The Three Dimensional Aspect of Ocean Swimming

The Three Dimensional Aspect of Ocean Swimming

Swimming through kelp forests in coastal waters is a remarkable experience.

The National Ocean Service describes kelp in the ocean, “They grow in dense groupings much like a forest on land. These underwater towers of kelp provide food and shelter for thousands of fish, invertebrates, and marine mammal species. Kelp forests harbor a greater variety and higher diversity of plants and animals than almost any other ocean community.”

Swimmers in Southern California can enjoy – or not – swimming among the kelp forests of the Point Vicente State Marine Conservation Area and the Abalone Cove State Marine Conservation Area that ring the Palos Verdes Peninsula. There are usually several kilometers of kelp along the coast – and hundreds of meters thick in close proximity of the shoreline where divers, fishermen, surfers, and Catalina Channel swimmers find themselves.

Some swimmers enjoy it; others do not like seeing some much marine activity and life below them, or the feeling of swimming around or on the kelp blades and stipes.

The marine life ranges from large mammals (e.g., whales, seals, dolphins) and lemon sharks to fish including garibaldi and kelp bass, as well as salp, jellyfish, marine birds, bryozoans, hydroids, mysids, amphipods, isopods, crabs, snails, nudibranchs, tunicates, sponges, and anemones.

Along the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the kelp canopy floats on the ocean surface, in constant movement to the direction of the swells, waves, tides and currents while the impressively towering understory (stalks) are clearly visible for 20 or so meters deep. The understory gently sways to ebb and flow of the water.

Lewis Pugh, the United Nations Patron of the Oceans, describes his experience of swimming among kelp. “I love kelp. It is swimming in an [underwater] forest: forest and oceans, a beautiful combination. When you walk through a terrestrial forest, you are walking at the foot to the tree. When you swim in kelp, you can swim above the canopy and then can go down the stems if you wish.

There’s a three-dimensional aspect to swimming in kelp that you don’t get walking on land.”

There is a similar experience swimming above coral reefs, sunken ships, underwater rock formations, and schools of fish where swimmers have the sensation of hovering above the majesty of the ocean.

The Kelp Krawlers is a group of open water swimmers and triathletes from Monterey Bay in California. They meet at Lovers’ Point in Pacific Grove and Wharf II in Monterey year-round on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. For more information, visit their Facebook page here.

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Steven Munatones