There is a very special dive spot in La Jolla. This spot is called “Tombstones”. If you get in the water at Boomers just around the corner from the Cove and swim out to the kelp, you might run across some funny looking concrete blocks, rocks and other arrangements in a certain area in the reef. These are memorials for divers who have passed. It is unknown how old many of these are. A few of the names have worn away and are unreadable. Several of the memorials are newer and the names are legible. The exact location and nature of these memorials have been kept secret for many years.
The story of Tombstones:
The modern history of Tombstones can be written this way….. “Many years ago, I met Wally Potts at a pizza parlor. His advanced years restricted him to a wheelchair. He was telling a story about shooting a 500 lb. grouper in Mexico. He leaned over to me and said, ‘place a marker for me next to the guys under the La Jolla Cross, shoot a fish, and raise a glass’. I was too embarrassed to admit my complete ignorance…… A few months later Wally passed away. After extensive head scratching, asking around and research, I found the answer. Since the beginning, freedivers have been recognizing deceased members by placing memorial markers on a special reef in La Jolla, California. Most of the markers are very old and look like random stones. Some are rocks carved with initials. Others are bronze plaques embedded in cement”.
We Freedivers continue the tradition.
If you come across the memorials in La Jolla…. “Under the Cross”…. please be respectful. Take a moment to pause and reflect on the great divers who have gone before. Understand their contributions to the sport and reflect on your own contributions. Please clean and maintain the markers for future generations. They often are covered in growth or sand. Please keep them safe.
Markers cannot simply be placed at Tombstones. There are traditions which must be observed. Memorials must be placed by someone who knew the individual. When they are placed, often some memories are shared with those present and a story is told. Sometimes a prayer is said. You must “raise a glass” to the deceased. Typically, it is a glass of the deceased’ favorite alcoholic drink. A glass (or can etc…) is always poured out for the departed. At the time of placement, a fish (or lobster) must be taken in the vicinity of the memorials and consumed in memory of the deceased. Also when placed, the other memorials are cleaned and cared for.
Please observe these traditions!
Tombstones can be found in about 35 feet of water approximately 150 yards off of Boomers and 50-100 yards outside the current reserve boundary line. The lineups are below: