“Okay, now we are going to do the same thing, but this time on our hands and knees!”  I’m standing there on the beach at Leo Carrillo State Park, full wetsuit, dripping wet, thinking “WHAT?!  That can’t be right.  I must not have heard Jess properly.”  But I did…and boy, was he right!

I had come to the beach that day to take part in a free class offered by L.A. County known as Rocks, Rips, Reefs (or the 3R’s for short).  It’s a L.A. County Parks and Recreation class that has been around since the ‘70’s.  Aimed at making our local divers more knowledgeable, capable, and safer shore SCUBA and Skin divers, the 3R’s has the highest attendance out of all of the Parks and Rec. programs.


“We get a lot of repeat participants,” says Jess Rosas, the Program Coordinator.  Jess has been working with 3R’s for the last 14 years, and is a certified L.A. County Underwater Instructor, as are all of the instructors that conduct the program.  Go through the class once, and you’ll want to do it again, too!  The staff, which are all volunteers, are great.  They love the ocean, and teaching others about it.  And it shows.  The variety of dive sites presented throughout the summer is another reason to come back.  Sites are chosen each summer to cover a broad range of beach-type along our coast; so you can get experience with a lot of different conditions: sand entries, rocky entries, plunging breakers, kelp, and current, to name a few. The lecture portion at the beginning of the day has a lot of valuable site-specific information.

Following the lecture, everyone gets geared up to hit the water.  You’ll need full-skin gear, or “FSG”:  a full wetsuit, boots, gloves, hood, fins, mask, and snorkel.  A weight belt is optional and must be kept under 10 pounds.  Depending on how much weight you want to wear, you may be required to wear a snorkeling vest or BC for buoyancy on the surface.  You’ll be spending a lot of time in the water, so bring your warmest suit, and be sure to wear gloves and a hood.  From the beach, you’ll go over entry and exit procedure, and spend a little time reading the water: identifying the surf zone, entry and exit points, swell direction, etc.  In buddy pairs, you’ll do your first entry and exit.  Then you’ll enter again, on your hands and knees!  It may sound odd, but there’s a good reason for it, and it was much easier than I was expecting.

Once in the water, you’ll practice a variety of skills including free-dive techniques, surface rescue skills/cramp removal, and the kelp crawl.  Some of the instructors will probably bring up some marine life to teach you about, and you’ll take a tour of the dive site.  If you happen to be at one of the Baywatch locations of the year, you’ll do a live boarding of the Baywatch boat, and tour the site by boat.


“We see a lot of interesting things in the water during 3R’s,” says Jess.  “We’ve had days of 70-80ft vis.  We’ve had a whale right off the kelp at Leo Carrillo, and one year on the Baywatch boat off of Point Dume, we had acres and acres of pelagic giant medusa jellyfish!  It was truly unique.”  You never know what you’ll see in the ocean!

After the water activities, you’ll do another exit and head back to the meeting location once everyone is accounted for.  If you are planning on diving in the afternoon, stay suited up; otherwise you can change out of your wet gear at this point.  A marine life lecture and BBQ follow.

Overall, the 3R’s is a great way to learn about a new dive site, brush up on your shore diving skills, meet new buddies, and generally have a great time with fellow ocean lovers.  You don’t need to be scuba certified to participate, either.  My sixteen-year-old sister, who wants to learn to free-dive and surf, will definitely be going through the class with me this summer.  Anyone who spends time in the ocean can benefit; whether you’re a new diver or have logged hundreds of dives, you’ll learn something and get to practice skills that every diver should have.

Tips for participants:

  • Arrive early; your gear will need to be checked as part of the sign-up process.  Without a gear check, you can’t participate in the in-water portion of the class.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen
  • You’ll want a chair and plenty of water and snacks.
  • Relax and have fun!


July 18, 2015 – 3R’s Cabrillo Beach
Cabrillo Directions

August 15, 2015 – 3R’s Point Dume
Point Dume Directions

September 12, 2015 – 3R’s Leo Carrillo
Leo Carrillo Directions

Click here for more information and to download a 2015 Rocks, Rips and Reefs Brochure (PDF).

Photo Gallery (Click on a photo to see a larger version):

Story written by Nate Green, independent contributor
Photos by Walt Conklin