My first thought when I saw the sea floor off La Jolla is how much it resembled the rocks, sand and waving grasses in the opening of “Jaws.” I half expected to see title credits materializing in the water. But I didn’t feel afraid. I loved the otherworldly silence, the muted sense of the undersea world, the endlessly waving kelp and eelgrass, that newfound awareness of my own breathing.
I’d come to La Jolla to see the annual gathering of leopard sharks. Altogether I encountered about 20 of them–lovely, shy and graceful creatures. At one point I feel like I interrupted some sort of shark conference—about six leopard sharks hovered together in the water, but when I came almost close enough to touch them, they suddenly split apart disappearing into the silt.
Sometimes it’s nice to be new at something—to have that Zen beginner’s mind “full of possibilities.” What to a seasoned diver would be a roster of common fish, to me were utterly exotic creatures. I saw at least a dozen Guitar fish, a couple Bat rays, Rockfish, Garibaldi, Sheephead, Perch and Sand bass.
I loved the canyons and the rocks, getting swept up in the magnetic push of the tides, sometimes bumping into my patient friend Renee who gladly volunteered to drive to San Diego and even loaned me some extra fins and a diving hood.
At certain particularly silent moments, the name Robert Pamperin would pop into my head, but thoughts of doom were as fleeting as the nameless silver fish darting at the surface. I admit “action-wise” that I only came back from this trip with 5 new signatures, but I also returned with a kind of slack-jawed-born again-awe for the ocean and its creatures. I can’t wait to go back.