Swimmer faints due to extended breath holding

On June 23, 2022, this video was posted. It involves Anita Alvarez, a U.S. swimmer who fainted underwater at the end of her World Championships event. She was performing solo in “artistic swimming”. This competitive event seems to require extreme breath-holding (up to 2 min. or more!) for success.

Anita Alvarez on stretcher with EMTs.

Click image for Youtube video. She is so Lucky to be alive. This is the SECOND TIME she passed out in this event!!

When breath-holding is necessary, you should be aware that taking fast, deep breaths until you feel light-headed will increase the oxygen in your blood. This is known as “hyperventilating”,  and will help you hold your breath longer. So what’s the problem?

This is unnatural intake of oxygen decreases the CO2 (carbon dioxide) in your blood before you hold your breath. Normally, when you need to breath, your brain senses this as the CO2 level rises. When people faint (on land), the involuntary system kicks in, and breathing resumes, hopefully without other injuries. Fainting in water is fatal within a matter of seconds if  there is no rescuer. With the first breath or two water gets in the lungs, the swimmer begins drowning, and may never regain consciousness.

In racing, swimmers often build an oxygen “deficit” during a finishing kick (breathing slightly slows you down), but they have not hyperventilated, and are less likely to pass out.

Some pools are now posting “No breath holding” in their rules. This phenomenon is the reason. Note that some have used hyperventialtion as a “tool” to dive deeper and longer when snorkeling–don’t do that!  Hold your breath if you must, but don’t try to fake out your body’s natural survival system.

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Orcas of Puget Sound, Washington

On June 7th, 2002, we had the good fortune to see a pod of orcas, close-up, in the wild, from a kayak!
Here is our group of paddlers–everyone did quite well on a beautiful day (not too much wind and sunny).


Glassy conditions in the protected waters (see map below).

The orcas were in the area to the northwest.
The orcas were in the area to the northwest. We left Snug Harbor around 1:45 PM. After a good workout in the breezes of Puget Sound, we rested and then resumed our paddle around Henry Island.

At about 2:45, we were lucky to see this small pod of orcas that came as close as about 50 yards.

orcasOur guide, Christopher, cautioned us that 50 yards was plenty close, even though they don’t attack kayaks.



kayak to Snug Harbor

Returning to Snug Harbor.

After about 15 minutes, they just disappeared, and we headed back to the docks.

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Shark Repelling Bracelet !

Sometimes, “a little bit of science” can be a dangerous thing. Here is a product that claims to ward off sharks–a shark repellent. The Sharkbanz doesn’t use chemicals, sound, light, or electricity. No, this one uses a permanent magnet (no battery required) to discourage the sharks from biting a swimmer wearing it as a wrist or ankle band.

magnetic wristband

Available in several colors!

At sharkbanz.com, you can get into the details of the “science” behind this invention. It relies on the sharks sensitivity and aversion to incredibly weak magnetic fields.

There are some interesting reviews on Amazon (link to product), where people debate the science, comment on workmanship, plus, you can see the colors available.

Watch this video–save $65!

Some things are easy to test, and the oceans around Australia have plenty of sharks. This short video (below) shows some poor outcomes are probably in store if you rely on this wristband to repel sharks.

  In 13 minutes, it’s over for you and the Sharkbanz.



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How Fast Can Humans Swim??

The TV broadcasts of the 2015 World Championships sparked me to do some analysis of the swimmers’ speeds in the various events. The goal was to eliminate the advantages of the racing start and push-off from the wall. By using the on-screen race-time or adding a timer frame with my video editor, I could determine how fast the swimmers were going from the 15 m. to 35 m. marks in the 50 m. lane.

That is, the time it takes between these two marks, to swim 20 meters, would be an honest reflection of their true speed. Here is a sample using the men’s 100 m. freestyle.

Here are some speeds (meters per second) for other races.

Race Speed
50 m. Butterfly 1.87
100 m. Butterfly 2.02
50 m. Free 1.94 2.22
100 m. Free, 0-50 2.20 starting block advantage?
100 m. Free, 51-100 1.98
800 m. Free 1.60-1.63 mid-race
800 m. Free 1.74 fastest  (exclude 1st 50)
1500 m. Free 1.72* fastest, final sprint
1500 m. Free 1.61 slowest, around 1100 m.
* the winner, Paltrinieri (Italy) had a race time of 14:39.67.
This works out to an overall average speed of 1.71 meters / sec.
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Joey Cabell — a true “waterman”

Surfer_JoeyCabell_OceanMagazine2012In the 1960s, one of the premier surfers was Joey Cabell. He didn’t become that well-known outside of surfing, but he is one of the most interesting characters of that era. He did not fit the stereotype surfer image. Besides winning surfing contests, he was also a successful skier, mountain climber, and a businessman. He started the Chart House restaurant “chain”, opening the first restaurant in Aspen, Colorado.


Hawaii_NaPaliCoastIn 2012, Ocean Magazine (link) devoted an issue to Cabell, including an article about an epic swim he took with fellow surfer Mike Doyle, who wrote about it in his book Morning Glass (link).

Their adventure seems a bit crazy, and no doubt could have gone very wrong, but (spoiler!) it didn’t. They spent several days swimming the Na Pali Coast of Kaua’i in Hawaii.

All they took was their suits and goggles–no fins! It’s an interesting read and an example of what a true “waterman” does for fun and enlightenment.
Unfortunately, the article is not available online. Click here for the full article (in .pdf format).


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