Carmel River State Beach is just North of Monastery. The conditions here can be very dangerous, but if the weather is right, they are brilliant, and today was one of the brilliant days.
We had clear skies, warm weather, flat conditions and great visibility.
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We started by swimming out to the wash rock (which looks a long way out from shore! We figured it would be an interesting pinnacle with a lot of life, so we were going to swim around it and look for critters.
As we swam out, through mild kelp, we noticed a lot of submerged rocks that came very close to the surface, and this was causing some sizable waves, despite the otherwise very flat conditions. As a result we changed our initial plan, and decided to dive the kelp just to the left (as viewed from the beach) of the wash rock.
This was a really nice dive. The floor here was very rocky, with large structures causing the depth to change from 20 to 40 ft. There were numerous bolders to swim along and channels between them making for an interesting dive. The kelp was plentiful, but not too thick, so you could swim through it safely. There was no noticeable surge, so you could swim up close to the walls and get a good look at the marine life.
Saw plenty of yellow Nudibranch, a couple of 'white' ones, several of what I thought were black sea slugs. A few lingcod (3-4ft), cabazone (small), abundant blue rockfish, a few kelp bass, kelp wrasse.
My favorite sighting on this dive was the purple, pink and orange hydrocoral that we saw down at about 30ft. There was quite a lot of it and I don't recall ever seeing that before in Northern California. People have told me that it's common at depth around here though (deeper than 100ft) and I've seen it down south (in the Channel Islands).
Really enjoyed swimming amongst the rock structures on this dive. Circled a couple these, before peeling off on an approximately 40degree heading and swimming in towards shore.
Due to the rockiness of the bottom it was hard to hold the 40 bearing, as a result we drifted south down the beach somewhat. As we got into about 20ft water we were swimming above thicker kelp, then onto a sandy bottom in about 15ft of water. Once we got shallow (15ft) we used the ridges in the sand to guide us into shore and infact pulled ourselves along the bottom on the sand - using the waves to carry us back to shore.
On this dive we dropped down immediately after entering the water - no surface swim. We headed out over the top of the kelp at first, then once depth increased, swam along side the kelp, skirting it down to about 50ft. As the visibility was good, we had an excellent view of the kelp and the sea bed, which was about 10ft below us.
Hit a thermocline at around 30ft, with a very visible shimmer. Didn't see quite as much on this dive as we were further away from the rocks and kelp, but it was a nice view.
On the return to shore we again 'flew' above the kelp for quite a way.