Earlier this week I was talking to Tom at work who mentioned that there's a great place to go snorkelling in Carpinteria, which is easily reachable by kayak. I pressed him some more about the place, and figured it wouldn't be too bad to swim to from a nearby beach. Turns out to be about a .2 miles, which isn't bad with fins and a snorkel. The surf report said the water is so flat you should go kayak instead, which makes the conditions perfect for snorkelling. So this morning Danielle and I headed out to the beach.
We could see the kelp from the beach (and in fact there were several kayakers there). The swim looked kind of further than I thought, but we set out anyway. The water was very clear. We could clearly see the sandy bottom where the water was as much as 4 feet deep. Soon thereafter we lost sight of the bottom, and swam with nothing but the water to look at. We passed a solitary kelp plant where Danielle saw a good sized bat ray, but I didn't. After some more swimming we hit the kelp forest itself. Most of the bottom here seems to be rocky, and in the shallowest parts about 8 feet deep. In those places you could make out the white stuff on the bottom from the surface (shells, mostly), which is enough to tell you where to go down. We saw clams, urchnis, anemones, and other spineless critters that Danielle knows what they are. There were a fair amount of fish around. I saw at least a school of top smelt, so kind of perch, a small kelp fish, and a school of something else that Danielle didn't see. (If Danielle doesn't see it, that means I don't know what it is, since she is my ocean life reference.) Overall it was a great place to snorkel for being so close to home. Definitely not as nice as some of the spots at the islands, but fun nonetheless.
Danielle said she was cooling down (my wetsuit fits a lot better than hers) so we started going back. While still in the kelp forest, I saw a big fish come into view about 5 feet below me. It just kept getting bigger, and when I saw the first 4 feet of it I did a double take and realized it was actually a seal I was looking at. Excitedly I told Danielle, but she had missed it. Then the seal popped its head up about 20 feet away, so we swam towards it. When we got pretty close it went down, so I chased after it. I did see it swim a bit under water, but a seal could outswim me with both flippers and its tail tied behind it's back so after about 5s it was gone again. This repeated quite a few more times. The seal would pop up its head, and we'd swim towards it. Sometimes one of us would go under before we reached the seal. When that happened the seal would go under also, trying to see where we went. If you kept swimming under water you'd meet the seal after a few seconds, and it would act surprised, arch its back and take off int he other direction. It was very cute. At one point Danielle got with 3 feet of the seal's head before it dove to safety. Another time Danielle and I were looking for the seal, when it turned around it was right at our feet, sniffing (or so it looked) the tips of my fins. It was really awesome to encounter such a beautiful, playful and wild animal.
All good things come to an end, and we had to head back lest Danielle got too cold. I caught a glimpse of (presumably) the same bat ray that Danielle saw on the way out, and then before I knew we were back at the beach. We were in the water for about an hour. If you're in the area and the water is calm, I highly recommend snorkelling around 34Â°23'41.03"N 119Â°32'9.94"W.