Now You Sea Me, Now You Don't

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.