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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Breathing Choices for the Crawl Stroke

When learning the front crawl (“freestyle”), learning to breathe comfortably takes a lot of practice. You have choices on when to breath. The two most common methods are:

- One breath per every arm cycle.
- One breath for every three arm strokes (alternate bi-lateral breathing).

Various books and videos will espouse one method as superior. Which one is best? Please understand that much of this is driven by the best methods for competition, where not breathing is the fastest way to swim! In competition, especially the sprint races, swimmers my only take a few breaths per length! So for the average fitness swimmer, this question might be better stated as “which one is best for you?” Every swimmer is different in body size, aerobic fitness, strength, coordination, and motivation.

Bi-Lateral breathing

Experts are in agreement on one point: It’s best to learn to breathe on both sides, i.e “bi-laterally.” Since the front crawl stroke is not symmetric, different motions and muscles come into play during the stroke cycle. For practice, it’s good to swim a whole length or more breathing to one side, then switching to the other so you do the same yardage for each side. This is easier than trying to master breathing every third stroke—that is a more difficult technique not necessary to swim efficiently!

Being able to breath on either side has several advantages:
- It helps to keep the body in a state of “balance”. That is, by using left and right side breathing, your muscles will get the same workout.
- In pool competition, you can choose to look at a competitor for multiple laps.
- In open water swimming, you can breath on the side where waves and/or the sun cause the least discomfort.

Respiration rates have priority

Your respiration (breathing) rate varies according to the level of exercise. For adults the typical resting rate is 15 breaths per minute, increasing to 40 – 50 breaths per minute as exercise intensity increases. The body has two ways to increase the oxygen supply:
- Increase the ‘tidal volume’ (the quantity of air that is inhaled and exhaled with every breath).
- Increase in the respiration or breathing rate (bpm). This is the number of inhalation and exhalation cycles per minute.

Let’s use an example based on moderate, sustainable, aerobic swimming.
Suppose Mary swims 25 yds. in 30 seconds (light to medium exercise, depending on her overall fitness). During 30 seconds, she takes 26 strokes (13 pulls with each arm). Based on this, what are the respiration rates for the two breathing methods?

Alternate/bi-lateral method:
The stroke rate is 1 pull for every 0.87 s. (26 pulls/30 s.). Three pulls will take about 2.6 seconds (3 x 0.87s). This results in a respiration rate of about 23 bpm (60/2.6). This is slightly above the normal resting rate.

One breath per cycle method:
Two pulls will take 1.74 s. (0.87 x 2). This works out to 43 bpm (60/1.74), which is in low end of the 40-50 “exercise” range.

Which method should Mary use? If she uses the alternate bi-lateral technique, she may not get enough air to match her exertion level. This obviously depends on her fitness level, etc., but the one breath per cycle is probably a better fit in this case. Sometimes, the swimmer may be concerned about hyperventilating at the higher rate, but with practice, the body will adjust the tidal volume to match the needs.

This analysis is based on a pace that you should be able to swim for extended periods of time. After several hundred yards, you should not be exhausted, and should feel that your breathing and effort “match up”, and that you can swim at this pace almost indefinitely. Sprinting and racing require a totally different analysis, which varies according to the racing distance, water conditions (open vs. pool), and more.

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