Sometimes I feel like an outsider when I dive in southern CA. Folks don't really know what to make of a crew of hooligans grillin' on a $20 POS BBQ they picked up at the local grocery store. But when they see these miscreants ride a wave in on a Banksboard hooting and hollering, peel off their masks and snorkels, lay their spearguns on the sand and start pullin' fish out of their goodie bags, they are really pressed for words. One local was walking by with his kid one day, my buddy and I pulled some fish out to admire our catch and the child was transfixed. The Dad said with a condescending tone, "enjoy it while it lasts, you get married and I'll see you at the mall sitting on a bench reading the paper with me." Both my buddy and I shrugged it off and went back to showing the boy what an adventure was all about. We showed him the fish, told him the different names, where they could be found, and how we caught them. Finally they left and my buddy turned to me, still looking at the sad father and said under his breath with a chuckle, "don't put that on me! Just 'cuz you lost your sense of adventure doesn't mean I gotta lose mine!" After that, I relayed stories of growing up with a happily married father who, with the support of my wonderful mother, led us spearfishing, camping, backpacking, hunting, etc.
Anyways, this is an average day adventure off the shores of a beach community that will likely never understand us. Nicholas and I headed out early to the Kwiki Mart (our go-to spot where the drive is short and the shelves are always stocked). I got in the water first and occupied my time with a smile on the sandy sea floor mesmerized by the abundant sand crabs in the shallows who dug into defensive trenches as soon as I appeared. These little guys are a staple of both rays and corbina, so they were not taking chances with me. I meant them no harm they soon found out and they quickly adjusted to my presence.
When Nicholas hit the water we headed out to the kelp beds and off shore pinnacles. Taking our time and stalking through the kelp forest, the undersea environment opened up to us in its vastness. Nicholas got some good shots early on and I landed a few fish while enjoying the presence of other unique sea creatures. Nicholas said he saw a calico and a small angel shark, I saw a baby leopard shark, a swell shark, giant kelp fish, and an electric ray. It was a little tough getting the shot of the electric ray from a foot away...I will admit I was paying as much attention to the LCD screen on my camera as I was to the potentially hazardous touch of this cute little sea monster!
We rode a wave or two onto shore and as we changed into our dry cloths, the coals were already glowing. A few foraged Nopales cactus pads were searing on the grill by the time the fish was fully cooked, and though we were just using some store-bought salsa and avo's gifted to us after a recent party, our feast was still absolutely forigerriffic!
We used the Banksboard as a makeshift windbreak to keep the cooking fire efficient in the breeze, and we enjoyed every bite! Nicholas turned to me at one point and laughed out loud, "Man, so many of my friends would be jealous!" I chuckled biting into another freshly forager and grilled fish taco, "I know...mine too!" As we sat there on the beach listening to the waves lapping on the sand, warmed by the coals, we were greeted by a pod of dolphins who lazily breached and dove in circles in front of the rock we had just hunted. The setting suns rays reminded us of past days in northern California and Oahu.
All in all it was another great day to be a forager, and a day in the sea we will not soon forget! Bare feet in the sand, fish tacos in hand, grins to share, and the dolphins are there, setting sun rays, adorn this day, we are one with earth and sea, and so we are free. Keep the old ways alive!
Words- Kevin Smith, Images-Nicholas Santos and Kevin Smith.