Filmmakers, photographers and explorers who have studied marine sanctuaries all over the world converged at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve on Saturday for Underwater Parks Day, an event to honor the implementation of a statewide network of marine protected areas and to raise ecological awareness.
Among the featured speakers at Whaler's Cove was author and filmmaker Michael Allen, whose Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, "The Tao of Surfing," is being made into a feature film — part of it being shot at Point Lobos.
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Allen and screenwriter Alex Craig discussed the book and film with a crowd of about two dozen, including "Tao of Surfing" co-star and director Lou Diamond Phillips.
"We constantly get asked what the movie is about, and that's a difficult question because the movie is about many things," Allen said. "For Point Lobos, it's about the green side of (the natural reserve). Tao is our relationship as humans with nature. At Point Lobos, we're immersed in nature, and we're really not separated from it. And it's important for us to understand nature, preserve it, be a part of it."
Craig said Point Lobos is a location that is "extremely special to us because there's so much iconic imagery surrounding us here. You can feel it as you walk through, just breathing in the air."
Point Lobos is one of 29 marine protected areas on the Central Coast that together represent about 204 square miles of state waters, according to the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation, which put on Saturday's Underwater Parks Day.
They are part of a network of 124 underwater refuges along the 1,100-mile California coast that was completed in December. The purpose of the areas is to protect and restore the ocean's habitats and wildlife.
Chuck Davis, an underwater photographer and cinematographer, is a New England resident who grew up on the Monterey Peninsula, where Point Lobos, Point Pinos and other marine paradises became an important part of his life.
"This is sacred ground for us," Davis said of Point Lobos during an afternoon presentation. He showed breathtaking black-and-white photography of the undersea world of the natural reserve — images of sealife that few people in the world have seen.
"The kelp rises 80 feet off the bottom sometimes," he said, showing photos of Monterey diver Phil Sammut navigating through the growths. "It feels a lot like going through a Sequoia forest when you're swimming down there. To really see all of Point Lobos, you've got to go underwater, and it's amazing."
Earlier in the day, the public got to see some of Point Lobos' sealife, collected by divers with Bay Area Underwater Explorers and displayed in small touch tanks. The sea stars, nudibranchs and other creatures were later released back into the water.
Ocean explorer and marine conservationist Kip Evans, another Peninsula photographer/filmmaker, called Point Lobos one of his favorite places in the world.
"I've had the opportunity to travel everywhere, and I can't tell you how very blessed we are to have this area," he said.
Evans also praised the Point Lobos Foundation for its dedication and support of the reserve.
"They help provide docents, as well as the funding needed to make the park shine," he said. "A lot of that is transparent unless you've lived here a long time and seen what goes on behind the scenes."
Elkhorn Slough also was a venue for Saturday's celebration, featuring a presentation on marine mammals.
Dennis Taylor can be reached at 646-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.