Last Dive of the Hermosa Beach Mermaid

There are few things in life that a true Waterman loves more than diving. God, country, and mother do not immediately come to mind. Neither does holding hands nor long, reflective walks on the beach. A dive bar on the other hand is a part of the genetic make-up of every great diver. There is “B-A-R” in their DNA. That’s why I feel like a little piece of me died this week when word came down that the legendary Mermaid Bar in Hermosa Beach has shuttered it’s doors after 70 years.

Smelling of beach sweat and desperation with a decor that probably could give you tetanus just by looking at it, The Mermaid was your one stop shop for ice cold beer and a place to put your feet up and your butt down after a long day on the water. It wasn’t just a smarmy and poorly lit bar either. It was also a place of innovations. There was quarter beer night, dollar pitcher night, and pretty much everyone’s favorite, Blackout night. It was magnificent.

Now I know a lot of you never went to The Mermaid and now, sadly, you never will. I guess the point of this getting all nostalgic and crap is that places like this are where you make memories. Horrible,awful memories. You also make some fun ones as well I suppose but I digress.  So let’s say so long to “The Old Maid.” I never figured she’d go out of business. I always assumed she would be torched for the insurance money. Just remember to enjoy your own special dives while you can and then take one last look at The Mermaid.

The main attraction. I think you could get a Flaming Moe here. And Pediculosis.
Bartender Oz with two of most popular things in the place. Greyhounds of course.
This guy is going to need to find a new place to sleep
The “Old Maid.”

3 Beers for the Dive Days of Summer

Just as getting the right gear together for a dive needs to be a deliberate and thoughtful process to ensure a safe and enjoyable outcome, so does picking the right post-dive libations.  To help you along to that end, we offer up these three decompression delights from 3 different regions of California:

  1. Green Flash Brewing West Coast IPA – While it is brewery described as “a tantalizing menagerie of hops. Simcoe for tropical and grapefruit zest, Columbus for hop pungency, Centennial for pine notes,” it’s doesn’t taste as lame hipster as that. It’s actually a nice slow-drink IPA that is surprisingly light despite the 8.1% alcohol content. With it’s grapefruit juice like hue, you can almost convince yourself that you are getting your RDA allowance of vitamin c. You’re not but you won’t mind.




2) Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA – A heralded hop-head from Healdsburg, this Northern California  suggestion is the writers favorite. It has a great chew and a big hoppy flavor that drinks like a champ. It is the diver equivalent of Irish-food, satisfying and filling, perfect for a post-dive deco stop with an alcohol content of 7.5%.





3) Firestone Brewery Double Barrel Ale – The old hand on the list, this tasty beer has been brewed on the central coast for almost 20 years. Other craft brews have come and gone but this classic holds up very well and goes down very smooth. A full bodied ale with a great finish, this is the beer you want to crawl into after a boat out to Anacapa or Santa Cruz. With only a 5.0% alcohol content, you have to work pretty hard to do serious damage.



We know you have a lot to choose from when picking a end-of-the-day refreshment and wanted to share with you some of our favorites from over the years. Just remember that any beer shared with dive buddies is a good one. Except for Bud. Bud sucks.

CFD Editorial team hard at work tasting beer so you don’t have to!



Fish Friday – It’s Garibaldi time because Orange is the New Whack!

Yes. I said it. For the first time ever, someone has described the Garibaldi as whack. Totally whack in fact. Why you ask? Because I think we’ve taken this fine inhabitant of the kelp forest for granted for far too long. First of all, it is the state marine fish of California, no small feat in state where everyone wants to be a star. Suck it Pile Perch.

image of a juvenile Garibaldi

Secondly, it has a merit-based hierarchy. Males commonly build nests to impress the lady fish when it comes time to reproduce. The females then take a tour of several different nests and decide which nest she likes best and lays her eggs accordingly. Bachelor fish living in their parents spare nest need not apply.

Finally,  it is fierce. As the largest member of the damselfish family, it will protect its nest against anyone who gets too close. Size doesn’t matter. Like Hulk Hogan, it will fight anyone, anywhere, at any time during nesting season brother! Let’s go the video:

All in all, a pretty impressive resume for a fish that has enjoyed total protection from collection and fishing since 1995. So when you’re out there and see this orange burst of energy swimming by, enjoy and have more than a little mad respect.


Today is the first World Tuna Day, celebrating one of our most important fish. With over 80 countries worldwide having tuna fishing fleets, these “lions of the ocean” supply food security and nutrition, economic development, employment, government revenue, livelihoods, culture and recreation to millions of people across the globe.

All is not rosy for tuna though. There are major declines in tuna stock which threaten many different stakeholders, not the least of which is the tuna themselves.

Some groups are asking that you celebrate by not eating tuna today but I think your time could be better spent reading this letter from the Pew Foundation which gives a frank assessment of the the challenges tuna face moving forward and some successes that scientist and fishery managers are having as they look to protect them.

A lot to  think about but I think Tuna are worth it. See you out there.

Sláinte! It’s the Fish Friday Gaelic Edition – How about a “Gliomach” with butter?

With Fish Friday falling on St. Patricks Day, I thought I’d take a little creative license and go with the Gaelic name of an invert we’re all familiar with. Say hello to the spiny lobster, a familiar and popular resident of the California Kelp forests. Unlike his Atlantic and Irish counterpart, he is clawless, but the fact remains he is everybody’s favorite dinner guest.

Have a great St. Patricks Day and an even better weekend. See you out there.



So that’s what the claws are for? Makes sense.

***************Quick reminder, the season ended so take a few minutes to send in your report card results to the CADFW. The information is invaluable and  better data means better management.*********

Yes, We’ve still got Ocean Problems in California – Throw Back Thursday

cfdaltlogoIn a world that seems to be more filled with uncertainty than ever these days, we at California Fine Diving would like to give a little perspective on where we in California are in terms of ocean health. This photo, provided by the Mendocino Historical Society, shows a couple of dapper turn-of-the-20th-century fishermen with what I think we can all agree is a pretty good days effort. From a cursory look, we can probably also agree what they lack in modern fishing technology, they more than make up for with ties and bowler hats. Looking good and fishing good.

photo provided courtesy of the Mendocino Historical Society

Now I’m not posting this just because it’s a great shot( it is wicked cool though). I’m posting it because It gives us a sense of something we’ve lost in terms of abundance and variety that we’ll probably never get back. Look closely at the picture. There are more giant sea bass(GSB) in this picture from one day of fishing than most divers saw during the entire decade of the 90’s. I’m also not saying all is lost BTW. We are seeing a lot of species making a comeback. Divers regularly see GSB these days even if the populations are probably not back to historic levels that existed when this photo was taken. I’m pointing out by posting this picture, however, that we’ve barely started working our way back to a place where we can say our local waters are as healthy as we want them to be. We have to keep working on it. The only way to do this is to stay involved and active. We can’t count on anyone or any entity other than ourselves. We’re all in this together and the ocean you save will be your own.

Good luck and we’ll see you out there.

Return of the King

Stereolepis gigas doesn’t sound much like a king’s name. It sounds more like someone you’re going to buy a gyro from. Don’t be deceived however because this is is the scientific handle of one of the most magnificent creatures you’re likely to encounter diving here in California — the Giant Sea Bass(GSB).

kingAptly named because it is actually quite giant, this highly protected species seems to be making a bit of a comeback from it’s darkest day in the early 80’s when California DFG(now the DFW) officials were scrambling to protect this vulnerable and venerable giant from rod and spear. Following a ban on gill netting in nearshore waters in 1994, sightings increased and  casual observations over the past 10 to 15 years seem to indicate that this king of the kelp forest is making a comeback. To get real answers, GSB turned to real scientists and the process of collecting relevant data has been carried out in earnest. As a result, we now know a lot more about the life cycle of the GSB than we ever did before and are therefore better equipped to conserve this magnificent creature. One of the lead scientist in the study of Giant Sea bass, Dr. Larry Allen, Biology department Chair at Cal State Northridge and leading GSB expert, is giving a presentation at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium on February 3 to discuss what we now know about the GSB and  their chances for recovery. Presented by Alta Sea, this a great chance to learn more about our impact on the animals of the kelp forest and how we can make a difference through community based programs such as the Giant Sea Bass Collective organized through a joint program between CSUN and UCSB. It looks to be a great evening and best of all it’s free. So don’t be a uniformed bump on the log. Get out of the rain and down to San Pedro. We look forward to seeing you out there.

Discovery Lecture Series
presented by AltaSea and Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Friday, February 03, 2017
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

The Return of the Kelp Forest King

By Dr. Larry G. Allen, California State University, Northridge

Larry is currently Chair and Professor of Biology at California State University Northridge. He has co-authored and edited many publications on the biogeography and ecology of marine fishes of the Pacific coast of North America including the books, “The Ecology of Marine Fishes: California and Adjacent Waters” and “A Field Guide to the Coastal Fishes from Alaska to California.” Dr. Allen will discuss the information that he and his graduate students have compiled on the demise and recent return of the apex predator of California’s southern kelp forests, the Giant Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas.

Click here for teacher resources related to this lecture.

Please RSVP to:

Copyright (c) Phillip Colla, all rights reserved worldwide

Deco Stop – The Marlin Club in Avalon

Looking for a beer after a long day of diving and trying to find the kind of place where you can stand around in your boxers, enjoying one in a non-judgmental temple of apathy? Or are you looking for the type of place where you can randomly ask Mary Stuart-Masterson about that movie she did back in the 80’s with Eric Stoltz and Lea Thompson? (the delightful “Some Kind of Wonderful” FYI).  If you can answer yes to both those questions, then you might be ready for the adventure that is The Marlin Club.

image001Located just off the main drag on Catalina Ave in Avalon, TMC is the oldest bar on the island and is what we here at CFD refer to as a character bar. Not that it has character but rather that it is filled with characters. You never know who is going to be in there. Yachties, divers, rugby players and Hollywood-types are just a few of the diverse clientele you’re likely to run into on a given Saturday night. Heck, the bartenders even live upstairs. That being said,  it’s really a very non-intimidating place the lacks the feeling of desperation you’re likely to find in some of the other night spots on the island.

As for decor, it’s a non-descript theme that revolves around the boat-shaped bar with stools that always seem to be filled,  no matter the time of day. Standard selection of beer, wine and spirits will keep you going including one of the few beer taps on the island. (It’s Michelob for some inexplicable reason.) There are your standard pool, darts and pinball to entertain as well as a couple of tv’s but the main attraction is the crowd. Usually loud but almost always friendly, it’s the type of place you’ll end up talking to the most random people but it will be entertaining I promise.

Anyone for fancy mer-people restrooms?

The sheriffs usually make last call around 1:30. At least it seems that way. That being said, once you experience The Marlin Club, it’ll leave a mark. That mark will sometimes be spiritual while other times being an actual mark.  It’s the spiritual one however,  that I’m sure will have you  following the interesting looking crowd back, time and time again, to The Marlin Club.






A link to one of the most impressive websites I’ve seen in 1997.

Throwback Thursday – Women diving in the 50’s

At CFD, we don’t avoid the tough topics. We embrace them. This Throwback Thursday is devoted to the social issues the early California diving community faced, and in hindsight, really embarrassed themselves with. In this case, I’m referring to the 1950’s and 60’s and the awkward birth and adolescence of our sport in regards to woman divers, or “chicks” as they were referred to. So enjoy an excerpt from from Skin Diver magazine entitled “Girls and Abalone Divers” and a photo from the LA Times that in some way is about lobster fishing out of King Harbor.

I don’t know where to start with this one but I love the bikini/picnic on the beach shot. Traditional commercial fishing activity to this day. You can see it practiced on shows such as the Deadliest Catch.
Femal Ab Tender
Ab diver Perry Marti and his new tender Lynn Taylor. Tending never looked so good.
I think this shot is to emphasize using the right bait to bring the prize home. In this case, it’s the lobster.

You wouldn’t know to look around the diving community these days at its gender and sexual diversity that it was once made up of a fairly monochromatic demographic, specifically white dudes between the ages of 20 and 40. As time moved on, the divers aged and scuba became made-up of  white dudes between the ages of 20 and 60. It wasn’t until the late 80’s that the diving community, with the help of positive role models like Darryl Hannah and the little Mermaid, began to diversify and create the underwater rainbow we are all part of today. At least that’s the way I remember it.

Kelp Restoration and the demise of purple urchins off Palos Verdes

Who’ll think of the Bass? SMBRC will.

The Los Angeles Times ran a front page article this week detailing the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission’s 5-year plan to cull 4.8 million purple sea urchin from the cove and reefs on the southern end of the Palos Verdes peninsula. Hopefully as the urchin population is reduced to less than two percent of it’s current state, kelp will  flourish and we’ll get to enjoy once more what pioneering scuba divers during the 1950’s knew to be a prime and dynamic example of a healthy kelp forest ecosystem. With $2.5 million in funding from the Monsanto/Montrose Settlement fund, scientists and divers will be working overtime on a 152 sq acre patch trying to bring to fruition a restoration project that has been the dream of local divers and environmentalist for the past 50 years.  It’s an exciting time for those of us who love our local waters here in Los Angeles.

One of the most important things to remember when looking at marine restoration and conservation projects is that we can never make things look exactly how they used to be. We won’t be seeing the virgin environment that the those first divers saw as they explored places like Abalone Cove and Whites Point, relying on new technology to open up the nearshore environment. We do however have the chance to make it look the way we want it to, and that would be a healthy and balanced ecosystem. So keep your fingers and webbed toes crossed for success as these local scientist and divers work towards a healthier ocean.

For more information or to find out ways your can make a difference, contact either Tom Ford, Director of Marine programs at the SMBRC or Brian Meux, Marine Program Manager at Los Angeles Waterkeeper.

For a link to the Los Angeles Times article and more details, click on the picture below:

Sunlight through the kelp
The Los Angeles Times article is like a ray of sunshine through a beautiful kelp forest