Reader writers explore the elements of America’s Finest — water, air, fire, land.
Underwater hockey (sometimes called Octopush), has been around since 1954; it’s played in a couple of dozen countries. It involves, uh, whacking a puck around the bottom of a swimming pool. Teams of six battle each other in relays. It’s an “anaerobic” sport, of course, meaning you can’t breathe while you’re down there playing. There’s an active club here in San Diego. “People — men and women — should just come to the Mission Bay Plunge [at the Wave House, 3115 Ocean Front Walk, Mission Beach], Monday or Thursday evenings at 7:30, or on Saturday afternoons at 4:30,” says Jim Melrod, San Diego Underwater Hockey Club’s treasurer. “You need a mask, snorkel, fins. But we have all that, if you want to just try it out first.” Turn up, or contact the club’s president, Herb Baylon; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Swim the cove
The La Jolla Cove Swim Club, an informal group of ocean-swimming enthusiasts, welcomes anyone to come swim with them. Every morning, all year long, groups of swimmers meet “on the deck” near the lifeguard hut overlooking the cove at 6:30, 8:00, 9:00, and 11:00 a.m. They swim in the protected waters between the Cove and La Jolla Shores; pre-set buoys mark distances. A few times a year, the group holds noncompetitive “social swims” followed by hot drinks, goodies, and socializing on the grass above the cove. Their most popular social event is the Polar Bear Swim on New Year’s Day. They also sponsor three yearly competitive events. Check the online calendar.
(Temporary) beachfront living
Few can afford a house on the beach, but almost all can afford to spend a few nights falling asleep to the sound of the waves at one of San Diego County’s state beach campgrounds. Skip San Onofre, where the sound of Interstate 5 drowns out the ocean. Much quieter are South Carlsbad and Cardiff’s San Elijo, both $50 per night. They’re near enough to shopping and food that you won’t have to cook if you don’t want to, and both feature hot-shower restrooms. Silver Strand State Beach is for RV campers only. It’s $50 for a beachfront parking spot. No hot showers. parks.ca.gov.
12020 Black Mountain Road, Rancho Penasquitos
Waterfall in PQ Reserve
Peñasquitos Creek runs through the heart of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. The waterfall is created by dramatic volcanic rock formations: peñasquitos means “little cliffs.” When the creek is flush, there are opportunities for rock-jumping and swimming, with several points of access along the Highway 56 corridor. To the east, hikers can park at Canyon Side Park, off of Black Mountain Road, or at the official reserve parking area (there’s a charge to park in the preserve’s lot). To the west, access is from the parking lot on Sorrento Valley Boulevard. Note that access to the preserve is closed after rainfall.
1403 Scott Street, Point Loma
Organize a fishing contest
It’s amazing how close the Pacific wilderness is, and how much life you’ll find right outside the harbor entrance. So why not organize a fishing contest with your friends? Spend half a day aboard, say, Point Loma Sport Fishing’s Daily Double. You’ll pay $45 ($73, with license, equipment, and tax), and head out at 9:00 a.m. While you’re fishing, organize the contest by weight, or, if you intend to release the fish, by length (weighing a flipping rockfish can be hell). The sea breeze, the sun, breakfast from the galley — it’s hard to beat the feeling. Boats return by 3:00 p.m. on weekdays, and at around 12:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on weekends. Watch out for sea lions, and take a hat.
1492 North Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego
For this, first you’ve got to rent the movie Das Boot (“The Boat”), a gripping story of a hunted German U-boat during World War II. How those guys managed to eat, sleep, hunt, fight, repair leaks, and avoid depth-charge attacks is impossible to know, unless you come down to the Maritime Museum, get a $15 all-ship ticket, and head for the B-39, a Soviet-era sub that spent the Cold War shadowing U.S. and NATO ships. Turns out she’s an enlarged copy of Das Boot. You can relive those hellish scenes when the crew had to race forward so their weight would tip the bow down for an escape dive. With the tiny cabins, the bunks among torpedoes, and the periscope, you really get the feel of it (don’t go if you’re claustrophobic).
1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado
Body surfing and cocktails
Arrange for your dozen best friends to meet on Coronado’s Central Beach, below the Hotel Del, some warm afternoon when the waves are up (but not too far up) and the wind is down. Then hold a body-surfing contest. Equipment? Your bods. The guy/gal who travels the farthest on one wave wins. Have towel-holders at the ready, dry off, and change in the Hotel Del changing rooms, preferably into gear that’s as near to the Great Gatsby as you can manage. Then, head to the firepits of the Hotel Del Coronado. Blow $10–$20 each on a really decent drink, like a “French and Italian” (sweet and dry vermouths mixed, with a splash of gin). Present the body-surfing champion with a dinner at the Sheerwater, and watch the sun head for Hawaii.
At the end of Santa Clara Avenue in Ocean Beach, down a flight of stairs, you’ll find Pocket Beach, a hidden gem known mostly to locals. Show up early enough — say, before 11:00 a.m. — and you’ll find the sands virtually empty. The location is picturesque, great for photo-ops. Brave beach-goers jump from the surrounding headlands: one cliff is large and scary, the other small and manageable. Be careful, there are no lifeguards on duty.
555 North Tulip Street, Escondido
Learn how to play one of the quirkiest Winter Olympic sports at the Escondido Iceoplex’s monthly Learn to Curl Clinic. United States Curling Association–certified instructors teach each workshop. Intended for beginners, the two-hour course ($25) covers the fundamentals of the game: ice safety, delivery, and sweeping. At the end of class, attendees participate in a practice game. All equipment is provided by Curl San Diego, so no need to get crazy and buy actual curling gear, because, really, where would you find such things? The folks at Iceoplex ask that you wear tennis shoes and comfortable, layered, semi-warm clothing. Pre-registering online is a must as participation is not guaranteed to drop-ins. curlsandiego.org.