Of the several hundred rescues on summer weekends by San Diego lifeguards, most are people caught in rip currents. Yet those currents are used by surfers, kayakers, and swimmers as a path out through the breakers.
Shore divers and snorkelers have to deal with surf and currents, too; hence only three beaches are noted safe for divers and dive classes out of the eleven listed on the city lifeguard webpage – La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores, and the Children’s Pool.
La Jolla Shores is popular for beginners due to the semi-protected beach with no reefs nearby. The Children’s Pool and La Jolla Cove are more challenging because of rocks and reefs, but are nearer kelp beds teeming with life, and free-diving hunters can legally target yellowtail and white seabass. There you will find more experienced divers. Most of the diving certification classes hold their open water dives at the more protected south end of the beach at La Jolla Shores in front of the lifeguard tower. Open water diving certification is required to scuba dive; classes cost around $500 for the basic package and can be obtained in as short as three days.
The San Diego Council of Divers is offering 3Rs (rocks, rips, and reefs) classes covering entry and exiting the ocean. Learn to identify underwater features by observation of surf and water movement, how to safely navigate rip and alongshore currents, and how to plan outings based on conditions and tide movement.
The 3Rs classes are free and open to the public, and SCUBA certification is not required. You’ll need a mask, fins and snorkel, and though the water is warm this summer, a wetsuit will guard against scrapes.