Hammerhead Shark Sightings in San Diego

On August 18th we welcomed two amazing underwater photographers, Andrew Sallmon & Allison Sallmon with the hopes of sharking out very very far into the Pacific. When the ocean threw some solid swell at us, we decided it was best to re-think our plan and stay a more standard distance offshore – and what an amazing decision that was.

Between two sets of Mola-molas under patties, chumming up and swimming with a Smooth Hammerhead shark for HOURS (perhaps a San Diego first in recent years?), witnessing a juvenile white shark from the surface (Nick and I got in to no avail), and enjoying over a handful of blue whales on the ride back including a mother and calf, it doesn’t really get more amazing.

The 7-8 foot female hung around for 3 hours alternating between making passes and circling the boat. Everyone in the water was very comfortable with her, and she had such a calm disposition. Their heads are so much larger than I expected!

Three days later, we spotted another hammerhead only 2 miles off shore, and yet another one while chumming for blue and mako sharks later that day.

Ranging from 3-20 feet long, hammerheads are normally seen in warm waters and are one of the few sharks that school during the daytime and become solitary hunters at night. This one that we had the pleasure of getting in the water with was also alone, and several studies have suggested that sightings in Southern California are associated with warm-water events. I guess one of the upsides of this warm water driving away blue and mako sharks is that we get hammerheads!

Hammerhead shark spotted san diego

Hammerhead shark diving san diego

Nick diving down on the beautiful hammerhead shark

Swimming with hammerhead sharks

School of Mola Molas.. Oh My!

While we were out on the open ocean, we spotted a nice and large kelp paddy. When we motored by it, we spotted a couple mola molas beneath it. Then we realized it was an entire school of mola molas! It was such an incredible sight to see these large bony fish congregating in blue water.

Mola mola school

A school of mola molas, such an incredible sight to see

The kelp paddy also served as a great background for some of the footage. Here’s a montage from the encounter.

2014 Monterey Underwater Shootout

It’s not often SD Expeditions gets to dive outside of San Diego, so this past weekend was a refreshing change of scenery. Kyle McBurnie and Alice loaded the car full of dive gear and strapped the kayak onto the car to head up to Monterey Bay for the 2014 Monterey Underwater Shootout hosted by Backscatter and NCUPS.

After checking in at 11AM at the Backscatter Underwater Video & Photo Store on Cannery Row, we headed south to Point Lobos State Marine Reserve. This is a very unique park since they limit divers to only 30 a day, and you must dive with a buddy and bring your certification card. We geared up and loaded the kayaks at Whalers Cove and paddled out and around to Bluefish Cove. We battled some decent swell and saw tons of fried egg jellies.

We did a 50 minute dive and decided to cut it short because of how cold we were. We didn’t realize how warm San Diego waters have been lately: La Jolla has been seeing 64-70 degree water, and Monterey was a solid 54-62 degrees. The local divers were saying we they had beautiful dive conditions and warm water all week, until the swell came in the night before the competition. At every dive site we were treated with overcast skies and dark, green water characteristic of Northern California diving.

We certainly felt some very strong surge on our first dive. The particles in the dark water also presented a challenge to underwater photography. Kyle was still able to capture this image, which received an honorable mention in the wide angle traditional category.

Diving bluefish cove

A beautiful anemone on our first dive

Point Lobos scuba diving

Kyle warming up between dives at Point Lobos

On our paddle out for the second dive, we decided to stop and shoot with some of the jellies. Some of them had quite long and transparent tentacles that extended about 10 feet behind them! A lot of them also looked dead and battered, but Kyle’s photo won 3rd place in the wide angle, unrestricted category.

Fried egg jelly at Point Lobos SMR

Alice looking up at a fried egg jelly

Lingcod at bluefish cove

A beautiful blue lingcod on our second dive in Bluefish cove

The next day we dove the metridium fields for our first time. Many of the metridiums were puckered up and feeding, but when they were fanned open they were absolutely beautiful. It was quite eerie coming up on this rock outcropping in the middle of the sand. This photo received an honorable mention in the wide angle traditional category.

Metridium fields in Monterey, CA

Looking up from the metridium fields

Metridium fields in Monterey, CA

These large white metridiums contrasted nicely with the dark and green water

This photo took first place in the wide angle unrestricted category! Beautiful work, Kyle. We were able to capture this shot before it closed up.

Metridium photo for the Monterey shootout

Kyle’s 1st place photo with a beautifully lit metridium

Our last dive was at the breakwater. We kicked all the way around it to the otters, sea lions, and cormorants. This was our first time seeing lots cormorants feeding in between the rocks 30 feet down and swimming around like fish. This one surprised us and made a great silhouette in the photo.

Underwater cormorant at the breakwater in Monterey

Our dive at the breakwater was full of life, including this surprise cormorant!

Have you ever dove in Monterey? Conditions can be quite challenging, so props to the local divers there! We love how the dive community is so passionate and tightly knit, and the diving is just so impressive, even though the water can be cold.
Of course the day after the competition ended, divers were reporting 50 feet of visibility at the metridium fields! Would have been amazing to see the fields in great dive conditions, but guess we will have to wait until next year.

Kyle Wakeboarding with Dolphins

We have quite a treat today! This Friday we want to share a short video Kyle captured while wakeboarding with a pod of dolphins in San Diego.

Shot from a head-mounted GoPro, Kyle is seen skurfing on the ocean with dolphins playing in the wake of the boat.

Vote for us!

We are nominated for BEST Water Activities for the 2014 San Diego A-List. Hooray!

It would mean a lot of you could show your support and vote for us!

Click here to cast your vote.

Sevengill Shark Sighting in… June?

We haven’t seen the sevengills at the La Jolla Cove in 5 weeks and assumed they had continued on their normal routine and left  as the water warmed. So you can imagine our surprise when we spotted this male sevengill with a damaged dorsal fin! We are left wondering what caused the severe fin damage and why we are seeing them so late into the season?

The World’s Largest Bony Fish

A unique open ocean traveler, Mola molas really are Something Different.

We are proud to have our boat share the name and are excited to announce it is officially Mola season. As the amount of jellies and sea nettles have increased, we have been seeing these cow-faced fish regularly out on the open ocean.

Swimming with these shy ocean sunfish is always an experience – their unique swimming behavior, goofy demeanor, and large weight of up to 5,000 lbs make molas a very special animal to share the water with.

SD Expedition’s New Aerial Drone

As some of you have heard… SD Expeditions has recently acquired a DJI Phantom II aerial drone.

We are currently mastering the art of filming while flying, but stay tuned for some aerial footage of dolphins, whales, and sharks.

Published in Nat Geo

Congrats to our very own Kyle McBurnie for his first publication in National Geographic!



Check out the double page spread of his harbor seal in the May issue of National Geographic, or view it online here.

The Start of Sevengill Season

It is officially sevengill shark season! We’ve spotted them consistently on previous dives at the cove, and our very own Nick LeBeouf has even been interviewed by CBS 8 and FOX 5 about the recent sightings. Almost all of the sharks we have spotted have been males, so we believe the males are waiting for the females to start mating. We have also noticed that when we spot one, we usually see more nearby.

Some video clips of our sightings so these past two weeks:

A compilation video of an epic dive on April 10th. We felt like every way we turned there was a sevengill around. We also saw a couple tope sharks and even a giant black seabass!

A nice pass by a male sevengill on April 8th:

An interested sevengill during a night dive on March 25th. He seemed genuinely interested in us and was doing tight circles, but didn’t stick around for long and it was difficult to spot other sevengills in the dark.

A sevengill that let me follow it for a couple minutes before it flees quickly and darts away between divers:

A sevengill that passed by with a fishing lure hooked in his mouth :( If only he would let me get close enough to take it out.

I was watching a sevengill cruising leisurely along mid column when all of a sudden I see one quickly heading straight at me. I got out of the way in time, but I wonder if he would have bumped into me if I had not moved.

Hopefully they stick around for a while, the water has been very cold (54 degrees) this week and we’ve still spotted several of them. Get out there and dive!