By day, red tide looks weird and smells worse. But by night, the microscopic phytoplankton (Lingulodinium polyedrum) that make up the red tide cause the waves to glow an erie blue. The LA Times quotes Professor Peter J. Franks from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who explains the bioluminescent phenomenon thusly:
When jostled, each organism will give off a flash of blue light created by a chemical reaction within the cell. When billions and billions of cells are jostled -- say, by a breaking wave -- you get a seriously spectacular flash of light.See another view of the glowing blue water, this time from a kayaker, after the break.