Thursday, October 11, 2012

If in Doubt Don't go out!!!

PSA: I saw a triathlete break his arm in the waves yesterday. It could have been prevented. I know a few of my main land friends read my blog, so I'm using this once again to attempt to warn people of this happening to them.

Yesterday I went bodysurfing at magic sands. The waves were big. Nowhere close to the biggest I’ve seen there, but they were big. The lifeguards repeatedly came over the megaphone to tell particular people to vacate the water, in a nice way like "you with the blue shorts, today's not your day" (which few listened to).

I bodysurfed for about an hour and during that time there was a foreign triathlete in the break that would stand right in the impact zone of the breaking waves. Numerous times I had to dodge him as I surfed past, having to either pull out or go wide and getting closed out on.

After a particularly sandy rinse cycle, I finally told him that he needed to go back to the beach or get further out behind the waves, and that he would get hurt standing where he was. He either did not speak English, or choose to ignore what I said. (I’m guessing ignore, because my hand signals were pretty expressive i think)

About 5 minutes later the biggest monster set came rolling through. Everyone (in the know) swam out. No local even attempted to ride a close out set like that. After the set passed the lifeguard began yelling over the megaphone (not nicely anymore) for everyone to look at his partner pulling out the tourist with the broken arm. And "see what happens when you don't listen".

Lo and behold it was my triathlete I had just warned. I feel really bad for him. To come all the way here and 3 days before your race be injured in a life changing way. I really hope he makes a full recovery and we can see him racing again next year.

But still I feel a small amount of anger, as he was told by me, and the LIFEGUARDS. Ignorance is just that, and one can't be mad at anybody for ignorance, but when you are told by multiple people in the know, it is no longer ignorance. It is reckless foolishness. This guy is an IRONMAN, he is a strong swimmer and an athlete by nature. This is a testament that the ocean can decimate even the strongest most capable individuals.

I posted a similar story to this about a year ago which I will link to at the bottom of this post. And after posting it on Tripadvisor.com , I had many people commend my warning (locals/surfers) and a few people (tourists) who told me I was being pompous and that I didn't have to right to tell people what not to do in the ocean, because it's not my ocean. This is true I can't tell anyone what to do, but I can offer my advice.

I sit out lots of days that are too big for me. Everyone has their limit. It's all about knowing yours. I don't claim to be the best waterman, or the most experienced, but in my 8 years living here, I have seen numerous serious injuries at this beach and 2 deaths. They are needless. And if my being pompous saves one persons life, or saves one ruined vaction, then I'm glad to have done it.

If you don't agree with what's being said here, then it's a good chance this post is for you. I'm sorry for the reality check, but you are putting your life in danger. And the life of others. Contrary to popular belief lifeguards have been injured or killed in the line of duty. Even as capable and experienced as they are, the ocean is a strong beast, that no one on the planet can beat 100% of the time. So next time you head out, remember that you not only risk your own life, but that of the person that may try to rescue you. I wouldn't want that on my conscious.

So now you know the story as to why I'm a little worked up about this right now. This is not the last time this is going to happen. The season is just getting kicked off. The waves will only be getting bigger as we get closer to winter. Please don't let this be you. Relax, get a tan, watch surfers who know what they are doing do what they do. It's as much fun sometimes, and more so if you end up like this poor Ironman. Here is a list of some easy tips for making your days on the beach and in the water safer and more enjoyable.

1. Read the signs that are posted, they are there for a reason.

2. Never turn your back on the water. The ocean is considerably stronger than the strongest most experienced humans in the world.

3. Watch the water for 15-30 minutes before entering to get a feel for what's going on that day.

4. Ask someone in the know about the area (hidden rocks, riptides,current, alternate route out of the water if necessary)

5. Large waves are scary but running away from them once in the way is nearly impossible. You must head toward them and duck under them as close to the bottom as possible.

6. Waves and current are not the only things that can be dangerous at certain beaches. Find out as much as possible about an area before entering the water.

7. Paying an experienced guide is not a bad idea if you are completely new to ocean swimming, snorkeling, or surfing/bodyboarding.

8. If you are in doubt about your abilities or the conditions, don't go out. If in doubt, don't go out.

9. If in doubt, don't go out.

10. Lastly, IF IN DOUBT, DON'T GO OUT.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Royal 4th

Sometime images fall into your lap, other times you have to trek to get them. Last night was definately on of the "Trekking" nights. Before starting I want to state that I do not condone trespassing on Private Property nor would I suggest that my readers do so. I've wanted to photograph the 4th of July fireworks celebration the last few years but prior engagements have always stopped me from doing so. This year I planned long in advance that I would be shooting the 4th of July display and so an hour before it began at 8:00pm, I closed up the gallery and headed for my envisioned vantage. I wanted an angle that would show not only the fireworks on all thier glory, but also an iconic Kona coastline. This way the images would be unmistakably Hawaii based. Initially I thought of framing the fireworks in between a couple of silhouetted palms trees, but quickly decided that was too generic. I needed something that said not just "Hawaii", but rather "Kona". Finally I settled upon the backdrop being The Royal Kona Resort, an iconic Kona Landmark. The problem with this is that the only vantage of the royal Kona that would give the proper angle is from Thurston's point. On a typical day there is public access right down to the beach, but due to the many multi million dollars homes that in habit the point, there seemed to be heightened security measures. Probably in hopes of keeping enthusiastic patriots from setting a multi million dollar fire. When I arrived at the normal shore accsess the gates were closed and padlocked. With an extra big signed that read something along the lines of no trespassing, do not enter, violators will be shot, or something like that. After a quick visual sweep of the darkened private road on the other side of the fence, I decided the coast was clear. I used the corner of the "no trespassing" sign to hang my camera bag on, and threw my tripod over the head high fence. After hoisting myself to the top, I retrieved my camera bag and slid down to the tripod on the other side. I crossed the street and almost immediately a flashlight shone my direction. A security gaurd yelled something at me meaning something like "hey you can't be here" And I of course took of running. Once around a small bend I jumped into some bushes in an empty lot that sat between two houses. The security gaurd jogged past me and out of sight scanning back and forth with his flashlight in hopes of finding me, to no avail.  Once I decided the coast was clear for the second time that night I began my way to the shoreline. Almost Instantly the motion detecting lights from one of the houses flashed on lighting up my position like a roman candle. Was again I found myself running. Upon making it to the shoreline I realized just how dark it really was. No moon in the sky and without my usual aid of a position indicating flashlight the going became much slower. There was a hug swell for the 4th of July and all the rocks were slippery and wet. After half hiking, and half stumbling for about 10 minutes I came upon the small beach the faces south, and began to setup my tripod. I had cut it pretty close and it was already 7:50 so I didnt have much time to search for an angle. I quickly estimated where I thought the fireworks would be and setup my tripod to include the hotel, fireworks and a tide pool in the foreground hoping to catch the reflection of the explosions. I packed lightly and only had two camera bodies, and one lens for each, A 50mm 1.8 and a 20mm 2.8. Both of the lenses are prime lenses so they do not zoom, but because of that, the optics are very clean and the lenses them self are fairly light. Though the 20mm is spectacular the 50mm is easily the most commonly used lens I own. If you don't have it. get it. Dollar for quality no other lens compares. I sed two camera bodies, one Canon 7D the other a Canon t3i. I set them up on intervalometers to run both simultaneously without having to man each camera. I framed each camera and then set them to take 6 second exposures back to back. As soon as I had the first camera situated the first firework rocked toward the sky and exploded almost exactly where I thought it would. I had to re frame the shot to catch some of the higher altitude explosions. Once framed, I turn on the intervalometer and ran over to my second camera which I framed Landscape so as to compliment the Portrait framing of my first camera. I turned the intervalometer on for that one and then sat back and enjoyed the show. This is what I came out with:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Anatomy of a Breath Hold

Last time I spoke a bit on how I got into freediving as well as the consequences of freediving without proper training and saftey protocol. Now that I've stressed how much first hand training is essential to safe diving, I'll explain what it feels to do a 6 minute breath hold. Once more, do not try any technique explained in this blog without professional help.

Breathing holding is more than just what it sounds. Certainly anyone can simply not breathe and stick their face in the water. But as any child that's ever been in a bath tub can tell you, it's not long before our mental state, and then shortly there after, or bodies tell us we need to breathe. Without any kind of training, 30 seconds is a common amount of time for your average joe to thrust their head above water gasping. Even trained scuba diving professionals and boat crew who are in the water everyday will find some difficulty holding their breathes for more than a minute or two. If you can reach 3 minutes without any training, you are far beyond the curve, and may just have a chance at competition freediving. The following is an account of a friend's and my own attempt at personal static apnea records.

Upon reaching the water's edge, my dive buddy and I spend a while stretching and meditating before we get in the water. This can often help with certain physical changes like warming up the core body temperature and stretching the muscles surrounding the lungs. At the very least it relaxes us to a comfortable mindset. We then don our wetsuits and get in.

We start off by doing some warm up breathe holds to acclimate our body to our watery surrounds. His first one is just shy of one minute. My first one just shy of two. His second is 2:02 and his third warm up breathe hold is 2:45. My second is 3:53, and my third is 4:51. Finally we are ready for our target breathe holds. We have been alternating our attempts to allow eachother time to recover and reoxygenate between holds. As he sits readying himself, he closes his eyes, and breathes deeply and slowly. Eventually he brings his face close to the water, opens his eyes and nods. I bring my finger up to my watch and start the time just as his nose slips beneath the surface.

As he lies there, the boyancy of the wetsuit brings his feet up to the surface. He lays motionless, barely even a ripple emanating from around his body. "One minute" I call out, loudly enough for him to hear me though his ears are underwater. He continues to not move, if I didnt know better, I would think him a dead man floating face down in the water. "Two minutes" I call out to him. Still he doesnt move. We've now reached the time to began communicating to ensure his safety. At 2:15 I annouce the time and tap him in the shoulder. I watch his right hand for a tense moment until his thumb wiggles. Another 15 seconds goes by and again I annouce the time "2:30", and tap him on the shoulder, and again his thumb wiggles. This routine is repeated every 15 seconds, to be sure he is still awake, and alive. At 3:17 his contractions begin. No longer is he the placid looking deadman from moments before. His whole body shutters as he fights the urge to breathe. Again I tap his shoulder at 3:30, again he wiggles his thumb, faster and more ridgidly, not the calm wiggle of before. Again the body shudder. At 3:45 he bring his legs beneath him, face still in the water. Another body shutter. 4:00. Another shutter of the body. And slowly he begans to bring his face up. I stop the watch. 4:08 . He exhales loudly. And breathes in a quick deep breath, then again, and again. He looks at me as he removes he mask, flashes me an ok signal with his thumb and index finger and says "Im OK". I slap him on the back and congratulate him on a new personal best. He's ecstatic, but I soon have to curb my excitement for him, because I can feel my heart rate spiking already. "You're turn." he says to me as his hand reaches out for the watch.

Before the Dive

Soon I'm going through my breathe up. I inhale deeply and quickly then let it out in a long hiss between my teeth. My heart rate is probably around 60 beats per minute (BPM) right now, I need to lower it. I close my eyes, and inhale again, then exhale. 55 BPM. I wait a moment before taking another breath deeper this time. I hold it for 3 second then slowly exhale. 50 BPM. Another inhale, emphasizing my extended stomach, pulling from the diaphram. I hold it again, then exhale. 45 BPM. I barely feel the water around me anymore. I feel more like I'm floating in the air. I inhale once more and take a deep breathe then use my mouth to push even more air into my lungs, nearly beyond capacity then exhale again with a loud and nearly explosive hiss. I open my eyes to alert to my buddy that I'm almost ready. I quickly make 3 large inhales and exhales then one last deep pull before I sink down into the water and let my face submerge. I faintly hear the beep of the watch starting. It sounds like it's a million miles away.

0:0 seconds
I close my eyes, and start working on forgetting about what I'm doing, try to quiet any noises I can still hear. Trying to keep my mind blank.

0:30 seconds
At this point I've nearly quit thinking about anything. Still a few thoughts slip from brain as I fall into a near complete trance.

1:00 minute
At the one minute mark I'm completely calm. my heart rate is probably between 35 and 40 BPM. I have not even began to feel like I'm holding my breath yet.

2:00 minutes
Still nothing has entered my mind since I've began.

I began to realize I'm holding my breathe. It's still comfortable but I can feel it.

At 3 minutes I feel a tap on my shoulder. Not sure why, but it's there. 5 seconds later I feel it again accompanied with a muffled sound. Suddenly, I remember it's me dive buddy asking if i'm still awake. I extend my index finger and he quits tapping.

3:30 I get another tap, again I extend my finger. My lungs feel stiff. They want to get rid of the quickly building carbon dioxide in them.

I can feel a diaphragm contraction coming but I further relax my body and try to fight off the urge. I'm now very aware that I'm holding my breath.

I can no longer fight the urge. I give in to the contraction. My body shakes violently as my diaphragm attempts to pull oxygen into my lungs. It happens again, harder this time. My eyes pop open for a moment and see the sandy bottom. I shut them again in an attempt to relax.

More contractions, they are uncomfortable to say the least. Verging on painful. I can feel the water again. It feels cold. The urge to breathe is huge. I want nothing more than to rip my head up and gasp for air.

5:00 My contractions have began to slow. A fuzzy feeling sweeps over me and slowly the urge to breathe begins to fade away. Another tap. Again I extend my index finger.

5:30 The urge to breathe has left me. I feel as though I could hold my breathe forever now. Euphoria sets in and I smile for no real good reason. There's that tap again. Did I just extend me finger? I think I did.

I realize I'll need to breathe soon, but I no longer feel like I need to. I open my eyes and I see the sand. It doesn't look as bright as it normally does.

I bring my feet underneath me, staring at them as small fish swim around in the sand I've just kicked up. I don't want to look away but I do. Slowly I bring my head up.

My head breaks the surface and I stare at my dive buddy without exhaling. He seems very far away. "Breathe" he says. Suddenly I realize I'm not breathing. I exhale explosively. I gulp a lung full of air, then exhale again. Suddenly the dark tunnel I didn't even realize was framing my vision begins to fade. My dive buddy appears much nearer now. I take another deep breath letting this one out slowly as my hands reach up for my mask to remove it. They stuggle to grasp the frame, but eventually get the job done. I attempt to place my index and thumb together to signal OK, but instead find some difficulty doing it. The world continues to brighten around me, as though someone is changing the contrast on a tv set. And then suddenly sound come spilling into my ears. I hear my dive buddy asking "Are you ok?" Almost immediately I'm able to signal to him and say. "I'M OK"

we both burst out into histerical laughter as he starts to tell me that i looked like a vampire. I interrupt him and ask "whats my time?". He looks at the watch and says "6:26 personal best."

I've done it! My personal best.

Next week I'll be talking about depth. Breath holding at the surface is a very different feeling from doing it to depths in excess of 200ft.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Freediving Introduction

I have many people ask me what they can do to better their breath hold, and or get deeper. I am often a bit nervous explaining techniques without having the time to fully explain safety procedures. This is the first of a three part series on freediving. 1.Intro 2.Anatomy of a breath hold 3.Going Deep. Enjoy

My foray into freediving began with fun trips around the Island with my best childhood friend Evan. We knew nothing of freediving except how to equalize our ears, but in no time, we were holding our breathe in excess of 2 minutes, getting to depths of 60 ft. and swimming through lava tubes and other overhead environments. Looking back on those early dives with a friend, I have nothing but joy, but I now realize the danger we put ourselves in repeatedly.

Fortunately I survived those early days of my diving career and went on to meet Micheal Morris. He was working on his dive master with our dive shop and I played an active roll in his training. He was a fast learner, as he was already a very accomplished freediver and spear fisherman. Listening to his feats revitalized my excitement in freediving, and I soon found myself diving with him and pushing my own limits again. Shortly after completing his dive master certification, Michael died during a freedive while spearfishing with friends at a familiar dive site. His death came as a shock to me and the rest of the diving community. He was found at some 80 ft. by his dive buddies after they realized they had not seen him for a while. Though the exact reason why he didn't come back from this fishing trip may never be known, the most likely culprit was a shallow water blackout. Shallow water blackout is the sudden loss of consciousness of a diver at the end of a dive in the last few feet of water before reaching the surface. Though it is well documented and the steps to avoid it are simple, shallow water blackout kills many divers around the world every year.

Michael's death immediately changed my freediving habits: I stopped. It was a few years and another job later when I took it up again. I had quit my job as a dive master and started work on a snorkel cruise as a life guard. Without my scuba gear to retrieve lost snorkels, masks and other belongings that found their way from my customers' ownership to the sea floor, I turned to freediving.

Immediately, I remembered the silent world of freediving, the mobility, the accomplishment, the fish that come closer, the dolphins that play longer, the freedom. Scuba quickly became a burden to me, and freediving was my passion once again. With the sting of Micheal's death fading in my mind, my fear of pushing the limits began to fade as well. I once again found myself comfortable at 60 ft, then 80, then 100.

Fortunately a friend of mine, Byron, began dating the wonderful and accomplished freediver, Jesse Edwards. She and her mother Annabel have set national and world records and were teaching Byron the ropes. After a conversation about the depths I was hitting, Byron urged that I train with them so I'd have proper safety divers. I agreed.

On my first day with the crew, I made a 143-foot freedive on my first target attempt. They warned me against attempting anything deeper that day, but I pushed to 150 on the next dive anyway only to blackout 10 ft. from the surface. The quick reaction of trained professionals around me saved my life that day. I went home with a headache, but no worse for wear.

Soon after I decided I need formal training and enrolled in a local FII freediving course. The course is designed by world champion Martin Stepaneck. It was an awesome experience, because I learned how little I actually knew. It filled me with a true respect for freediving, and now I only dive with trained buddies who follow strict safety precautions. I don't recommend that anyone attempt my underwater shenanigans without proper training and assistance.

Check Back next week where I explain in detail the anatomy of a breath hold.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Surf Finally!!!

It's Been a pretty mellow winter so far here in Kona. We had one good bump a few weeks ago but nothing again until 2 days ago. I've been playing in the water and doing some shooting with incredible surf photographer Sarah Lee. Check out her website at Viviantvie.com  We've had a couple of the Odina Girls to use as muses along with the fleeting surf. We ended up with some really fun shot as well as some fun video. It got a bit heavy and meant losing a few boards, and me getting caught on the inside with a fun fight for my life. But it's all in the name of the sport. And let's face it, it's not everyday we get to have such visceral life experiences. SO for your viewing pleasure my first video post in a while. We also now have prints available online at http://www.jlambus.com