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Hawai’i is known as the drowning capital of the U.S. – and Kauai is known as the drowning capital of Hawai’i. It may be surprising to learn, but snorkeling is one of the leading causes of tourist deaths in Hawai’i. snorkel kauai

Kauai’s first drowning of 2016 was a 75-year-old Oregon man, Harry Evans, who was found unresponsive whilst snorkeling off Poipu on Kauai, Hawaii.

The surf was small in the area, and the waters calm, so this ocean-related death would not have occurred due to large surf, swells, or strong currents.

Even though snorkeling is a relatively easy activity, people can panic, get stressed, fail to breathe properly once water gets in the mask and/or snorkel, especially when they aren’t used to snorkeling in ocean conditions. They may already have health issues, which put them at greater risk. Many tourists come to Hawai’i, rent a snorkel, and go directly into the ocean with very limited or no experience.

In one Australian study, it was shown the main causes of snorkeling deaths were due to 1) cardiac arrest 2) surface drowning 3) drowning after extended breath holding 4) trauma. The majority were cardiac causes (half of these had known cardiac conditions) and surface drownings. This most often occurred in sober, middle-aged to older males snorkeling in a supervised setting (tour group). “Fatal silent snorkeling syndrome” refers to people who have suffered a cardiac problem and are found floating silently in the water, often close to others.

In our study, people who died of cardiac causes were typically well males (median age, 65 years) who were noticed floating silently in the water, often close to others. We call this the “fatal silent snorkelling syndrome”. Cardiac causes of death defined at forensic autopsy include myocardial infarction, valve rupture, previously undiagnosed congenital valvular or coronary artery abnormalities, and unrecognized myocarditis.

DyingForVacation_H4-300x0-c-default-1People feel safe because they often go out in groups – whether it’s with tour companies or friends and family. Tour groups often have inadequate proportions of instructors to participants. It’s impossible for them to check in on you one-on-one. The problem with snorkeling, if someone is not directly checking in with you, you could be having issues without anyone knowing. You would still be floating above the water as if everything is fine. Friends and family unfortunately are focusing on their own experience first. They are also not necessarily trained in life-saving techniques. On top of that, there are endless beaches on Kauai, and limited life guards. If you are found unresponsive, it may take time before you get the proper medical attention.

If you have any health issues particularly of the heart, if you are not familiar snorkeling in the ocean, or if you are under the age of 15 or over the age of 60, it’s imperative you have a one-on-one snorkeling partner.

health_1_900x670Snorkeling is a wonderful way to experience the ocean environment. Here are some tips to staying safe:

  1. Always train with snorkeling gear in a pool before snorkeling in the ocean.
  2. Learn snorkeling safety.
  3. If you are not the best swimmer or in top physical condition wear a buoyancy vest or emergency inflatable PFD vest or fanny pack.
  4. Stay in shallow waters.
  5. Always make sure to check ocean conditions before going out. Ask a lifeguard. When in doubt, don’t go out.
  6. Snorkel at lifeguarded beaches during hours when lifeguards are on duty (be cautious of going out close to dusk).
  7. Make sure if you go on a tour boat they have experienced guides with training in rescue techniques, life-saving certifications, as well as defibrillators on the boat.
  8. Always have a snorkeling partner and that you are consistently checking in with them.

When you’re a writer and need to get stuff off your chest, you have to write it down. Normally I don’t bother sharing much of the musings about so-called “famous” people, they deserve their privacy – plus shoots, in Hawaii you surf every day with someone who’s had some fleeting (or legendary) moment of fame via surf. But when that someone’s being a douche, they should be called out on it, regardless of who they are. And sure, every surfer has had their douche-y moments in the water (some are conscious of it, some not so much), but this incident was particularly entertaining. 2015 was the *gulp* 30th anniversary of the first time I ever went surfing. So to have Laird Hamilton gift me with this quote was pretty special. Here’s to purging for the new year!

“You never saw me on a short board?! Then you just started surfing!” –Laird

Surfing Hanalei Bay. It’s a pastime that some on Kauai only partake in on occasion, as it’s so often over-crowded and a bit agro. Today was one of those mellow days with fun-high surf, a relatively sparse crowd, and waves for all.

Winter fixture Laird Hamilton was out. It was early in the season and the first time I’d noticed him since his return from summering in the ‘Bu (yeah, I actually wrote that).

I was surprised to see he wasn’t on a SUP. He looked like a kid, sitting on a board he could actually sink, and I thought it refreshing (not to mention he’d be less able to hog all the waves). So when he paddled near me, after an aloha exchange, I mentioned, “I’ve never seen you on a short board.”

His mood altered split second. “Well then…”, he tisked, “you just started surfing.” He repeated it a little louder and a little more annoyed, “You never saw me on a short board?! Then you definitely just started surfing!”

Wait, um, huh… waht just happened? I waited for a crack of a smile. Nope. He wasn’t joking.

My thought process went something like: Is he thinking I think he’s never short-boarded? Does he think I never saw North Shore?  LOL. Did I accidentally threaten him in some way? Is he really so cocky as to tell a chick that she must be new to surfing because she never saw him in the water on a short board. Is this the best example of inductive reasoning gone awry?! My mind was reeling with questions!

He actually repeated it a few more times. Then went on and on about himself but at that point I couldn’t make out what he was saying. I got all caught up in the energy of the incident… this massive ego… becoming palpable… expanding way beyond the sphere of mere mortals. Maybe someone drank a lil’ too much Laird Superfood Coffee that morning?

He paddled inside, caught a wave, and the vibe out in the water mellowed.

When he made it back out, he took the opportunity to engage a few of the local guys in the pack and went off on some tangent about people who were trying to put him down. He brought up some guys who did this when he was body surfing the other day. “I was going to go in and get my fins and a french fry box… and surf it better than them.” The guys in the water kissing his okole joined in: “Yeah, yeah!” “I would have paddled in and gotten an old door” “Yeah, and beveled down the edges” “Yeah, yeah” “That would show them!” “Yeah!!!”

**Oh boi**

It wasn’t as if Laird was directing this all at me, yet it was obvious my comment – tweaked in his head – inspired the loud discussion that I was supposed to overhear. Bulleh 101. All I could think was, Girlfriend, you know better, don’t you mess with the mind of a narcissist.

After his third wave, Laird paddled back out towards me, and at that point I had to laugh it off and said, “I dunno dude, I was just saying I’ve surfed out here with you like 100 times and I’ve never seen you on a short board. That’s all. Not sure where you decided to go with that…”.

He gave me a pondering stare. Started paddling away. Then turned, paused, and said, “Ohhh, it was a complement.”

I guess I was either with him or against him.

“Uh, well, basically” I replied.

And he smiled…

So, my special quote may not have been North Shore-worthy, but it was close. And whenever there’s a good excuse to include any reference to the flick you really shouldn’t pass on the opportunity: “Burkhart you bastard!”

2364896_web1_corals

If you haven’t read the full oxybenzone study yet, you should. It’s pretty devastating what this popular sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone is doing to our corals. This barely touches on what it does to other sea life and humans (or the negative effects of all the other toxins in these products). Ask your local stores why they are selling this crap to people and contributing to destroying the ocean ecosystems. Ask the person spraying these all over themselves and their children (and anyone around them) to read this study as well as the many articles available online about the toxicity of oxybenzone and chemical sunscreen ingredients.

FULL STUDY: Oxybenzone and Coral Toxicity

Hawaii Tribune Herald: “Sunscreen Devastating to Coral”
Huffington Post: “Sunscreens Could Be Killing the World’s Reefs, Study Says”

EWG: Guide to Sunscreens

20080130-sunblocked-coral

Gotta love that this video is getting so many views – meteorologist Guy Hagi even used it on the weather report. Yes, it’s crazy that South Kona on Hawai’i Island is getting this much flooding. Typically you see flooding more on the East side, not so much on the West. Also, this video was taken days before Tropical Storm Niala even passed by! We’ll keep an eye on the storm because with more rain coming and the ground completely saturated there may be more flooding to come. But what we really hope for is that Kainoa and her hubby are the ones shooting the videos. Actually, let’s pay them to just drive around and do the weather report, simply for the commentary. #HawaiiStyle

Every surfer has experienced it. Arriving at the beach, seeing the waves going off, getting stoked, suited up and ready to go, only to discover you forgot something kinda important: board shorts, bikini, leash… something. The other day I forgot to replace the leash string on my board. The waves were wind swell chop with a ton of current, so I couldn’t go without a leash. And since I only had time for a quickie jump-in-the-ocean-to-cool-off sesh, I didn’t have time to hike back to the car to figure out other options. Luckily it was an east shore spot which, in Hawai’i at least, usually (sadly) means there is no shortage of beach trash that oft makes its way from Asia. Reduce reuse recycle. Thus, my jimmy rigged string (with back up wire) seen below — hey, it worked!

Hawaii Winter Heating ToasterDon’t laugh at us when we complain, it gets cold in Hawai’i.

Not ice blistering Alaska cold, but cold all the same.

Before you call us pussies, let me explain. In Hawai’i, most houses are semi-contained. Many places here have either no windows or some windows, and the rest is screened in. There’s no heat, and rarely air conditioning. So whatever the temperature is outside, is what the temperature is inside.

So while the rest of the world would have their thermostats moderating something around 65°, we’re getting nice moist chilled air swooping off the mountains below 50° nighttime through the early morning.

The past few days I’ve had to resort to toaster hand warming, running the oven and opening the door, using the still-hot saucepan (after making rice) on my belly and bones, hot showers, foot soaks, jogging in place, ThermaCare neck warmers taped on the back, wool socks and hoodies, and even stuffing my Malamute / Chow Chow under the covers, to no avail. In a few hours I’ll be in shorts and a t-shirt, and the rest of the freezing world will be jealous, but until then….

While we’re on the topic, every year on weather modification sites you will see posts about snow here. To be clear, before there were airplanes, there’s been snow on the tops of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. That doesn’t discount “geoengineering” by any means, nor does it discount the fact that even those not living near the tops of volcanos are shivering.

I might even have to bust out my long sleeve 2mil wet suit top today for our current brisk ocean temp of 75.7 – what, don’t laugh!

TEPCO Fuel Removal Arcade Game

Step right up! Try your luck! No, that’s not carnie cant, it’s TEPCO yakuza-ing in more inexperienced workers with inadequate compensation to risk their lives to perform jobs that will affect all of Japan… and beyond. 1,533 fuels rods are to be removed from Unit 4’s unstable spent fuel pool (no word on how they will remove the damaged rods) – and they’ve already started with some of the 200 unused rods, i.e. a practice run. Considering TEPCO has done little right, even in covering up their blunders, it’s interesting the world is expected to simply watch and wait. Some are asking, is this a set-up for inevitable failure? Others are asking, is it even really happening? (TEPCO had been showing off this pristine fuel pool that we’re supposed to believe is Unit 4, even though it had reportedly been devastated.) If sociopaths, psychopaths, and narcissists ruled the world *ahem*, it might look something like this mess. Anyway, we utilized only a tiny bit of creative license in our artistic rendering: TEPCO’s Criticality Claw Crane Arcade Game. Step right up! Try your luck! Prizes stuffed with radionuclides – everyone’s a winner! File this under #ScaryAssShit

art by Kerin Morataya; concept Darby Romeo
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