Review Date AVG ShoreDiving Site
10/16/2010 2.87 Gerstle Cove California North, USA West
I have heard Gerstle Cove is great diving with lots of marine life, etc. However a note of caution to those interested in diving here. Be extremely vigilant with your planning and pay attention to the swell, wind and currents. I dove here on October 10th 2010 with a reported 6-8 ft swell and an incoming tide. It was my first time diving here and should have gotten a briefing from the ranger first, but it looked calm enough and so in we went (me and 2 buddies). The surface swim out was easy....too easy (we were being helped out by the current). By the time we were ready to drop down the swell had noticeably picked up. We went down anyway and immediately encountered heavy surge along with less than 5-6 feet of visibility.....very dangerous conditions. We should have called the dive immediately, but instead we continued to dive our 'plan' (which in reality was no plan at all)...to dive the south side wall of the cove. As we swam closer to the wall we encountered heavy and unmanageable surge conditions and began to get bounced off rocks on the bottom and each other and were literally getting pushed back and forth 10-15 feet each surge!! What we didn't realize was that the current created by the nature of the water moving into and out of the cove in a circular clockwise fashion was conspiring to pull us towards the outside of the cove and out to sea, southward towards a very dangerous rock garden just south of Gerstle Cove proper. About 6 minutes after descending to the bottom and close to the south wall we got pummeled by a giant breaking wave....got rolled around....bounced of rock...complete black out vis with foaming bubbles from the wave 20 feet below the surface. Before we knew it we were on the surface without having deliberately ascended. At this point we all realized we were in a bad spot and aborted the dive and began to swim back to shore. This is the point that we realized that we had gotten ourselves into a nasty little rip current that was sweeping out and around the south point of Gerstle Cove proper. Panic tried to set in as we realized that even with moderate exertion against the current....we were not moving! After about 15-20 minutes of moderately strenuous surface swimming we made it out of the rip current, but were still several hundred yards out. It took about another 45 minutes of surface swimming to reach shore....happy to be alive. There is a life guard/ranger that lives and works this area and he actually met us on the steep ramp leading down to the water. He asked how we were and if we got caught in the rip. It was nice to know someone was looking after us. We all wished we had sought him out and asked his opinion on the conditions prior to heading out. Bottom line is that we very narrowly avoided having a really bad day and it all could have been prevented by better preparation and observation of the water patterns. Another little tid-bit…..NEVER be afraid to call a dive….that means YOU….not the others in your group. If YOU don’t feel comfortable with conditions….speak up. Everyone else is probably feeling the same way and is just to proud to say so. I will go back and dive Gerstle and try to find the elusive Norlina wreck, but only when the swell is less than 4 ft and the vis better than 10 feet.