Siting on the corner of 25th and Wilshire Blvd, Scuba Haus was both a neighborhood icon and local diving staple for over 50 years. Starting today it joins a growing list of old-school California dive shops that have shuttered in the Santa Monica Bay-area over the past decade including New England Divers, Blue Cheer, and American Divers. Whether it’s rising rent, retail fatigue, or a sign of changing times, we now have one less place to get a regulator serviced, a tank vip’ed, or to try on a wet suit free without worrying that you would have to ship it back if it doesn’t work out. Something to consider the next time you’re shopping on line.
At least the ocean isn’t closing any time soon. We’ll see you out there.
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.
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:
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.
In a time when the future of the worlds oceans is more unsure than at any point in history, we have this day to think about what it really means to have healthy oceans and what it takes to keep them that way. So while we raise a glass or munch some celebratory seaweed, remember that the only way to ensure healthy oceans for our future generations is to stay aware and in turn help raise awareness. The ocean you save may be your own.
I’ve been writing quite a bit lately here and on other sites about the amazing marine life supported by the rapidly aging and soon-to-be-decommissioned oil rigs operating in the waters here in the Southern California Bight. The problem facing the continued survival of these micro environments lies in the fact that there are quite a few marine conservation groups, supported by local communities, pushing for complete removal of the structures and the flourishing ecosystems they support. It’s a really odd confrontation between groups that usually find themselves on the same side of marine issues. On one side you have respected local scientists including Chris Lowe of CSULB and Dan Pondella of Occidental College conducting studies showing the productive and valuable nature of these ecosystems and presenting data that supports maintaining the rigs after their service lives have ended. Then on the other side, they are being challenged by prominent conservation groups such as the Ocean Foundation and the Sierra Club, who are pushing for a complete restoration and removal of the rigs to an original state and holding the oil companies to the agreement they made to remove them entirely. It’s a really unique situation that has supporters of converting the rigs to reefs scrambling.
They have received some recent help. California Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, is proposing a bill that would create a process by which decommissioned rigs would be turned over to the State Lands Commission, with financial support, to maintain these rigs safely as reefs in perpetuity.
On April 17th, Venoco oil announced that they would be ceasing operations on platform Holly, which lies about 2 miles offshore of UCSB in the Santa Barbara Channel. Because the rig is in California state waters, the California State Lands Commission has ordered a complete removal of the rig and capping of the well and restoration of the site to as natural a state as is possible. While this is seen as a big victory by many environmental groups, there are quite a few voices in the ocean community that see leaving some or all of the underwater structure as a way to preserve a unique and burgeoning ecosystem.
So the question is, should we accept the trade-off of keeping some structure in place to preserve these unique ecosystems? I think there is a good argument to do just that. For Throwback Thursday, I’m presenting some pictures of rig Holly from the 1970’s when the amazing animal and plant communities were first being discovered by local divers. Taken by Bob Evans, founder, creator, and the “force” behind the Force Fin, these great photos give an early glimpse into what many people now regard as one of the richest undersea communities you’ll likely encounter.
In this day and age where science is under attack and pristine wild spaces are under threat, the chance to save something so special is something we need to consider. Take a look at these amazing photos and I think you’ll agree.
For over 40 years, starting in the 1920’s, San Diego was the Tuna capital of the the world. With a massive fleet of fishing boats and a complex of processing plants supplying tuna to a hungry world, the fishery was the third-largest employer in San Diego to only the US Navy and the aerospace industry. It was truly a way of life for mid-century San Diegans. The good times didn’t last however. With the end of WWII, major corporations started buying out the local processors and alienating the independent fishermen. Japanese imports further eroded the market and concerns over dolphins made the move to offshore fishing cheaper, driving the final nail in the coffin for what was once the late, great Tuna Town. by 1984 it was all but over.
Stereolepis gigas is truly the King of the Reef. Anyone that’s ever encountered one under the kelp canopy knows. Ranging up to 8 feet from tip to tail and over 5oo lbs, these gentle giants have become more commonly encountered by divers since the the end of gill netting in 1994. That is a great thing to say the least. So hail to the King. Thank you very much.
A lot of people don’t know this but formal dive training as we know it today was born out of a relationship between the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the County of Los Angeles in the early 1950’s. As a matter of public safety in response to a rash of scuba-related deaths, officials in Los Angeles decided to develop formalized standards and procedures to create a system by which divers could be safely certified. The newly formed County Underwater Unit, looking to pursue a point of authority in the field, reached out to SIO and their Dive Safety Specialist Conrad Limbaugh for help developing standardized training for recreational divers. This resulted in the first formal instructor training program for scuba certification. The rest is history. All, and I mean all, of the current training agencies and their procedures can be traced directly back to the Los Angeles County program and this pioneering partnership.
The partnership continues as every year the Los Angeles County Underwater Instructor Certification Course returns to SIO for a weekend of hard ocean training and expert lectures. The photo below is from 1966 and it marked the first year the county handed out the Conrad Limbaugh Award, accepted posthumously by Connie’s widow Nancy. This award remains one of the most prestigious honors in diving.
When people ask you where diving started, you can now tell them. See you out there.
It’s been such a wet winter in California that we haven’t had much time to get in the water with our finned friends. The Aquarium of the Pacific wants to help you with your marine withdrawals and is offering free admission to certified divers showing their c-cards and accompanying I.D. There will also be exhibitions by a lot of great local marine scientists and NGO’s talking about the state of California’s ocean and how you can help. It’s a great time to get out with the ocean community and enjoy a dry day with the fishes.