than two feet away from my kayak, I decided that I had seen the same one that some swimmers had mentioned earlier in our trip. At that point, I was sure my time kayaking in the La Jolla Cove was a memorable one. Feeling as if our experience had reached its end as we pulled into shore, my kayak took hold of a wave that sent it rushing forward and to the left: sending me spiraling out of the vessel with a quick smack to my forehead.

Sheepishly, I flipped over the kayak and pushed it into shore. Apparently, Poseidon wasn’t too happy with my long absence from the ocean. Nonetheless, I felt blessed to kayak the La Jolla Cove that day and truly enjoyed my time as a guest in that silly seal’s water— I love my ASBS.

Published in Marine Conservation