Laguna Beach Diving Ordinances and Lifeguard/Diver Relations

Beach diving in Southern California can be a marvelous experience. We may be a little biased, but beach diving within the city limits of Laguna Beach and nearby Crystal Cove State Park offers some of the best and most diverse reef structures and variety of dive sites available—and all within an easy drive for most Southern Californian divers. Continuing our efforts to support all divers visiting Laguna area beaches, we would like to remind you about and outline the City mandated Diving Ordinance.

The ordinance has been in place since 1962 and is enforced on a year ’round basis by the City of Laguna Beach lifeguards. Beyond enforcement of the diving ordinance and all of the other issues the city requires of the Marine Safety Department in managing the beaches. The full time lifeguard staff is empowered with citation powers given to them by the State of California Department of Fish and Game.

Over the years Laguna Beach lifeguards respond to 300 diver rescues, contact and interact with an additional 10,000 scuba divers and sadly respond to approximately three diving fatalities annually. There are less than five citations a year issued to divers for safety violations and approximately 10 Fish and Game citations are written. While the obvious primary effort of the Laguna Beach Lifeguards is public safety, rescue and enforcement, they are motivated to inform and educate, rather than respond with a citation. The Laguna Beach lifeguards go through an extensive scuba orientation program prior to each summer season. They are on the beaches to assist us and offer their support.

So, what do you need to know about diving Laguna Beaches? The original Skin and Scuba Diving ordinance was put in place in 1962 and was amended in 1988. The ordinance requires that each diver be equipped with, among other things, a snorkel, buoyancy compensator, and a diving partner. For instructors specifically, from June 15 to September 15, things change. When conducting any class of instruction in scuba diving or skin diving, you must do so between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. This does not mean you have to leave the beach. It means that you should not be conducting training outside these hours. It does not mean your students (when completed) can’t get an air fill and do another dive as a certified diver. They can and they should.

The summer time restriction affects scuba classes only. Certified divers coming to Laguna Beach are free to enjoy diving at anytime. As a courtesy to our residential neighbors, we asked that you respect their privacy, and please be aware of your noise levels, where you park and gear up. Of course, please use some discretion and be careful what you show when you are changing.

When it comes to Fish and Game regulations you should understand that all of the beaches in the City of Laguna are considered as Marine Life Refuge; these areas have a restrictions on what you can take. The stretch of beach from Fishermans Cove (locally known as Boat Canyon) running east (it only feels like south) to Bird Rock is a Marine Ecological Reserve. There are only 11 Marine Ecological Reserves in the state; this is a No-Take area. So, for the most part there are no beaches within easy diver access or near shore reefs in Laguna Beach City that are not considered a refuge. For instance, if you were to see a fisherman on the exposed reef at Shaws Cove using the mussels off the beach as their bait, are they breaking the law? Yes. Check the postings at each beach for specific regulations for that beach.

Diving the beaches in Laguna is great fun. Diving within the parameters of the City Diving Ordinance and the Fish and Game regulations is easy. During the summer months when the lifeguards are stationed on the beaches, we have the added safety of immediate emergency response and a strong local conditions information source. On average diving days we can experience anywhere from 10 to 20 feet of visibility, with the odd spectacular day, when we like to call It Lake Laguna. This year alone we have had reports of underwater encounters with migrating whales. You never know what you will see off our beaches.

For a recorded dive and surf conditions report, contact the Laguna Beach Lifeguards Surf Line at (949) 494-6573.

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