San Diego, California

Scattering Remains in the San Diego Area

San Diego's most popular place to scatter cremated remains is the ocean. However, there's plenty of people who choose scattering on land at parks or other areas of natural beauty. Scattering by plane is also an option to consider.

Scattering by Boat

State law directs that scatterers be 500 yards from shore to scatter in the ocean or on inland navigable waters. Private boats, hire boats, kayaks, paddleboards and other means of conveyance can accommodate reaching a spot five football fields out from the beach. Be careful with Oceanside's wooden pier, the state's longest at 1,942 feet. True, it extends 647 yards, but the state says scattering at sea does not include scattering from bridges or piers.

San Diego is awash in boats for hire. (State law requires companies register as a Cremated Remains Disposer if they scatter more than 10 human remains per year.) Companies offering remains scattering at sea will accommodate your going along or your watching from shore. They will make a video, take digital photos, or provide GPS (global positioning satellite) coordinates marking the scattering spot. They will conduct a ceremony of your choosing. They will offer suggestions if you don't wish to design a ceremony. Some companies offer a "burial at sea" service without remains to submerge; they take a small group out for a remembrance ceremony and to scatters flowers. Some companies offer memorial certificates. Shop and ask. Companies want to honor your ideas, so discuss what they can do to assure a satisfactory ceremony.

Paddle-outs for Surfers

The Polynesian-derived custom of celebrating a fallen waterman by paddling surfboards beyond the break, forming a circle, and observing a remembrance, usually ending with floating leis on the water, could lend itself to cremated remains scattering if the participants observe the distance requirement, and if they remember to scatter -- not dump -- the remains to let them drift to the ocean floor.

Viewing Spots

Popular city spots for viewing remains scatterings are Pacific Beach's Crystal Pier, the Ocean Beach Pier, and Cabrillo Monument on Point Loma. Many companies perform scatterings farther up the coast, to Oceanside and beyond to Orange or Los Angeles counties.

Scattering by Plane

Only one San Diego County-based company, Final Flights, offers aerial scattering. Pilot Bill Metzger is based in Spring Valley, south of El Cajon, and flies out of Gillespie Field. He also counts Arizona and Nevada as service areas, which rates reflect. His La Jolla scattering, where loved ones can gather at Scripps Park to watch the aerial scattering from shore, is one of the more popular places to scatter. Other popular spots include -- Big Bear, Agua Caliente Springs and Santa Catalina Island.

In a decade of operation, Metzger said, his business has increased steadily. He promises dignified, respectful behavior in the scattering of cremated remains. For example, only the remains of one decedent will be scattered per trip. Safety and insurance considerations prevent a decedent's survivors from going along on the flight, but Metzger is well familiar with viewing spots to accommodate loved ones' wishes to see the scattering. Not only locals use the service, Metzger said. A widow brought her late husband's remains from Italy because he had visited once and wanted to spend eternity in the beauty of the southwestern United States.

Scattering in Parks and on Private Property

California law requires certain permissions for scattering cremated remains. Scattering over private property requires written permission of the property owner. State parks have a policy of allowing scattering, but individual parks hold final say. San Diego County includes two stretches of the Cleveland National Forest. National forests have no rules about scattering but because California does, permission should be sought from each local forest manager. Companies like Metzger's obtain these permissions and are helpful with other necessary documents.

Military Discounts

Some companies offer military discounts for those who served in U.S Army, Navy and Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard units. Some offer discounts for those who served in the U.S. merchant fleet. Final Flights offers military discounts and scatters the ashes of Medal of Honor recipients free of charge.

Funeral Homes & Crematory scattering

A number of funeral homes and crematories offer a means to scatter ashes on the ocean.


Many companies that conduct remains scatterings do so for pets.

As you would with any company handling cremated remains of a loved one, take care to ensure state dictates are observed.