Legends of Diving Articles
You Can't Go
by Dr. Sam Miller
? 2006 Dr. Sam Miller
All Rights Reserved.
I visited with some relatives and old friends to reconnect
with my roots down in southern California, in "smogsville,?
as the smog shrouded area of Los Angeles and Orange County
is known by most Californians who reside in other areas of
This visit certainly verified the message in the Thomas
Wolfe book "You can?t go home again? which I found so
difficult to comprehend as a young college student. Yes,
Thomas Wolfe was correct! You can?t go home again.
I spent a very early Saturday morning at Diver's Cove in
Laguna Beach, the fountainhead of American sport diving. It
has been a popular diving location since recreational diving
began along the California coast in the early 1930s. "The
cove? as local divers refer to it, was catapulted from
obscurity into international diving fame when it was chosen
as the location for the world's first competitive spear
fishing meet in June 1950. The Compton, California "Dolphins
Spear Fishing club?, won the meet with a three man team
consisting of Ken Kummerfeild, Paul Hoss and Pat O?Malley.
Lots of changes have occurred in and around Divers Cove with
the passage of fifty-six years.
In the 1950s the rolling hills surrounding Diver's Cove were
devoid of housing and covered with dry chaparral, which
emitted the classic California golden glow always associated
with the "Golden state.? Now when viewed from the cove the
hills appear almost surrealistic emerald green, blanketed by
modern multi- million dollar homes on well-manicured lawns
interconnected labyrinth of roads.
It is no longer possible to drive up to the edge of the
cliff at Diver's Cove and park haphazardly. Parking places
are now regulated. They are neatly identified with white
stripes on the concrete and crowned with a row of coin
eating parking meters; silent sentinels waiting for the next
quarter for fifteen minutes of violation free parking.
Also absent is the steel cable that provided beach goers and
divers to access to the beach. It was a much-appreciated
gift from some unknown beach lover who spent their time,
money and effort to securely bury one end of the cable in
cement and dangle the rest of the cable over the cliff to
create a Tarzan style hand over hand beach access. Now
modern stairs complete with handrails and a drinking
fountain welcomes the divers to the beach.
The beach scene I remember so well from my youth is now only
a distant memory, but they are memories of gold as were the
hills surrounding the cove.
In the genesis of recreational diving the beach was
populated with young sun tanned male youths clad in the
diving costume of the era, baggy long underwear, round
diving masks on their faces, short green fins on their feet
and the weapon of choice a "Jab Stick? unceremoniously stuck
in the ground.
Like ancient tribes returning from a successful hunt they
stood in small groups, wrapped in surplus WWII olive drab
army or navy blue blankets, shivering and blue lipped from
the cold of the water and the chill in the air. Roaring
bonfires fed by WWII surplus tires added much needed warmth
as it belched fourth thick heavy black smoke into the clean
crisp smog free Orange County air.
Divers Cove has now become a popular diving destination for
dive training classes. It is populated every Saturday and
Sunday morning by young certified diving instructors who
have arrived before 7:00 to conduct the final ocean check
out dive for their classes of aspiring divers. Under the
ever-watchful eye of their SCUBA instructor, young and old,
male and female don the costume of modern diving. Bright
colored wet suits have replaced the long underwear for
thermal protection; clear form fitting twin lens masks of
clear silicone replaced the black round rubber masks; multi
hued long lightweight split plastic fins now adorn their
feet replacing the short green Churchill fins. Not a
spearfishing weapon is insight, since this area has been a
game reserve for over a generation.
Yes, there have been a lot of changes in the last fifty plus
years. Tomas Wolfe's message has been verified. You can?t go
home again, but you can relive fond memories from the
distant past and dream and hope for the future of
Only the sea, the eternal sea, has relentlessly remained the
Dr. Samuel Miller
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