Domestic Abyss

Why jet to exotic reefs when home waters boast spectacularly diverse diving?

Flipping out: A seal posse off Channel Islands National Park, California    Photo: Marc Muench

Why Dry Off

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CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY
THE WATER
A diver navigating a dimly lit giant kelp forest gets that same hallowed feeling that a hiker has in the redwoods. But while humans feel reverent, ocean organisms go bonkers in this particular kelp forest, reproducing like nobody's business. From crabs and snails on the surface to frisky sea lions in the understory, this is one of the most diverse and active habitats on the planet.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Up to five species of elusive abalone, horn sharks, and red octopuses that can bleach themselves white in less than a second.
OFF SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA
ABOVE THE SURFACE
Kayak basalt tunnels and grottoes. Island Kayakers will deliver boats to whatever island you're camping on ($6 for a single, $12 for a tandem; 805-390-8213, www.islandkayakers.com).
THE DIGS
You can pitch a tent on all five of the islands in the national park. East Anacapa, bordered by an underwater preserve, has the best camping for divers ($10 per night per site; 800-365-2267).
LOCAL WISDOM
Travel in a group to make carting gear easier, and be sure to dive with a knife, just in case you become ensnared by the kelp.
HOW TO GO
Ventura-based Island Packers offers ferry service for campers ($32-$90 per person, round-trip; two-tanks-per-person limit; 805-642-1393, www.islandpackers.com).
ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK
THE WATER
Nine passenger steamers and freighters that sank between 1880 and 1910 lie at diveable depths (shallow sections start at 10 to 50 feet) within two miles of this wild island in Lake Superior's northwest corner. The frigid freshwater, devoid of the marine organisms that eat away at ocean wrecks, has preserved many of them in near-pristine condition.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Leather boots, tools, and other artifacts that are as intact as on the day they went down. Remember, federal law—and good diving etiquette—forbids removing items.
LAKE SUPERIOR, MICHIGAN
ABOVE THE SURFACE
Track moose and wolves on the 165 miles of rugged trails crisscrossing Isle Royale.
THE DIGS
A bare-bones dive boat with dormitory-style sleeping arrangements (including a tent on the foredeck for snorers), family-style meals, and enough elbowroom for six guests.
LOCAL WISDOM
Even in mid-August, Lake Superior is a less-than-balmy 50 degrees at 60 feet below the surface, so wear a drysuit.
HOW TO GO
Superior Explorers runs four-day live-aboard trips that depart from Grand Portage, Minnesota, from June through August ($650 per person, including food; 952-474-2223, www.superiorexplorers.com).

Springs of the Suwannee River Basin & Resurrection Bay

SPRINGS OF THE SUWANNEE RIVER BASIN
THE WATER
Tucked into lush forests along the lazy Suwannee River, these freshwater springs offer shallow open pools with 200-foot visibility. Conditions are mild and predictable for novice divers, and spectacular fun for certified cave divers, who can twist in Man from Atlantis fashion through extensive labyrinths of limestone tunnels and chambers.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
In the pools, you might see an alligator—ideally, from a distance—and in the caves, search for fossils of 30-million-year-old marine invertebrates.
NORTH-CENTRAL FLORIDA
ABOVE THE SURFACE
Float the Ichetucknee River, 12 miles east of the Suwannee, in an inner tube. Contact Ichetucknee Springs State Park (386-497-2511, www.ichetuckneeriver.com).
THE DIGS
The privately run Ginnie Springs park has tent sites for $16 per person per night and a full-service dive center that offers cavern tours for certified divers (386-454-7188, www.ginniespringsoutdoors.com).
LOCAL WISDOM
Don't be dumb enough to cave-dive without obtaining proper certification, or to check out a new cave without a local guide.
HOW TO GO
Local dive shops include the Steamboat Dive Inn, in Branford (386-935-2283). Driving directions and detailed descriptions of diving the Suwannee's springs are available online from Global Underwater Explorers (www.gue.com).



RESURRECTION BAY
THE WATER
Colder seawater means more oxygen, which means more plankton, which means abundant and huge filter-feeding critters. Anemones, which are as big as your fist off California, grow to the size of a pumpkin off Alaska. Also, divers can encounter entirely different organisms as the angle of the 100- to 300-foot undersea cliff walls change, thanks to variations in light conditions, water turbidity, and currents.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The giant Pacific octopus, with its eight-foot-long tentacles, and the wolf eel, a fierce-looking fish with powerful jaws that eats crabs (but not humans).
GULF OF ALASKA
ABOVE THE SURFACE
Hike to lookout points at the top of 2,400-foot Resurrection Peninsula for a panoramic view over hundreds of miles of the Gulf of Alaska.
THE DIGS
A rustic private wilderness lodge on Resurrection Peninsula with cooking facilities and—a sweet antidote to those 40-degree plunges—a wood-heated sauna.
LOCAL WISDOM
When you're not underwater, coat yourself in deet or be eaten alive by bloodthirsty blackflies.
HOW TO GO
From Anchorage, drive 2.5 hours south to Seward, where Dive Alaska launches two-day trips that include diving and accommodations on the peninsula for $500 per person (907-770-1778, www.divealaska.net).

Get Your Game On

Speed Swimming
The Game: If you've ever wondered what strapping a propeller to your belly feels like, here's a little-known fact: "Swimming in the slipstream behind someone's feet produces the same benefit as drafting on a bike," says Lance Watson. "Do it right and you'll lop two minutes off a 1,500-meter swim." Beyond letting you cruise up to 10 percent faster than you could alone, DRAFTING forces you to adapt to quick arm turnover and efficient breathing—but without the exhausting effort of a race. "It's like swimming downstream," says Watson. "You'll actually feel pulled along."
The Rules: Find at least two other people for an open-water swim. Pick a buoy or a spot on the opposite shore about a half-mile away. Start swimming in a line, each person positioned an arm's length behind the other. The lead swimmer accelerates into a sprint for 65 strokes, then breaks to the left and drops to the back. Now the second swimmer sprints for 65 strokes, then peels off for the third swimmer's lead. Be prepared to become addicted to the swift pace; you might never want to swim alone again. Surfing
The Game: "Seventy-five percent of surfers don't surf; they just sit out there waiting for the perfect wave," says Mary Setterholm, president of Surf Academy, a surf camp in Hermosa Beach, California. Setterholm doesn't allow such lethargy in her clinics. "You need to be able to make the best of any wave, not just the perfect ones," she says. To encourage more wave time, she invented TAG TEAM SURFING, which encourages a maniacal chase for even crummy waves. "People who surf mushy waves end up becoming the best surfers," says Setterholm.
The Rules: Paddle out past the break with three buddies and split into two teams. Wagering is encouraged, so make a bet—say, a box of Krispy Kremes—and set a ten-minute time limit. After ready-set-go, one member from each team catches a wave, rides it as long as he can, then paddles back quickly to tag his partner. The partner then immediately catches the next available wave, paddles back, and tags surfer number one. Whichever team rides the most waves wins. Even if you're the one buying the doughnuts, you've still benefited from the game. "Every wipeout is another lesson," Setterholm says, "not to mention a super upper-body workout."

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