Freeway Divers

Bob Grundmeyer
We’ve all seen them. That diver that seems bent on covering as much reef as they possibly can during their dives. Almost like it’s a contest. Like they are The Freeway Diver on a quest to see how much ground they can cover on one tank of air? And of course, they have to get there FIRST. After the dive, be it at the car, on the beach, at the shop or back on the boat you’ll hear them boast that they made it all the way out here, there or where ever. And it never fails they always want you to be impressed with their feat.

But, have you ever noticed any of them discussing the fun and amazing things they’ve seen on their dives? I have a friend here in Southern California that is the epitome of this diver. He’s a wonderful person. The kind of guy you’d want to be next door neighbors and life long friends with. In the 15 years I’ve known this dive buddy, about the only thing I can say I’d recognize of him underwater is the bottom of his fins. And even then I only see them for a brief few minutes. This person is one of the best scuba divers I’ve ever been in the water with. His only short coming is his idea of the buddy system being that age old joke that “we were in the same ocean”, which in this case generally works out just fine for me.

In the 15 years I’ve known and dove with him, he’s never seen a Spanish Shawl, one of the most beautiful Nudibranchs I’ve ever seen and is a resident here in Southern California’s cold waters. We’d been diving together for almost 7 years when one day I stumbled upon a wall of Rock Scallops in a rather hidden, tucked away part of a very commonly dove site in Orange County. I didn’t take any, but noticed them instantly by their bright orange “lips” visible between their shells. They are not altogether uncommon here, but he later admitted that in all his years of diving, he’d never seen one in the water. Ever! On another occasion, my trusted friend was so busy heading out to the edge of the reef that he missed the 10 minutes I spent watching a small octopus scour the rocks for some small critter or crustacean for its next meal.

I’ve seen him swim by quick enough that the Halibut he scared up from its

Halibut hiding in the sand hiding spot exploded from the sand behind him. It was amazing to watch leap from the sand and swim off “sideways” out of sight to safety away from these crazy intruders. And we won’t even discuss the Bat Ray other than to say it was easily the largest Bat Ray I’ve ever seen. Comparing it in size from wing tip to wing tip to the hood of a large car would not be a stretch. She allowed me to set next to her in the sand near the reef and actually pet her wings for awhile, before moving on into the night.

I guess my point to all this is to slow down. Enjoy your dive. This is a pastime and recreation for most of us. It’s intended to be relaxing and rewarding. Before you go swimming off into the deep blue, stop and spend a few minutes just taking in what is in that 10 feet of space around you. Calm down and let the environment get used to your presence and see what you might be rewarded with. There’s a very good chance that you’ll leave the Freeway above the water where it belongs.