Informing and inspiring everyone about California’s underwater world

Judith's Story

In the beginning

Judith always felt a gravitational pull to the ocean while growing up in Los Angeles so when it came time to choose a college, U.C. San Diego—with its ringside seat to the Pacific—topped the short list. She chose a biology major to gain a foundation in the nature of life. Once armed with a diploma, and having snagged a scuba certification along the way, Judith participated in marine research projects in San Diego and abroad, incorporating underwater photography to better document her below-surface sightings. In 1993, Judith created Picaro Publishing with ocean-related books in mind.

"My goals for the first book were specific. I wanted my own personal field guide about the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve because no such book existed, and without something concrete in hand, I found myself continually re-researching information after forgetting answers to questions I had previously dug up," says Judith. That said, by self-publishing she could realize her vision of both identifying the most common critters found in the area and describing the singular ways in which they live their lives. Having total control as well translated to the highest quality product without compromise.

It took 2 years of diving, research, and writing before The San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve: La Jolla Cove (about marine life in rocky reef and kelp bed habitats) was published. Judith even won a San Diego Book Awards "Best Nonfiction Local Subject” for her efforts. Of course, such success is relative considering the small market and narrow topic. The book was no sooner on the market when ocean enthusiasts approached her at the beach asking when the next book would be out. A follow-up book emerged 6 years later.

How do you like it? More, more, more...

"I always wanted to include life found in the other two habitats of the reserve off La Jolla Shores but money limited the momentum." Judith solicited donations from dive shops and scuba divers, although two significant donations sealed the deal. One was from the (now defunct) Diving Locker in Pacific Beach and the other—by far the largest single contributor—hailed from the Bank of Mom. 

"I never would have considered soliciting my mom so it was a huge and happy moment when she volunteered to invest. But my mom believed in me and recognized that the book would be of value to the community," says Judith. Volume 2, about the underwater park's shallow sand flats and submarine canyon, was also a success and again won a San Diego Book Award. Even better, at a local scuba dive club meeting, Judith was surprised

by an impromptu standing ovation from an audience of enthusiastic divers. This volume has been especially helpful to dive instructors as La Jolla Shores is the go-to place for student divers.  

"The topics to cover and images to capture are limitless. I have a long and growing backlog of ideas for stories that I look forward to sharing with my community of readers for years to come."

- Judith

The buck stops here

The (positive) pressure to produce more books poured in but without deep pockets, Judith knew further pursuit of what is aptly termed "vanity press" had reached an end, at least for the foreseeable future. This is not to say that she lost interest in making books. There was so much more to tell and so much more for her to learn herself.

"I thought about how I could continue to reach those who want to know more about the ocean realm, and how I could better promote stewardship of our Blue Marble." Judith queried the San Diego News Group, which publishes several local, free, biweekly periodicals, to gauge interest in having a monthly column devoted to ocean life. The editor was delighted with the idea, which led to Judith originating "Tide Lines," and in January 2000, the monthly column's first article appeared in the La Jolla Village News. With the exception of a 2-year hiatus to complete a Masters in Education, “Tide Lines” has been an ongoing presence in the paper.

Sydney speaks

"I thought it was a seal, a golden seal!" So exclaimed more than one breathless swimmer who spied Sydney, Judith's long-distance, open-water-swimming, golden retriever-husky buddy. For years, Judith and Sydney have been regularly swimming the round-trip La Jolla Cove-La Jolla Shores-La Jolla Cove route that traverses the La Jolla Ecological Reserve.

"Sydney has singularly inspired me to write about the ocean," says Judith. "I could not so consistently persevere without a partner in crime to spur me on and participate with me. During the summer, I can set a clock to when Sydney cajoles me by bumping her nose against my arm to remind me to get off the computer and go to the beach. Many of the observations and anecdotes I relay in my books and articles have come from our shared experiences." Over time, the experiences have stacked up, even predating her “Sydney Speaks“ page (where she has logged her swims along with her strong opinions) on Judith's previous website, "Littorally Speaking." In her own inimitable style, Sydney has also penned a number of "Tide Lines" columns, and these are archived here. Of course, Sydney has no intention of retiring and will continue to post articles that speak to her interests and experiences.

While Sydney has been a well-known presence at the beach, her renown spiked anew when Channel 8 interviewed Sydney. Sydney took it in stride (mostly) on the day the news helicopter followed overhead as she dog paddled (what else?) along on her 2-mile swim, with Judith bringing up the rear. The news crew told Sydney that she was ". . .an inspiration to [them]. . ."

Judith says, "My 'Golden Seal' never let's anything go to her head. Sydney and I would agree that swimming together is the best part of life, and the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park is the best part of San Diego." Readers who are particularly observant will discover Sydney's picture somewhere on one of the pages in her Vol. 2 book.

Now what?

While books continue as TideLines.org flagship products, the line has expanded to include a plastic slate imprinted with a map-chart of La Jolla Shores beach and the La Jolla submarine canyon. Readers can always find past "Tide Lines" articles in their entirety on the TideLines.org/columns page. And Sydney has started her own column, "Sydney's Ocean Log," also published in the La Jolla Village News. Find out about her background on her page, Sydney's Story. Her stories are posted on the Columns page as well. Both Judith and Sydney welcome feedback.