Navigating the Deep Blue

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Scuba Tips in Laguna Beach

Discover tips for scuba diving in Laguna Beach and beyond. – By Somer Flaherty

Certified Master Scuba Diver Gary Sanders started scuba diving as a child, inspired by the late ’50s television series “Sea Hunt,” which starred Lloyd Bridges as a scuba diver who had adventures that included outmaneuvering villains and rescuing a downed Navy pilot. “I always felt comfortable in the water,” says Gary, whose first foray in the water was snorkeling and swimming in a fresh water lake in New England. “It was cold but I loved it!” In 1997 Gary moved to Laguna Beach, where the waters are a bit warmer, and where he joined the South Orange County Dive Club and the Laguna Sea Dwellers dive club, diving 100 times per year. “Anyone who is diving in Laguna is diving in one of the best places in the world,” he says. Here, Gary gives us his tips to exploring the underwater world.

LBM: Where are great dive spots in Laguna Beach?

GS: Divers Cove is a popular spot and a well-protected area where you can see octopuses. To get to Divers Cove, turn south at the traffic light on Beverly Street from PCH. On Cliff Drive there is a staircase to Divers Cove. Shaws Cove (access off of Fairview Street and Cliff Drive) and the Montage resort also have some nice sites.

LBM: What about dive spots outside Laguna?

GS: I really like the California Channel Islands; we’re lucky in Laguna that we have such close access to world-class spots like Farnsworth Bank, which is on the backside of Catalina. The spot is home to rare purple hydrocoral. It has the excitement of being a deep ocean site so you get to see fish that you don’t generally see.

LBM: What about sharks?

GS: There are sharks, but I haven’t seen any sharks I’ve been afraid of in Southern California. I’ve been diving all my life and I’ve never found myself in the water with a dangerous shark.

LBM: What’s something we can expect to see?

GS: Although they are hard to see because they blend in, octopuses are always a great find. When you come near them they will move and even change colors.

LBM: For newcomers to the sport, how do you recommend they get started?

GS: The first thing is to know that when you are diving in California you have surf, so dive with someone who is local and really experienced, who can help you learn to get through the surf to start your dive.

LBM: Any tips for those already diving?

GS: The most important thing is to dive a lot. You can also get advanced certifications that will build your skills. If you’re going to take one course, take a rescue diving course; it teaches you how not to get in a situation where you’ll need to get rescued.

LBM: What is some of your favorite dive gear?

GS: You’re going to need a thick wetsuit or else you’re going to be cold. I also like a dry suit. You can wear any type of clothing under it, and it doesn’t get wet. I feel like James Bond in my dry suit, like I could just take off my gear and step out in a tuxedo.

LBM: Favorite time of the year to dive in Laguna?

GS: September, October and November—especially when we are getting the fall Santa Ana days. The warm ocean lays down like a lake.


Dive In: Check out this local gear for in and out of the water

After your first underwater experience you’ll understand the enthusiasm and commitment veteran divers have for the sport. It’s a weightless, surreal playground where visuals of neon schools of fish, translucent jelly creatures and long slithering moray eels dance at every turn. Unlike many other sports, reaching that first experience takes hours of instruction and the right gear.   LBM


Rolex Submariner watch, available at Fredric H. Rubel Jewelers (246 Forest Ave.; 949-494-3513;


Zoop dive computer, available at Sport Chalet (27080 Alicia Pkwy., Laguna Niguel; 949-362-0342;

Roxy wet suit, available at Laguna Surf and Sport (1088 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-497-7000;


Gauge, available at Laguna Sea Sports (925 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-6965;


Gear bag, available at 225 Forest (225 Forest Ave.; 949-494-7907;


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