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My Birthday Wish for the Sea

“You should have been here yesterday.”

That’s what a diver told me as we suited up to film and dive in La Jolla Cove. Like surfers seeking the perfect wave out of the Endless Summer I have been in quest for the perfect conditions to film sevengill sharks in clear water. We know that hundreds of these animals visit and live in the San Francisco Bay but trying to film sharks in the San Francisco Bay is like filming in a cup of coffee. I know because I have been filming sharks locally for the past two years while tagging them with Team Fish Finder and the San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay. In fact, to get good enough images for the documentary City of the Shark, I had to dive in the aquarium to get nice Sevengill, Soupfin shark, Smoothound, Spiny Dogfish and Leopard shark images.

To me, the ocean is as inseparable as breathing. It is my breath, my energy, my spiritual being. I give everything to be part of it, and will continue to give everything to perpetuate the health of the sea.

White Sharks are Here

The evening before a Scripps Institute of Oceanography grad student friend had reported seeing a fifteen foot Great White Shark the day before, and given the level of experience and scientific training its hard to disbelieve the report. Thus, we had even more inspiration to film with hopes of finding sharks and a white shark would be the best birthday present possible. Unfortunately the conditions deteriorated from the day before with a building south and northwest swell and strong NW winds. “This is the worst condition I’ve dived in all year. And I dive here every day.” A dive instructor told us as we prepared to walk down the stairway to the cove. “You might get some visibility way out by Buoy C. I wouldn’t drag that big camera all the way out there.” I looked at the yellow spar a half mile offshore, and the building shorebreak sweeping across the cove. I shrugged and looked at my buddy Kevin. “We are suited up, might as well get in.”

The water of San Diego is warm, calm by Monterey or San Francisco standards, but the idea is to capture the smile of a sevengill in optimal conditions and the dream is to get the white shark among the kelp beds.

We enter, we kick past two foot waves and we dive in conditions that are better than average by North coast standards. There is a surge from the south and a glaze of disintegrated algae at ten feet but below the kelp is clear and thriving. New tips of fronds swirl at the apical meristem like the vortex symbol of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Variegated kelp bass hang along the stems rising and dipping in the swell like the kelp it hides among. We do not see a shark, we don’t see a black Sea Bass among the eelgrass, but it is diving among the rain forest of the sea and it is the salty and glorious ocean.

Anytime in the water is a good thing and I am thankful for the opportunity to try to film sharks. Perhaps it is better to miss these sharks once again just to have the hope and the anticipation to dive and search for the sharks.

Some days are better for surfing and others for diving. “You should have here yesterday.” I hear you, but in life you cant look backwards, trying to rectify lost opportunities beyond our control. We can suit up and dive in.  I was not here yesterday, I am here today, and with luck, I’ll be here tomorrow, searching for sharks, getting wet and trying to protect ocean life. I am grateful for the opportunity.  Let Sharks Live.