On every trip back to San Diego, my first stop has to be La Jolla Cove. A mecca for open-water swimmers, it’s my favorite place on the West Coast. Getting to swim at the Cove and out to the quarter-mile and half-mile buoys – morning, afternoon or evening – is a physical, emotional, spiritual experience.
Part of the La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, the Cove’s sea creatures are protected species. Brilliant garibaldi stand out among mackerel, sardines, bass, anchovies and other kelpfish. It’s also the natural habitat of sharks. The sea lion population is plentiful on the cliffs and recently on the beach at the Cove. They can give you a fright, when surfacing nearby or swimming underneath you.
While the underwater kelp forest is teeming with marine life, conditions on and below the surface require caution by swimmers, snorkelers and divers. The dangers include waves, currents and surge that can dash you onto submerged and exposed rocks, thick strands of kelp that can tangle you up, and of course the wildlife that lurks from the deep to the shallows.
San Diego City Lifeguards have a new and improved station overlooking the Cove. Someone painted a shark on the plywood gate that leads to their tower. Less ominous than the tiny tuna crabs that cozied up to us in our first swim of this summer sojourn.