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Every now and then I get the real privilege to dive with a master, who between studying waves and the intricacies of torts and criminal procedure, spends his time weaving through city traffic on his bike, cooking up feasts with his wife Helen, and foraging for mussels, crabs, and dive bars throughout San Francisco's outside lands. Living within earshot of OB, he is lover of all things ocean, a waterman through and through.  Being as enthralled as I am with diving now, I can't thank enough the guy that got me started in the first place. So on one sunny February Friday afternoon the decision was easy, "I'll drive," I said.



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We were greeted  in Central California by calm swells and a partially sunny sky that seemed to be stubbornly fighting off a fog blowing in from the Pacific. Suiting up quickly, however, we were in the water just minutes before the sun disappeared behind the quickly advancing fog bank. With visibility a little discouraged by the obstinate weather,  we nevertheless pressed on, it would take much much more for it to do the same to our spirits.

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"Well worth it."
Having not had a dive in months, Eric was stoked beyond words to get out into the kelp forest. His last dive had been at the end of the summer, when the water can sometimes be more akin to 'egg drop soup' than anything else, and he had yet to experience the winter visibility we had been raving about. It was great to see him out there, checking every hole like a kid, in what seemed like a hazy 20-30 ft of visibility.

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Eric checks a small cave for big dogs
It turned out to be a great day, complete with visits from Monterey's resident mammalian wildlife in the form of a seal I've come to recognize (and dub) due to his distinctive white coloring. The afternoon was packed with action, fish everywhere, and both Eric and I hauled out with impressive stringers.

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Saruman 'the white' said hello almost as soon as we had gotten our masks wet
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At one point during the dive we stopped looking in the holes because it seemed like every fish and its mother was out and about.

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Again, the white wizard, making sure nothing is wasted in case I drop the freshly speared Cabezon
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I ended up only poking this Greenling, having already strung enough fish to last me a week
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Eric having some fun jedi mind tricking, gathering fish to a spot by bouncing the shiny spearpoint for all fins to see
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A lingcod, packed with delicious roe... lucky me :)
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Eric, without letting a single bubble escape, surveys the bottom topography for likely hiding places
A world class swimmer and schooled in free diving the waters off Hawaii and now California, Eric's technique and knowledge are rewarding even to those just watching his controlled, seemingly effortless dives. His boundless enthusiasm is also contagious, and just the experience of diving with him is a privilege. Sup Yoda. "Try not, do or do not." 

 
 
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Kris rises into a halo of sunshine for a breath
Saturday a few buddies and I swam out into a tumbling day of rolling waves and changing visibility in Monterey. Despite the conditions, which were on the whole fairly magnificent, everyone scored near limits, including one personal best. Minutes into the dive Kris showed off again by spearing a 25" Lingcod he saw on the swim out.  Keenan, who hadn't been out in months, scored an elusive black & yellow on one of his first drops and was quick to regain his rhythm, routinely going for long deep dives and enjoying the scenery as much as anyone can. Phillip saw the biggest Cabezon he had ever seen but failed to take a shot, begging us to question if it even existed (no pic didn't happen!).

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Phillip stops to take a look around at the beautiful day above

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Phillip emerges between 30ft Kelp stalks out of a haze that marked the deeper colder ocean
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Keenan blows bubbles from his gills which he hides from the world
The real beauty and catch of the day was my personal best Monkeyface Prickleback, weighing in at 3lbs 5oz and measuring a solid 27" inches.

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Here's the shot on the Monkeyface - was way back in there!
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Slipperiest fish on the planet
Here are some stills from the dive. Big thanks to Keenan, Kris, and Phillip! Video coming soon.