Just Keep Swimming

swimIn high school, my most hated and most cherished extracurricular activity was swim practice.  I remember the first week of it as a lot of swallowed chlorinated water, early nights and sunburn.

The first day I got out of the pool, I had to use the stares and could barely stand so; therefore, I was hooked.

Throughout the rest of my high school career, I swam about 12 to 15 hours a week both with my high school team and my club team.  I knew all the secret swimming tips.  How spit can clean muggy goggles. How to put on a cap without assistance.  The best way to keep warm before an event in the winter time.

High school ended and college began.  I wasn’t the fastest swimmer or the most valuable team member but I was an important enough player that I scored points to help our team win time and time again and I wasn’t ready to let the sport go.

Which brings me to my main point: swimming is a lifetime sport.

A human being submerged in water only carries 10% of their own body weight.  This takes the stress of carrying your weight off of your bones and joints.  If you suffer from arthritis or are overweight.

Speaking of overweight, if you are a calorie counter, swimming is one of the best calorie burners in the workout world.  For every 10 minutes of freestyle (the crawling one!), the human body burns about 100 calories.  Butterfly burns about 150.

Water is 12 times denser than air which means that the muscles are working against a resistance making swimming a powerful toning exercise.  Runners only have to resist air.  Because of this low-impact resistance, swimming increases bone strength, especially in post-menopausal women.

From tot swimming class to water aerobics for retirees, swimming can engage people in exercise for the majority of their lives.

Another advantage of swimming is getting a full body workout.  When you’re twisting through the water, literally like a torpedo, you are engaging all of your muscles.  This motion is so broad that it also works to increase flexibility (although one should still stretch after a swimming workout, like all workouts).  Compared to lifting on barbell at a time at the gym, your muscles are really working together as one cohesive system.

As grueling as swimming felt in high school when all of my other friends were out getting Slurpees after school, I now know that it is a hobby and an exercise I can perform for the rest of my life without worrying about the stress it causes my knees.

Shout out to Michael Franco for his awesome tips at Discovery Health’s website!

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Presenting Her Deepness, the Sturgeon General Herself: Sylvia Earle

sylvia earle underwater

Sylvia Earle

As it is getting close to that spook-tac-ular Halloween holiday once again, I am constantly trying to come up with costume ideas even if I don’t plan on dressing up.

I am the oldest grandchild of five, four of which are granddaughters.  When I ask the youngest ones in the group what they are planning on being for Halloween, I always get the same answer: a princess.

As the only tomboy that the family ever had, I roll my eyes at all the pink and the frills and think to myself, “Man, I always wanted to be a dinosaur or a werewolf but never a princess.”  Now, I like to think of myself as a feminist in that I think women can do just as much as men can do (besides maybe flip a tire at boot camp, I tried that last week) so I try to come up with costumes that represent stronger women than Rapunzel and Cinderella.

I was on Facebook the other day and found myself delighted

to come across some children whose parents had decided they needed some real female role models.  I’ll post pictures of the little Amelia Earhart, Cocoa Chanel and, of course, Jane Goodall below.

Amelia Earhart costumeCocoa chanel costume

jane goodall costume

But, for the sake of this blog, I felt that I should talk about one of my personal role models I feel worthy of a Halloween costume.

A leading American oceanographer, Sylvia A. Earle is most famous for leading the first female team of “aquanauts” in the Tekite Project.  These women fearlessly lived in an underwater chamber for 14 days studying underwater habitats in 1970.

Earle then began to write for National Geographic     in order to arouse greater public interest in the ocean as well as pollution awareness.  Fighting for the aquasphere deserves a Halloween costume as more than 75% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, our most important resource.

Not only is she a leading female environmentalist to this day, working for Google Ocean Advisory as well as being National Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence (known as Her Deepness), but she has held the women’s record since 1979 for a solo dive in a deep submersible (3280 feet, 1000m) achieved in the Deep Rover that she designed with her husband.

What I most admire about Sylvia A. Earle is her leadership on Sustainable Sea Expeditions from 1998 to 2002 endorsed by the United States Marine Sanctuary.  She is an expert on the impact of oil spills and lead research trips following the Exxon-Valdez spill in 1989.

 the blog movie theater

Making oil spills which invoke more fear than The Blob disappear.  Who wouldn’t want to be her for Halloween?

The Lion’s Share: Florida’s Lionfish Problem

Courtesy of the FWC, lionfish

Courtesy of the FWC 

A University of Florida researcher sees no end in sight for the eradication of the invasive fish in Florida waters that has been taking a lion’s share of reef habitats.

Tom Frazer, professor and interim director of the school of natural resources and environment, was published in this year’s issue of Reviews in Fisheries Science that shows troublesome lionfish may never be removed from Florida’s coastline reefs but may be kept under control in targeted areas. 

 

Frazer’s research took place on Little Cayman Island with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute based out of Princeton University.  The group studied the threats posed by lionfish to the reefs there such as eating native fishes and potentially reducing biodiversity in the ecosystem, he said. 

 

The spiny, ornate lionfish were identified off the coast of Florida in the 1980s, Frazer said.  Since then, they have skyrocketed in numbers and have now spread to Caribbean and South American waters as well as the Gulf of Mexico. 

 

The creatures were first seen within Bloody Bay Marine Park on Little Cayman Island in 2008, he said.

 

The research done by Frazer’s team off Little Cayman Island was conducted over several months in 2011.  The group measured and dissected the stomachs of lionfish removed off of 11 reef sites by local dive masters, he said. 

 

Voracious and venomous predators, these fish victimize valuable juveniles of native species such as grouper and snapper, he said. 

 

The dissection was done to find whether bigger lionfish have different diets than the smaller, he said.  Frazer’s research shows that smaller lionfish eat shrimp, a much less economically valuable resource. 

 

The reason lionfish are such a threat to the reef ecosystems is they are prolific breeders, Frazer said.  A mature female has the ability to lay tens of thousands of eggs every two to three days.

The growth rate of lionfish is so quick that scientists struggle to study them before maturity. 

 

Adults have no known predators, Frazer said. 

 

The REEF Headquarters director of special projects, Lad Akins, said derbies have been held throughout Florida in an attempt to keep the lionfish population under control.  In these competitions, divers and snorkelers try to catch as many fish as possible in a given time frame using spears or nets.

 

This year’s tournament in Key Largo hosted 11 teams that brought in 461 lionfish, he said.  The largest of the fish was 410 millimeters long.  Prizes were given for the most fish caught, the largest and the smallest.

 

The event was September 8. 

 

Akins added the effort to maintain control of the lionfish population in Florida and Caribbean waters must be sustained over time in order to work. 

 

Similar derbies have been hosted in Palm Beach and Broward counties, according to the REEF Headquarters website. 

 

In a phone interview, Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission public information specialist

Amanda Nalley said the possibility of completely eliminating lionfish is unlikely because they swim to depths that prevent divers from capturing them.  

Because of the increase in lionfish numbers, a temporary change has been made in the regulations for lionfish fishing, she said.  The change allows non-licensed divers to go after the species as long as they use equipment approved by the FWC such as pole spears, Hawaiian slings or other lionfish-specific devices. 

 

The limit for unregulated fish is two fish or 100 pounds per day, whichever is more. 

 

Commercial fish harvesters have no such limit but must report their catch, Nalley added.  These harvesters are also helping the cause by going after lionfish even if the fish are a by-catch caught along with their commercial game.  Lionfish can weigh up to 2.6 pounds. 

 

“I think that in order to make a significant impact on lionfish the effort will have to be sustained for a very long period of time and I’m hoping that, when we identify the locations that are most important, we can allocate the resource that is needed through that effort,” Frazer said.

Dolphins plus at Dolphins Plus

When the South turns back into the North again, the water eventually clears crystalline and brings you to the first welcoming island of the Caribbean, Key Largo, where Dolphin Plus introduces their favorite porpoises for the purpose of making friends.

The agency commits its time to the conservation and protection of marine mammals through educational programs including individual swims for their clients with the dolphins on location. Although the experiences offered come at a cost, Dolphin Plus works hand-in-hand with the Marine Mammal Conservancy which dedicates research to marine mammals internationally.

Sea lions are also present on-location.

The Marine Mammal Center’s website states dolphins are in the classification, cetaceans, which means “toothed whales” that range between five and 60 feet in length. There are 73 known species of porpoises including the bottle-nose dolphin and the sperm whale.

Dolphins use ecolocation to identify objects and other creatures in their environments. The sound travels to the nearest solid objects and bounces back to indicate the placement of the animals’ surroundings.

It is believed that millions of years ago, cetaceans lived on land but evolved fins and tails upon moving into their aquatic environment. Dolphins are closely related to hippopotamuses.

With the education provided by staff at Dolphins Plus, swimmers can make their experiences memorable in interacting with the 11 dolphins on the premises.

Johanna Phillips describes the experience of swimming with dolphins as “amazing.” Her opportunity to visit the dolphins was an undergraduate graduation present from her parents.

“It was so much fun swimming with the dolphins in the “natural swim” where the interactions are up to the dolphins,” the 22-year-old University of Florida veterinary student said. “If they didn’t feel like playing, they didn’t have to.”

According to Phillips, swimming on the side of the body and making eye contact with the marine mammals would allow you to swim next to them. She swam with five dolphins.

“It was one of the most incredible interactions I’ve ever had with animals,” she said.

Dolphin-enthusiasts are encouraged to engage theirselves in Dolphin Plus’s dolphin education programs which range in price and are available to individuals of all ages including the Marine Biologist for a Day and Dolphin Body Language Workshop.

Swimming with dolphin experiences start at $195 for a 45-minute swim but cost more depending on the program chosen.

For more information about dolphin swims at Dolphins Plus, visit their company website at http://www.dolphinsplus.com/.

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How to Avoid and Survive a Rip Current

As an adventurous, water-faring women and a retired competitive swimmer, I tend to be over-confident in my swimming skills.  Nothing says competent like confidence to a woman; however, there are instances in which I admit I should take the cautious route and one of those situations is rip currents.

Rip Current Round Island

PHOTO CREDIT: Debbie Seagrave

A rip current, by definition, is a current of water that forms when waves moving from deep to shallow water break, or tumble over and turn into white foam, and cause a pull of water to go back out to sea.  These currents can move at a rate of 8 feet per second, faster than an Olympic swimmer like Ryan Lochte.

For weak or beginning swimmers, these currents become one of the biggest risks of enjoying a day at the beach.  For stronger swimmers like me and the majority of my readers, rip currents still poise a threat that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

According to the United States Lifeguarding Association webpage, over 100 people in the United States each year die from being caught and getting over-exhausted in a rip current.  If those numbers alone aren’t enough to scare you, the 80% of ocean rescues being because of rip currents should make you stop in your swim lane.

Here are a few rip current safety tips according to weather.com:

  • Swim in a lifeguarded beach as often as possible.
  • Don’t swim by yourself!
  • Keep 100 feet between yourself and piers, jetties or other permanent structures.
  • Consider using polarized sunglasses (I prefer my RayBans but any polarized pair can be helpful to spot those rough patches telling of rip currents).

And the tips to survive if youHumiston Beach Fancy find yourself in a rip current:

  • Stay calm.  This conserves energy and helps you think more clearly.
  • DO NOT fight the current.
  • Start swimming parallel to the current until you’re out and then swim at an angle towards the shore.
  • If you’re unable to swim out of the current, float or tread water calmly and wait until you’re out of the current to swim to shore.
  • WHEN AT A LOSS, wave your arms, yell for help and draw attention to yourself and a lifeguard will assist you.

Even the most confident swimmers and the most knowledgeable ocean-goers get caught in rip currents.  As women, we have the tendency to let our thoughts fill our head with noise but when stuck in a “current” situation we have to focus on the now: getting out.

So use those powerful lower body muscles that women are famous for and tread water.  Soon enough, you’ll be safely sunning on the shore once again.

Shipwrecked? Have a worry-free underwater exploration.

Breaconshire shipwreck

One of the advantages of living in a state that sticks out from the main land mass that is the United States is the number of ships that run their courses into it.  And I mean literally!

Because of the limestone under-layer that Florida sits upon, many ships have met an untimely end.  This is most unfortunate for them but, years later, I find myself thinking how bored I would be as a water adventurer had they not met such misfortune.

Exploring shipwrecks is an activity that every sunshine-loving Florida girl should get to experience at one point for another. Continue reading