It’s easy to imagine a hippie artist from the 1960s created this dive site by throwing bright colors randomly onto a canvas and proclaiming it, “cool, far-out, and GROOVY!” Look here! A work of psychedelic art on the bottom of the sea off Santa Rosa Island.
The most stunning thing about this site is the colors. There is green amber across the top with kelp, alga and green anemones. Down the vertical rock face are splashes of pink, lavender, red and orange provided by a million tiny corynactis anemones. You’ll find purple hues from coralline algae, pink clumps of aggregating coral, and red gorgonian. One of the more intriguing sections of the wall is where the dominant element is puffy, fuzzy white metridium anemones. They cover every square inch. From top to the bottom for several yards is nothing but white, like a blank portion of this mad canvas waiting to be painted.
The wall runs roughly parallel to the closest portion of Santa Rosa Island’s shoreline. Not only is the wall straight-up vertical, but at points near the base it is actually undercut. The top of the wall peaks out at about 40 feet and drops straight down to a depth of about 80 feet, where it stretches into a pile of jumbled boulders. The big rocks stacked willy-nilly stretch out into even deeper water. While the wall should be the main attraction don’t ignore this section.
The boulders are also blanketed in color and provide homes to a variety of reef fish including rockfish, the always-photogenic painted greenling, and ubiquitous ghost goby. Look closer for tiny fringehead blennies in small pockets on the rocks. Inside the crevices an occasional lobster can be found. Rock scallop hunting is poor here.
This place is crazy with anemones. At the base of the reef in the gravel and rubble are large numbers of tube anemones. Also on the rocks near the base are an unusual number of big, healthy and brightly colored rose anemones.
Other invertebrates worthy of mention include numerous chestnut cowries and nudibranchs including yellow-edged cadlina (Cadlina luteomarginata) and noble dorid (Peltodoris nobilis) as well as other varieties.
Water clarity here, as with much of Santa Rosa Island is generally good but rarely spectacular. At this island the further you get from shore the better, and Groovy Wall is far enough to get the cleansing benefit of oceanic currents.
At this site the current can come up suddenly and even change direction during a dive. Use proper techniques and equipment. Use a current line trailing behind the boat and always start your dive moving up current. And just in case you surface away from the boat, it is always advisable to carry devices such as a Dive Alert audible signaling horn and an inflatable safety sausage.
Off the east end of Santa Rosa Island, specifically off East Point, there are groupings of several underwater pinnacles. The outer pinnacles rise from a bottom of about 100 feet to within 60 feet of the surface. Excellent and exciting to be sure but they lack the bottom profile matching Groovy Wall. The same could be said of the inner pinnacles that start at approximately 80 feet and peak out at around 30. Having dived many of them, inner and outer, Groovy Wall beats them all. It is the most far-out and coolest. Now, sock-it-to-me.
Dive Site At-A-Glance
Location: Southeast of East Point at Santa Cruz Island. GPS N33° 56.048′, W119° 58.457. (GPS Coordinates are for reference purposes only. Not for navigation.)
Skill Level: Intermediate or better.
Diving depths: 40 to 80 feet.
Visibility: Very good, averaging 40 feet.
Access: Boat only. Professional dive charter operation suggested.
Conditions: Beware of frequent strong currents.
Photography: Excellent for both-wide angle and macro.