Many LA County divers are likely familiar with Veteran’s Park and the offshore Redondo Submarine Canyon, as it’s a popular spot for training entry-level scuba students. The canyon is also a great location for more advanced classes.
After a short swim you drop down to a 25-30 foot sand bottom and move west. As you reach a depth of about 35 feet, you’ll start down a rather steep slope to about 75-80 feet, which quickly drops to below 100 feet and then to the abyss. This is the Redondo Submarine Canyon.
While the sand leading out to the canyon edge has a lot of marine life, most divers like the deep mud flats. Long before “muck diving” became popular with photographers at some fancy tropical resorts, southern California divers were visiting sand and mud flats at local submarine canyons. Just as with these resort destinations, our muck has much to offer in the critter department.
Look for small creatures like a camouflaged octopus or brightly colored nudibranchs, which can be spotted year-round. In late fall through winter months, lucky night divers can witness market squid mating in massive numbers. It’s been described as a blizzard of frantic activity. After the mating the seafloor will be carpeted in large clusters of white egg cases — and dead or dying adult squid, who kick the bucket shortly after they do the deed.
Whether it is squid season or not, this place is an excellent night dive with a lot of small animals to be seen.
One creature that can be found on nearly every dive, day or night, is the massive sheep crab. Its clumsy motions are comical to observe but watch out for the claws! Their pinch is insanely strong. The sheep crabs here are the biggest you’ll find anywhere along our coast. Some of them measure three feet across!
There is also no shortage of fish life. Keep an eye out for the long and slender pipefish. They blend in with the bottom. To come across the territorial sarcastic fringehead is a real treat. This small fish usually cowers down in its home of a large empty mollusk shell, but if challenged will sometimes come out in a fantastic threat display.
Other vertebrate animals here include juvenile black sea bass and small rockfish. Look up every once in a while and you might spot a passing school of pelagic bonito.
Water clarity here is not always the best. When the surf is low, 15 feet of visibility is about normal. That said, days of 30 even 40 feet have been reported. When you have days of good vis come up off the bottom and you’ll notice that the bottom actually has an interesting contour of small hills and valleys.
This is a cold-water dive. Something about the canyon traps and holds cold water that consistently hovers in the mid to low 50s. Dress appropriately.
One of the easiest things about the dive is navigation. Head west out to deeper water and east to head upslope. A good dive strategy, by the way, is to make the deep portion of your exploration first and then head up into the shallows for your safety stop. The bottom even in 15 feet holds a lot of interesting creatures. From the stairs, head out and north along the slope. This is the most interesting portion of the canyon. But stay clear of the pier, as it is illegal to dive under or close to the pilings.
Surf conditions here are generally milder than surrounding beaches. An excellent live-view webcam can be found at redondo.org/depts/hbt/harbor/web_cams/piercam.asp. For more scientific reports check out surfline.com or surf-forecast.com. And to avoid the frequent wind chop, dive first thing in the morning.
Beyond the great diving, Veteran’s Park has a lot to offer. There is a well-kept bike/walk path along the beach and the park has plenty of nice picnic spots, or you can enjoy a sunset dinner on the pier. Divers return to this dive site time and time again. With all it has to offer, above and below water, it is easy to understand why.
Location: Redondo Beach offshore of Veteran's Park. Just south of the pier at the end of Torrance Blvd. in Redondo Beach
Access and Facilities: Shore dive across a sandy beach. Plenty of metered parking. Restroom and occasionally showers.
Depth: 15 to 100+ feet
Visibility: Consistently about 15 feet but sometimes 20 to 25
Skill Level: Beginner to the lip of the canyon. Intermediate to advanced into the Canyon.
Photography: Lots of macro critters. Wide-angle poor to average.
Hazards: Boat traffic, deep depths. Keep away from pier.