May 26, 2023
Blue Waves Are Back: Bioluminescence Returns to San Diego Beaches
Friday night beach night, fam: Pack a cooler and some blankets, then head out to the coast this weekend if you want to catch the return of the blue rollers along San Diego's coast. Vishwas Lokesh, a
Friday night beach night, fam: Pack a cooler and some blankets, then head out to the coast this weekend if you want to catch the return of the blue rollers along San Diego's coast.
Vishwas Lokesh, a Sorrento Valley resident who has lived in San Diego for about six years, first saw the marine phenomenon off Torrey Pines in 2018.
"It was like a spellbound moment for me," Lokesh said on Friday. "It was like, 'OK, the ocean is glowing.' Had never seen that before. Like it just kept me captivated."
Lokesh started photographing the glow-ups back in 2020 during the weeks-long pandemic event.
"It was like glowing waves everywhere," said Lokesh, who is on the watch for blue waves virtually every day. "It just got me hooked, and from that point on, it's been, like, I keep scouting locations…. It's just like, really, a magical moment for me."
The good news for locals is the waves are back — Lokesh shot them Thursday night north of Scripps Pier. The waves were a 6 on a scale of 1-10, according to the software engineer slash photography enthusiast. He thinks, based on past experience, that they will be back Friday night.
"Yes, definitely," Lokesh said. "If it keeps the pattern that I've been observing, it's like, about, one and a half hours before the tide hits the peak when I'm seeing the best part of the wave."
Lokesh then clarified himself: 90 minutes before high tide (which is at 10:33 p.m.) and 90 minutes after as well. He thinks that about 9 p.m. and midnight will be optimal for wave watchers. On Thursday, Lokesh, said, the waves were best earlier; by 90 minutes afterward, a mist had partially obscured them down to a 4 on the 1-10 scale. He suspects that will be the case again on Friday.
Where should San Diegans go for optimal viewing, per the blue-wave hunter? The most consistent spot Lokesh has found is north of the Scripps Pier, as well as Torrey Pines State Beach, but the viewing there is not as consistent.
Lokesh thinks that, though, with the warm weather continuing this week, the waves at Blacks Beach and Torrey Pines could be where it really lights up.
"That is the area that has less light pollution, and that makes it come out even better," Lokesh said. "Scripps has a lot of light pollution because of the pier in itself has some focusing lights and things."
Clarissa Anderson, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography's executive director of the Southern California Coastal Observing System, said an algae bloom is off the coast now.
"It causes the water to be a red-y, red-brown," Anderson said. "It’s filled with an organism that typically does that this time of year as well as in the fall. It’s nothing to be alarmed about. We often do see bioluminescence as a result of these blooms."
Anderson said that the institute had reports that there was some dim bioluminescence happening and that blue waves were possible this evening, but it's hard to say.
No surprise, but Anderson agreed with Lokesh about how to see the blue waves.
"Right now, you’re best bet would be to go outside when it’s really dark and try to see some of the light show in the waves where you have a lot of turbulence,” Anderson said.Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters. Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.