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  • Writer's pictureBrian Slater

Trip Report - Monterey Shootout 2017!


Last year we were blessed with good viz, lots of marine mammal encounters and clouds or red pelagic crabs, or tuna crabs. The tuna crabs were so abundant that they became the main theme of the submissions.

This year... JELLIES!!!

Our buddy team this year consisted of Adam Wurtz and I. Next year, we will need some more folks, preferably with camera skills greater than mine. :) We both left work and drove into Monterey on Thursday night arriving at about 9pm. My 18ft travel trailer was home for the weekend and provided a cozy platform to eat, dive, edit, eat, dive, edit... We logged 6 dives this weekend with 55-70 minutes of bottom time each. Friday morning was an early rise to check in at 7:00 am at Backscatter Video on Cannery Row. Parked at an easy pay-to-park lot across the street and directly in front of a great dive site, San Carlos Beach. After check-in, we grabbed a hearty breakfast at CoCos Diner on Lighthouse Blvd and then headed back to Backscatter for the 9am-12pm seminars.

One of the best features of the Monterey Shootout is the world class seminars delivered by some of the industries top professionals. Check out the seminar schedule here. We attended the Friday sessions with Jim Decker (Backscatter CEO and World Renowned Underwater Photo/Video icon) and Matt Ferraro (Backscatter Resident Cinematographer and Cousteau Family Cinematographer). For a $25 competition entry fee, you get to hear from and mingle with some of the best pros. The question and answer period let us get into the weeds and their depth of experience was only scratched at by the attendees. While most of us were in the beginner class of competitors, it was easy to see that many of the "beginners" were clearly experienced and some had very specific questions...

Primary tasks for this year's video:

Stability, Stability, Stability,

and Tell a Story.

YouTube search Dive Sitnalta or Click Here

After the Friday seminars we grabbed a quick lunch and then boarded the Beach Hopper II dive charter for three tanks; two afternoon dives and one night dive. Mary Jo, the Boat Captain and Owner, and her crewman Kim, can hit a site spot on. Our anchoring and site selection were great making for very easy navigation and extended bottom times since we did not have to hunt for any of the features. We hit Eric's Pinnacle for Dive 1, a sea mount off the coast of Pacific Grove. The top of the pinnacle is about 25' and the base is roughly 65', with plenty of surrounding rocks, ridges, and structure that provide necessary foundation for reef life and holdfasts for the Kelp. The coolest part of the dive was the smack of Jelly Fish, Stinging Nettles, that we descended through. Thousands of Jellyfish were swimming midwater between the surface and about 25'. Some little guys, but most were about 6-10 inches in diameter with only a few larger ones. We saw them again on Sunday too.

Dive two and tree were at Shale Island off of Del Monte Beach. As the story goes, this patch of shale was lifted during the 1989 Earthquakes that rocked San Francisco Bay, the same one that caused the collapse of the bay bridge. The terrain is a shale plateau with top around 50', the surrounding sand beds at 58'-60', with a 2'-6' ledge/shelf that goes all the way around. The perimeter, though not perfectly round, is roughly the size of a soccer field, which can be circumnavigated in a single tank, provided you keep moving. One of the coolest features of this site is an old ship's anchor with a section of chain running from it. Story on the anchor is got wedged under the ledge and could not be freed so the crew cut the chain and gave us a neat feature for our dives. The anchor is fairly large and the chain links are about 4-6" thick, which you can see in the photo as compared to Adam in the foreground. The shelf around the plateau is full of life and where the rock meets the sand you will find lots of critters. Nudibranchs and anemones of all kinds. Tunicates and tube worms. Octopus and clams... even a Mermaid's Purse... Great dive site. The night dive wrapped up our Friday and we headed back to the Monterey Pines Golf Course/RV Park for some sleep.

Saturday morning, time to check the film and see what else we needed. The Jellyfish on dive one became the icon of the trip, so I planned to tell a story along that theme. Ascending through the smack of jellies and performing our safety stops and minimum decompression stops proved interesting. Maintaining the delta position while keeping the stinging tentacles off the lips was interesting. Along the dive, I spotted numerous greenllings and rock fish in the rock's cracks and began to think of a theme for the video. "Get yourself a crack mate, quick!" Don't know why I gave them an Australian accent, but it had be laughing in the regulator, so I decided to go with it. I needed some better shots of fish in cracks to round out the video so we headed to Point Lobos late Saturday morning at about 9:30.

Point Lobos was jam packed, luckily we made reservations several weeks earlier and we were able to bypass the street parking and coned entrance in order to pull up to Whaler's Cove. Park Rangers are always helpful and courteous to dive teams. We unloaded, set-up gear, talked with some dive teams exiting the water and made our plan. We decided to run the length of Middle Reef and then jump across the sand channel to Hole in the Wall and navigate back along the wall and middle ridge lines. Thanks to Gary Banta and team for creating an amazing 3D model of the area that is available at the parking area. Truly awesome tool. I cannot say enough about the Bay Area Underwater Explorers and GUE divers that contribute to the Geo Mapping and exploration of the area.

Saturday afternoon we spent in the RV editing and chopping video. Adam went with some photo submissions and I went video. Submitted the final work at 7pm, just under the deadline for the competition and then we enjoyed the dinner party hosted by Backscatter right there in the shop. Pretty awesome chance to mingle and make contacts with divers from all over. We made some new friends with some SoCal divers and we are so looking forward to linking up for some bottom time down south. It was great meeting you guys, Cindy, Brooke, Roland, and Anita. Backscatter did not disappoint. Nothing better than hanging with a huge group of divers over some BBQ, hors d'oeuvres, frosty beverages, and sweet treats. Swapping stories, sharing info, listening to advices... just awesome.

Sunday we had some time to kill before the 3pm awards ceremony, so what do we do... Dive of course. Loaded up on the Beach Hopper II one more time with Mary Jo and her crewman Mark. Mark gave me a few tips for setting up my gear a little more comfortable, which was appreciated. We hit Eric's Pinnacle again and then scooted over just a little and did Chase Reef. Chase was great and had great structure. We found Chase Wall, which was a great sand gap between two sheer walls. Navigating around was a little challenging for the first time, but we simply used our surface marker buoy and did our safety stop. Turned out we were only 50 meters away from the boat, so we leisurely kicked back and then MaryJo decided to just come pick us up. Beach Hopper was great.

Sunday's awards started at 3pm and Wow, there are some truly talented photographers and videographers out there. The beginner category made me realize just how much I still have to learn. Knowing something and being able to do that something is vastly more challenging. I think I nailed the story telling this year and definitely improved my stability, but I still have challenges with proper lighting, eliminating backscatter in my shots, and patience... I am always torn between wanting to see everything the dive site has to offer versus having patience and waiting for the subject to have an awesome behavior.

Here are a few photos and links to videos to a couple divers in the Monterey area who consistently provide amazing and funny works of art. Patrick Webster and Joe Platko. If you dive in Monterey for any length of time, you will undoubtedly come to know these two. Click on their names to see some great video...

Enjoy! I hope to see more of you out there next year and remember to support some great causes that protect Monterey and Carmel Diving.


Last year was great! The seminars hosted by Backscatter Video were perfect for the upcoming underwater photographer and amateur videographer. If you are interested , Dive Sitnalta will be on site participating this year. Check out last years videos on you tube, or check out the Shootout website @

Pro skills are not necessary to win. Some first time participants walked out with some pretty amazing prizes. Dive trips to Lembeh, new video lights, literally hundreds of prizes... plus a dinner party to hang out and share stories about the weekend of diving...

Bottom Line: Good times to be had. Count me in!

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