**This blog entry orginally appeared on the website oceanspaces.org.**/p>
I sprayed down my Omer open cell wetsuit with a mixture of hair conditioner and water and began the semi-disgusting process of sliding myself into the suit. Thinking about to the first time I wore the suit 4 years earlier on my first ever scuba dive in the Smith River, I’ve come a long way. When I first got into diving I couldn’t figure what I was supposed to be doing under there, looking around? Yes, I had looked around and did see things that amazed me but very quickly I was searching for the challenge. I wanted there to be a purpose to my dives. Then I took the Scientific Diving class at Humboldt State University where Richard Alvarez and Steve Monk taught Reef Check protocol and I fell in love. I finally had a challenge to my dives again. I was being forced out of my comfort zone, made to use my brain on a dive, think critically all the while remembering my basic dive skills. The dives became challenging again and I was thriving. I liked the feeling that I was part of something larger, part of a team that was making a difference. Then the class ended, I tried to stay certified with Reef Check and for about a year I attended a few survey’s around the state but let my certification lapse. I ended up living in Playa del Carmen, Mexico teaching scuba diving to tourist and missing not only the challenge of north coast diving but the feeling that my dives where contributing to the great good. Then I was tagged in a Facebook post on the Humboldt State Marine Lab page advertising a job as North Coast Regional Manager for Reef Check California. Less than a month later, there I was sliding into my old Omer wetsuit in the parking lot of Van Damne State Park. I was the new and the first North Coast Regional Manager for Reef Check California. I was going to be diving with purpose again.
That first week of training and survey’s went by in a blur. With the help of Reef Check’s California Director Jan Freiwald and Central Coast Regional Manger Megan Wehrenberg we trained 4 new Reef Check divers and re-certified 4 more. We were only able to do one survey that week before conditions kicked up and visibility dropped down, making the ocean un-survey-able. Since then I have completed three more surveys at Russian Gulch and on the North and South sides of Caspar Cove. It was not only the first time that these sites had been surveyed for Reef Check but the first time I had dove these sites. Most of the time I felt like the deaf leading the blind, my team of volunteers and I would make plans on the beach then swim out and the whole plan would change! Things like target depth’s and transect headings would be altered at the last minute or even as transect lines where being swum out underwater. Yet we were still able to get everything done and everyone had smiles on their faces at the end of a few long weekends. We also got to see some awesome critters like wolf eels, ocean sunfish, and my favorite ocean critter the nudibranch. We discovered the family of three Vermillion rockfish (Sebastes miniatus) that hang out in the shallows on the southern side of Caspar Cove and the schools of Blue rockfish (S. mystinus) surrounded us on safety stops on the northern side of the cove.
Now I am doing my “calm oceans” dance in hopes that the swells will drop down for a few days and we can get back in and finish up the remaining sites! We have Pt. Cabrillo, Mendocino Headlands and Portuguese Beach left on our list as well as the daunting tasks of getting out to Kibesillah Rock in the Ten Mile reserve.
Wish us luck! More survey stories to come!