TBT – What to do with decommissioned Oil Rigs In California?

The future ex-oil rig Holly.

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.

Holly holding bait fish in abundance during the 1970’s. Photo and copyright by Bob Evans.

Established when these rigs were first constructed in the 60’s and 70’s, extensive and complex ecosystems flourish underneath the platforms that lie just off California’s coast. As evidenced in studies, it is fairly well agreed that these rig reefs produce large amount of biomass comparable to any marine fish habitats globally. 

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.

For more information on the process of conversion, visit the folks at Blue Latitudes and  Rigs to Reef. Also, special thanks to Bob Evans for giving us a cool glimpse into the life under the rigs.

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.

We’ll see see you out there.


A variety of fish sitting inside the structure of Holly at 120 feet, which is covered by metridium and scallops. Photo and copyright by Bob Evans.
This is an aquaculture experiment conducted under Holly to test the potential to grow out red abalone. Come for the shellfish and stay for the groovy retro 70’s dive gear. Photo and copyright by Bob Evans.

TBT – The Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Los Angeles County Underwater Unit 1966

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.

In the foreground, the large man walking away is Dr. Glenn Egstrom, Dive Officer Emeritus for the University of California system and a dive master for the 1966 UICC.
2017 UICC Candidates being briefed at Scripps Pier by SIO Diving Safety Officer and 2016 Conrad Limbaugh Award winner Christian McDonald.

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.

A New Year’s Dive Report —- The Ocean is Closed!

Rocky EntryDespite how happy these throwback Los Angeles County Instructors look, most divers are bummed to be on the beach for at least the first few weeks of the New Year. When it does open up, remember to be safe and pick your entries.Until then, those of us at CFD remind you to stay cozy and we look forward to seeing you out there.

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.

Throwback Thursday CFD-style

red ab_P. Haaker
Great looking red taken by DFG Biologist Pete Haaker

Some divers might make 1000 dives in their California dive career and never see one. Sadly, they used to be as thick as carpet on reefs up and down our coastline but thanks to a knockout combination of overfishing and a fatal disease introduced into the ecosystem, reds are for intensive purposes biologically extinct in most of our state. Take a moment and enjoy something that’s not really here anymore. CFD is proud to present to you the late, great red abalone.

THe brick red shell and all-black epodium were common sights to local divers as recently as the early 1990's
The brick red shell and all-black epodium were common sights to local divers as recently as the 1990’s
There were so many abalone that they even bothered to publish books about them.