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Diving Relative To Rocks

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New Member
Aug 21, 2001
I started to call this "Full Contact Diving", but that's actually what you try to avoid. I've been aware from the start that my idea of free-diving is a lot different from what most posters here are into. (Although I've also found that there are a lot of people doing offbeat things as well.)
I don't really care how deep I can go, but when I see surf boiling around an archipelago of rock islets, or funneling into clefs between cliffs, I get the hots to get down there. To me the whole show is in the shallows, where the pretty fish are, and where there is wave motion relative to rocks and reefs.
Before I ever heard of "free diving" I told people what I was doing was "like rock climbing if you could fly". I didn't wear fins in those days, either, the better to get my feet around fast, and to stand on rocks and dive off them. I ended up getting fins, and moving my kicks into deeper water, but I still get one of big diving kicks zooming around rocks.
You can get into something a lot like surfing, or kayaking rock gardens. Waves zipping you through gaps and clefts (you cleverly avoiding getting smashed into said obstacles). I've spent hours trying to catch the right wave to pop up into a tide pool six feet above the water line or come to stand up on a point of rock right at water surface. It's a set of skills on it's own, and I don't think there's an academy yet.
Then there are arches and caves and all that stuff. I had a buddy tell me that he found being upside down and swept in and out of a tunnel by wave action to be the coolest thing he'd ever felt.
My own favorite rush is what I call "soaring". Best done in gradual shallows with big boulders and a lot of strong wave action. The waves sweep you in, you fly like Superman in the TV serial position (mentally humming the "flying theme" music if you're like me) and the hydraulics pop you over boulders like a pigeon sucked over an airplane's wing. You land on your feet and pause, holding against the pressure of the water rushing back out, then spin and leap and soar back over the boulders. Repeat as necessary. There are advanced stungs as well. Coming to a stand on top of a boulder. Coming to a HANDSTAND on top of a rock. Doing a flip over a rock. Using a hand vault on rocks so you actually leave the water like a manta ray of flying fish. Smashing right into the rock and breaking your fool head. No, wait, that is NOT in the compulsories.
Seriously, rocks obviously increase risks (or shall we say, substitute another set of risks for those you find in blank water at 50 meters. The worst thing is not so much rocks as sea urchins and fire coral and stonefish and such ornaments of nature that we find attached to rocks. But you learn how things work in waves. One thing you learn is that while boats get smashed on rocks and broken, it's not so easy to have it happen in the water. You are protected by the water: you tend to slipstream around things, tend to be cushioned on impact. What hurts is getting scraped against things. And it's not the peaks of waves that mess you up, it's getting dropped on things in the troughs. Like a bunch of barnacles or urchins or morays, for instance. Not to mention just plain old sharp rocks and coral stubs. Do this right and you come in bleeding every time.
Add to this that there are a lot of cool fish that live in the rocks and reefs and groove on the motion. This iw where you are going to sea damselfish and tangs and angels and parrotfish and all those technicolor critters. But it's basically just a different kind of sport, like motocross is different from trying to set speed records at Bonneville or blasting 100 miles around a flat track. I don't even recommend it, but I sure get a kick out of being surged in around the rocks. And of course the final payoff is that you pull some stunt to get out of the waves pounding some crags and the toursits that have been taking pictures of you out there bobbing in the whitewater give you these looks...it's priceless, baby.
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Reactions: Angus
getting flushed!

wow, i'm dizzy from just reading about all that motion! :D
sounds fun. where are you doing this? do all your friends think you have an abusive significant other with all your bruises?

~ anderson
Too cool

Hey, Sbum, thanks for one of most unique posts in a long time. I love it when one of us adds a new dimension to this sport. Now if I could only get to a body of water big enough to have tidal surges.

Getting held down by waves is a great way to practice your negative dives. You might even learn some deep water equilization principles as well. The problem is usually getting all of the sand out of your sinuses after the washing machine ride.

Best wishes,

My problem this week is getting sea urchin spines outta the palm of my right hand. (Also a huge sea urchin burn across my forehead--thank God I always swim with a mask) It´s been one of those weeks.
One nice thing about getting a kick out of rocks and waves is that you can do it a lot of places that aren´t that great for other kinds of diving.
For instance, right now I´m in Mazatlan, where there´s a very rocky coast with heavy surf, but the water is too murky to be a diver´s paradise. (But don´t tell the Chamber of Commerce that, they pitch crystal water). Murky water is not so bad when diving in close, because you see a lot of cool stuff in the rocks. Who cares if there´s only 4 feet visibility when you´ve only four feet away from where the fish are nibbling?
San Diego, another non-paradise for free diving, is also lots of fun around La Jolla or Sunset Cliffs.
On Isla Mueres, I was in heaven. Lotsa rocks with bizarre caves and tunnels, clear water, neon fish and turtles and stuff, and plenty of wave action. Isla isn´t known for walk in dives so much because it´s rough on one side and sandy/grassy on the other...but I had a ball on the windward shore.
Another place I always dug was the wall at Cabo...from the gas dock out to the tip by the Arch. And Conchas Chinas in Vallarta, until the water got so dirty.
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