How California Rocks the Ocean

Posted: March 8, 2013  |  By: David Helvarg [National Geographic]

While it has become popular to disparage California as, “the once great state,” and bemoan its high taxes, troubled schools, and slow economic recovery, I can’t imagine trading a day on the California coast watching whales or catching waves for a day anywhere else along America’s shoreline or interior.

I just went scuba diving off Monterey and saw a couple of cormorants swimming underneath me 45 feet down. Even the birds can’t stay out of the ocean in California.

California’s beaches have long had a magnetic pull. Photo: David Helvarg So what is it about the most populous of the United States and the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest sea covering one third of the planet, that creates such a powerful cross-current of culture, risk and reward, history, economy, and mythology?

There’s the recreational aspect, of course, with year-round access including over 100 million day visits per year to southern California’s beaches, also the transportation element, the kite-surfers, sailboats, ferries, tankers, and freighters that make San Francisco Bay a maritime ballet by the Golden Gate, that draws day sailors into Avalon and Two Harbors on Catalina or inspires dive boats to drop anchor off the Channel Islands.

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