The long stalks of kelp anchored on the ocean floor reach up to the surface like trees. When the seaweed-trees are grouped together, they make an underwater forest. The forest supports a population of marine life and makes an arena for divers.

There are many reasons we love kelp diving; here are a few:

  1. Swimming through a kelp forest feels like flying. Doesn’t everyone have flying dreams? It will be hard not to raise your arms above your head, superman-style as you swim through a kelp forest.
  1. You can interact with sea lions and seals. In an encounter similar to running into a big dog at the park, divers can make eye contact with furry eared seals. If you’re kelp diving in Catalina Island, you could see a Pacific Harbor Seal. They love to look at their reflection in the dome port of your underwater camera.
Photo: Scott Smith
Photo: Scott Smith


  1. There are great photography opportunities. The way the light rays divide when filtered through the kelp leaves can make stunning photographs. The sensation you feel as the refracted light rays penetrate thru the long stalks of kelp while a light surge moves gently from side to side is indescribable. Off the coast of California, where photographers are fortunate to have good visibility, one can use kelp as a backdrop for stunning wide-angle shots.
  1. The location is wonderful. There’s a reason there are so many songs about California. The warm sunshine and the Pacific Ocean can be intoxicating topside and underwater. Whether you’re diving in Catalina, Monterey Bay or La Jolla Cove in San Diego, you’re sure to enjoy it; California diving never disappoints.
  1. There is a great diversity of marine life. A Black Sea Bass sighting would be a treat because these giant fish are making a comeback after being on the brink of extinction. Sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, and sometimes whales not only eat the kelp, they also rely on the kelp forest for refuge. Invertebrates like sea stars and urchins cover the kelp forest floor. Garibaldi, the state fish of California, provide a bright orange pop of color on the otherwise greenish blue landscape.

diving in anacapa california

Kelp thrives in water temperature between 5-20 degrees Celsius / 42-72 degrees Fahrenheit so make sure you are suited up correctly.

If you’re looking to try kelp diving for the first time, check out the PADI AWARE Fish Identification Course. This course will help you identify species unique to the kelp forest ecosystem.

california freediving
Photo: Scott Smith
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