One the largest continuous kelp forests in all of coastal Southern California is off Point Loma, San Diego. Depending on seasons and seas the Point Loma kelp forest can extend dozens of square miles. And not only is this forest thick and lush, but it’s also teeming with marine life.
A great place to experience the Point Loma kelp forest is at a spot known as Goal Posts. Much of the bottom off Point Loma is flat rock bottom. While it supports the kelp holdfasts, some areas are featureless. Here and there, however, are scatterings of rocky reef structures that are fun to explore. Some of the more popular locations include New Hope Rock, Nort’s, Horse Head Reef, Dino Head, Sea Cliff, and, of course, Goal Posts.
The name comes from two radio antennae ashore on the ridge with a radar dome–between the uprights–like a field goal being scored during a football game. It is also directly offshore of a red-roofed building, also between two radio towers.
This is an easy dive, and quite interesting. Average bottom depths run 45 to 50 feet. Rocky reef structures rise 15 to 20 feet from the bottom, often with mini-walls or large overhangs. The reefs top out at 30 to 35 feet. You can find arches, small tunnels, and rock piles. There are several small patch reefs in an area that covers a couple acres. The reefs are close enough together that when underwater visibility is good, it is easy to navigate from reef to reef.
Each reef seems to have its own distinct character. On a recent dive we visited three. We could see a fourth looming in the distance, but our air supplies were dwindling and it was time to head for shore. One had a small rock pile from a collapsed overhang. In the deep holes were a dozen lobster. Only a couple appeared to be legal-sized but they stayed well out of reach.
Another reef was excellent for macro photography. Angled just right to the currents, the nooks-and-crannies held chestnut cowries, small crabs and shrimp, and tiny fish. Sea stars were numerous and colorful. The star population included the red-orange blood star, blue-gray giant-spined stars, and the huge multi-armed sun star.
The third reef was thick with kelp. Fish were abundant and included calico bass in the kelp, barred sand bass on the surrounding flats, and sargo under the ledges.
Nearly all the reefs had large gray moon sponges. Here and there were congregations of large sea hares, and underwater slugs that can reach the size of soccer balls. Their sluggish meetings on the seafloor are mating dances that result in huge piles of spaghetti-like yellow egg strands.
After the storms of winter, and the onset of longer days, the kelp will thicken, further increasing the lure of diving Point Loma. Goal Posts is a great place to witness this location known as the Point Loma Kelp Beds.
Location: Off Point Loma near San Diego. GPS coordinates N32°41.667′, W117°16.121′.
Access: Boat only.
Skill Level: All
Depths: 35 to 55 feet
Visibility: Good, averaging 20-30 feet.
Photography: Good for macro and wide-angle.
Hunting: A fair amount of lobster and occasional rock scallop.