Tribe

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Tribe

A social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.

"indigenous Indian tribes"

As we delve deeper in to the infinite possibilities of our performance potential, the urge to seek out more remote and adventurous places increases as does the number of people who seek this unique lifestyle and hence a unique tribe of watermen is formed.

These tribes are regularly found in the wilder places where access to the raw environment is more easily accessible. Because of the extreme remoteness that these tribes frequent, they tend be be thriftier than the average person. Not having the luxury of accessing a wide range of services at the drop of a hat they have to do it themselves digging deep in to their ingenuity, creativity and stubbornness!

The camaraderie that is experienced amongst a group of people working towards a common goal is inspiring, especially if there is risk involved. Out of all the watermanship disciplines I have seen this level of camaraderie and brotherhood most commonly in the big wave arena. Tow teams, paddle teams and the wind disciplines. 

Because of the common goals, intense camaraderie, high risk, physical and emotional stress the rates of happiness, confidence, personal fulfilment and self purpose are extremely high. And it is of no surprise that the majority of these passionate waterman have a belief in something bigger than themselves that gives them courage, hope and faith.

I believe that we can all learn something from these tribes of passionate watermen and waterwoman that frequent our society. Some people refer to them as vagabonds, misfits of our perceived advanced society but I believe that some of these tribes are leading the way of how we are meant to be really living our lives. Living a life with an intense connection to community, culture and the environment.

 

 

 

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Playing with Light

This is a photographic blog on the experience of freediving Busselton Jetty and the moments that were captured with Talina Tapia, Russell Ord and Tommy Pearsall.

If you want to see moments captured by Russell Ord you can see his blog HERE.

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Blood and Water

We met the Willcox family on the Saturday morning. Mick, Jacob and India showed up to the Wilderness shed at 8:30 am ready for action. 

By how comfortable, open and polite they were, we knew it was going to be an amazing program

We loved the fact that they were getting into learning about watermanship and more in depth about their mind and body’s ability as a family, really cool and inspiring.

After the usual start of the program of running through the theory of how our body works whilst holding our breath, and in general watermanship, we ran through some mental strengthening techniques and specific yoga for apnea. The Willcox’s were super keen and involved in the whole process, from asking questions to actively sharing some input and experiences. As trainer's it is very interesting to see how the family dynamic creates a blossoming environment for young athletes to develop and how this environment promotes a strong attitude towards challenges and keeping their heads well centred.

We headed down the river for the relaxation drills, static apnea and resucues with the Willcox clan exceeding their own expectations. Our style of teaching and their unique approach to challenges made this a very memorable experience for all of us. The whole family held their breath for just over 3 minutes!! 

Aquaticity runs in their blood, the three of them were very comfortable and strong in the ocean. The family's ability to work through the mental processes required to perform and develop new skills in the face of a challenge was impressive. And this bond became even more evident when they had to explore a bit deeper into their mind in the wipeout drills and when under pressure on the deep dives. 

It was very satisfying to see that they enjoyed and learned from the training, leaving the performance anxiety behind and taking it all in as a bonding family experience. Personally, it was also amazing to see the incredible potential of these young athletes Jacob and India, both in surfing and in freediving. 

More so, they show that the strong core values of family, support, growth and hard work that most of our society lacks this days, is what drives them; the Willcox family, and that is when blood gets thicker than water. 

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Being Mentally Fit - An insight by Talina Tapia

NICE BICEPS BUT….ARE YOU MENTALLY FIT?

You are probably asking yourself what does Mentally fit even mean? You know well what being physically fit means, what it looks like and what it is good for… you know being fit requires work, is good for your health, might help you move and play better in life…but mentally fit? Hmmm not so much.

Waterman Training - Photo courtesy of Russell Ord

Waterman Training - Photo courtesy of Russell Ord

Everyone knows that someone, the person that always seems to be on top, in control of stuff. Who can deal with situations pretty smooth and doesn’t lose it for the small problems in life. Yeah, Johnny, that guy… that finds the positive on every thing that happens to him, even if that means to get laid off from work, break up with his girlfriend and snap his surfboard in 10ft surf. 

No doubt Johnny has been working very hardand unnoticed for a while and not really getting payed an hourly rate for it but seems like it pays off to him since he is living life to the most without letting circumstances stop him. He makes it look easy.

Onshore, sunset session northern NSW, and you could not find a happier guy on the planet! Mr Ben Adams...

Onshore, sunset session northern NSW, and you could not find a happier guy on the planet! Mr Ben Adams...

You could think, I could do it too if I knew the tricks. So here is a little insight. This work is permanent, with no real holidays and even though you don’t make any money its very rewarding being your own boss.

Becoming mentally fit requires getting your hands dirty and digging into the learning patterns and beliefs that you grew up with. Some of those beliefs are the base for the core values that power your behaviour today, and you need to find out what these core values are if you want to make some changes.

It requires you to be completely open and honest with yourself and review areas of your life where you have been slack or elusive.  That could be emotions, feelings or communication. Being mentally strong does not mean you don’t feel or don’t show how you feel, it means you acknowledge how you feel and choose how to act about it. 

Waterman student Pete Devine preparing his mind for the next drill during a 3 day program in 2015. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord.

Waterman student Pete Devine preparing his mind for the next drill during a 3 day program in 2015. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord.

So when Johnny got laid off work and broke up with his girlfriend, he didn’t give to feeling sorry for himself and dwell in the past, he didn’t blame the girl or himself for whatever situation happened in the relationship… he set himself the goal of going back to surfing every day since he was not working anymore and used his free time to reconnect with friends and family, that were his support network in his emotional transition. 

And then yeah, surf was good one day, and Johnny snapped his board out there… Again, he didn’t crumble, although he felt scared at the start since he was dealing with this unpredictable situation, he used his physical and mental fitness to control his emotions and saw this as a challenge instead of a problem, he knew he had been training consistently for a while and he was positive he could make it out. This positive focus allowed him to put his energy in the right place and remain calm and focused, he took the appropriate actions at the right time and made it back to shore.

Russell Ord displaying mental toughness. Photo courtesy of Trent Slatter.

Russell Ord displaying mental toughness. Photo courtesy of Trent Slatter.

Being mentally fit is very similar to being physically fit. It requires commitment, discipline, staying positive and setting realistic goals. It takes time and it is not always comfortable, since we deal with situations from our past everyday and everyday is different.

 It puts you out of your comfort zone enough that you get to know where your limits are and that is the first thing that will pave the road of growth.  And growth brings change. 

It helps to get rid of self imposed mental obstacles that could be preventing you from reaching goals or your full potential in any situation.  Allows you to be productive and creative with your own time and gives you back the power of celebrating your own victories…. And this is the true meaning of success.

 

Joe Knight enjoying the deep, Egypt 2014. Photo courtesy of Tomoka Fucuda.

Joe Knight enjoying the deep, Egypt 2014. Photo courtesy of Tomoka Fucuda.

One Ocean International runs mental strength coaching sessions every week, for more information please email talina@oneoceaninternational.org

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SURPASSING EXPECTATIONS - DIARY OF 5 DAYS OF WATERMAN TRAINING

SURPASSING EXPECTATIONS - 

DIARY OF A WEEK OF SPECIALIST WATERMANSHIP TRAINING

Image courtesy of Lucas Handley

Image courtesy of Lucas Handley

 

The Margaret River Team:

As we turned at the shallow breaking reef to do another lap of the CO2 training drill in the Margaret River lagoon, i looked over at the lads and they looked calm and in the zone. The weeks of training had served them well, thats why i had decided to up the pace a little bit for this session. I also knew that in two days time they would be depth training for the first time this season and they would need a confidence boost. The crew finished the session in classic South Coast WA style, already talking about the ocean adventures they are going to have with these new skills they are working hard to attain.

After the weeks of unpredictable wind patterns due to a cyclone up north, the weather gods were smiling down on us again with a complete glass off for the afternoons depth awareness session out at the HMAS Swan off the coast of Dunsburough, WA. I was very excited as i was going to see how much progress the lads had made as a result of their training and also because my great mate Lucas was coming to train with us on his way to Indonesia.

As we motored out to the dive site, the atmosphere was extremely cheerful and everyone was very excited, as i looked around the team it was cool to identify the personal goals of each individual, what training they had done leading up to this point and the strong bond they already had with each other knowing that they were all on the same path.

As i swam across the aqua blue water from the dive boat to the wreck the sea was alive with activity. Schools of fish swam up to us to fulfil their curiosity, Bat Fish gently swam around the mooring lines, reef fish darted in and out of the crows nest defending their territory from pesky neibours and the 5 teams of freedivers were starting to warm up by exploring the upper structure of the immense ship.

Image Courtesy of Lucas Handley

Image Courtesy of Lucas Handley

Lucas was the first to brush off the cobwebs, after a few perfectly executed warm up drills he was down to the sand collecting some shells for the lads as evidence of his adventure into the deep.

Then it was Russ executing a classic ORD DAFINS 25m special, making it look as easy as making a coffee in the morning! 

Next came Talina, the beautiful Mexican exploring the inner most expanse of the wreck and even stopping for a rest in the captains chair on the way out. 

Talina Tapia ascending from a Free Immersion Dive

Talina Tapia ascending from a Free Immersion Dive

Tom was up now, performing a great 10m hang, taking in the surroundings and gliding up to the surface with perfect aquaticity.

Then it was Simons turn, the full time surfer turned freediving frother has been training harder than anyone in Margaret River, and as i saw him descending down into the blue i shouted, “Simons going for it!” He had been passively aiming for this 20m dive for the last year steadily moving through all elements required to achieve this first milestone that every freediver goes through. He looked perfect, the best i’d ever seem him look. With Lucas safetying him he was in the best hands. Simon was so relaxed he even stopped on the ascent to shake out the little remaining tension in his neck, then he hit the surface with a smile from ear to ear. After completing his surface protocol he was indulging in well earned humble self achievement, everyone was so stoked for him!

The team motored back to shore laughing, congratulating each other and re enacting their favourite moments of the session, the atmosphere was electric. I thought to myself, this is what what freediving is about and i love it!

Lucas doing what he does best... capturing outstanding underwater images on a single breath.

Lucas doing what he does best... capturing outstanding underwater images on a single breath.

 

Creating more Ocean Addicts:

Specialist Watermanship Student Steve White turning for the surface after a flawless descent.

Specialist Watermanship Student Steve White turning for the surface after a flawless descent.

As soon as i met the 4 students for the weekends Specialist Program I new it was going to be a cracking course. The lads were already making a fair bit of banter and i like that, it lightens up the mood and makes everyone relaxed.

On the program we had Jos, Ryan, Jamie and Andrew. All experienced watermen in there own way and they all were super keen to get into it.

I could write a ten thousand word paper on just one Specialist Program… and would still not have discussed all that happens; but lucky for you guys i’m not! I’ll skip to the highlights!

Day 1: I had a sore stomach from laughing at Jos and Ryans sense of humour. Meanwhile… the crew assisted by Mr Lucas Handley’s unusually large brain explored the innermost workings of the dive reflex. After a session of static apnea, some underwater sleep therapy and a few lazy 3min statics we are done! Day 1 review; EPIC!

Day 2: The team always seems a bit daunted by Saturdays routine, so best not give them enough time to dwell on the inevitable I say. With a 0600 start and straight into laughing fits courtesy of Mr Jos, the lads were into it! The best way to learn is by getting thrown in the thick of it, to much death by power point these days and not enough action!

Rescue drills were just hilarious with the guys quickly finding out that their mates are bloody heavy! Half way through the first session the team realised how epic proper breathing was and it was all smiles from there. The last drill of the ocean session resulted in a monkey cull as the lads took control of their minds during breath hold for good… well until the monkeys of the mind repopulate themselves! 

HMAS Swan Regulars

HMAS Swan Regulars

Day 3: This is my favourite part of the program. This is because the majority of students One Ocean gets are surfers, and surfers generally play in the first 2m of the ocean surface… so to the average surfer 10m is super deep, well until Sunday at around 1030, then its, “easy as!”.

Again my stomach was sore as I saw Jos hold up a well earned catch of Crayfish and giving the team a series of high fives! 

Then we were at the wreck, blue as blue and a complete glass off! Again! The lads were feeling a bit nervous at the thought of descending down to 20m… well, until around 1600 then it was, “still deep, but easy and so good!”

Sunday night; seriously sore quads from swimming for 5 days straight, deaf from water logged ears, radiation burns from the hole in the ozone layer above South WA, blood sugar levels in the negative and a smile that took up my whole face! 

The End!

Thanks everyone for the best 5 days of training i have ever had! Legends!!!!! 

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The Soul of Freediving

A 20 year journey in two paragraphs…

In 1994 I was sitting in a dimly lit Melbourne club house, it had the smell that all sporting clubs had in Melbourne at that time; stale beer, cigarettes, moth balls and oiled timber. It was an unlikely place to hold a meeting for a freediving club, but there i was, bright eyed and mouth agape listening to an epic story from this old salty dog of the sea. He told me that he was freediving off a remote beach on the east coast of Victoria and whilst on a dive, a huge shadow passed over the top of him, blocking out the sun! His eyes were wide and his voice sounded like thunder as he re-enacted his adventure. He said he had to hide in a cave from what he thought was a Great White, but when he saw a huge eye appear at the entrance of the cave and peer at him hiding inside, he realised it was a massive Orca… I was 12 years old, full of courage and boyish naivety. I was in! I wanted adventure and i wanted to dive deep! I had been freediving for just over a year with 2 of my closest friends, but now i had the opportunity to learn from the salty sea dogs! Learn the old school way.

The lads enjoying a fun day out in the blue

The lads enjoying a fun day out in the blue

Egypt, 2014; I sat in a classroom with 50 or so other instructor candidates. I had never suffered from this feeling I was feeling before. It felt like i was waiting to meet some mythical sensei or something, like Mr Miyagi off the Karate Kid or Chuck Norris. 

I had grown up listening to the old boys of the club telling me stories of Umberto from the World Spearfishing Titles and the Freediving Championships when everyone competed using Plastic Bi Fins. And now to be taught by him personally and hopefully representing Apnea Academy was very surreal. It had taken 20 years to get to this point and it had been an epic adventure mixed with exploration, temptation, ego, fear, love, death and one huge realisation!

2014 Apnea Academy Instructor Course

2014 Apnea Academy Instructor Course

Sink or Swim!

Watermanship Training - 2012 Photo courtesy of Alex Frings Photography

Watermanship Training - 2012 Photo courtesy of Alex Frings Photography

But i cant equalise! My mate Drew could do it so easily past 25m, not even using his hands! I was 17yo and getting ready for the Australian Spearfishing titles. Myself, Grant Temple and Drew Fenney were training hard and we were feeling confident. We always looked to Drew for advice as he was the most talented of the three of us. Then if we had to, we asked the older guys like Brett Illingsworth and Rob Torelli. But we did not want to seem incompetent or piss them off with silly questions.

I was desperately trying to build up the muscles and co-ordination needed to equalise properly, Drew could explain how he did it but i still did not understand. There were no books back then or equalisation classes so it was all sink or swim.

All I knew was that when i was extremely relaxed, feeling warm and comfortable I could equalise no problems at all. But Why? It look me another few years to get my head around that one! Until then i was compelled to be trapped in the first 25m of water, I was a fish with a swollen swim bladder like a grouper that has been hauled up from the deep to fast. 

 

Northern NSW - 2012 Photo courtesy of Alex Frings Photography

Northern NSW - 2012 Photo courtesy of Alex Frings Photography

The Realisation

The realisation that i spoke about in the opening paragraphs needs a tiny bit of explanation, i promise I wont bore you to sleep! Sorry if its a bit of an anti-climax.

All the equalisation problems, the equipment adaptions, the streamlining issues, the years of diving in freezing water, the hard learned lessons and close calls all led me to believe that it is a right of passage that all freedivers must go through and i’ll explain why. 

The body is a very fragile machine, although extremely adaptable. The very slow increase of your dive times and depth is a crucial aspect in the adaption of your body to apnea and the deep. Push to hard to fast and your body will suffer. The natural progression that a student of freediving takes is one of small calculated steps, so as your knowledge and experience slowly increases so does your depth and time in apnea. It is a completely natural way that your depth and time are self regulated. This naturally eliminates most injuries caused by freediving. 

I love my freediving journey, i would not change it for anything. It is a beautiful journey with no particular destination because when one reaches their destination, it usually means the end? I don't want it to end.

The realisation was the old cliché saying, “Its the journey not the destination”. It just took me 20 years to fully grasp its true meaning.

 

Freediving Safety and Rescue Course, Tonga - Photo courtesy of Rob Torelli

Freediving Safety and Rescue Course, Tonga - Photo courtesy of Rob Torelli

Zero to Hero

Freediving has evolved so very fast, i always knew it would happen eventually, but i did not expect such a boom. Unfortunately part of it has steered down a very dangerous path.

Freediving is much like martial arts. In the fact that you have a sensei or instructor and you have students. The instructor drip feeds their students information when they are ready, because the instructor knows that giving students information when they are not ready is dangerous and confusing.

It takes time to climb the levels of the discipline. Like martial arts uses the belt system and gradings, freediving uses levels. It took me 2 years to take my first grading in Aikido, my sensei was very old school and thats what i wanted. I wanted to really know my shit before i graded, i wanted to impress my sensei. And i knew that learning martial arts takes time and patience, i knew that if i tried to grade to quickly i would get my ass kicked!

Instead of a higher ranking belt kicking your ass if you grade to quick in martial arts, the ocean will kick your ass in freediving if you get pushed through the levels to fast, and let me tell you, i would rather a 5th DAN kick my ass than the ocean! Zero to Hero = Hero to Dead. I swear if Jaque Mayol was still alive he would be shaking his head like a sensei does when a student becomes impatient. 

 

Everything was going along merrily until... - Pacific 2015 

Everything was going along merrily until... - Pacific 2015 

Tits and Ass

Running your own company means you have to be up with the latest social media crap if you want to be noticed, much to my annoyance! 

I was updating the Instagram feed the other day and my eyes where suddenly raped by pictures of chicks wearing basically nothing, with a pair of freediving fins, a fart smell face and a caption saying, “Freediving is pure bliss”. Some things you just cant un-see! I have now finally developed a complete abdominal six pack from the laughing fit that i was trapped in for a week after seeing that post. 

As is with the surfing world, the best athletes, more often than not, are passed by because of their looks. It takes allot of support and backing to compete in a world tour, and i can honestly say from conversations I've had with a few pro’s that the best surfers often miss out on the tour because of the lack of financial support from sponsorship because they are not pretty enough. It seems that a part of freediving is starting to follow the same path.

 

Follow the True Path

Freediving is the most rewarding, empowering, freeing, beautiful and humbling discipline i have ever studied. 

Josh and the Giants, Pacific Ocean 2015

Josh and the Giants, Pacific Ocean 2015

I respect the discipline and its elders with complete dedication. If it was not for their sacrifices and hours spent perfecting techniques, freedivers would not be able to enjoy such a wealth of knowledge as we do today.

The most rewarding aspect of freediving is the journey, the egoless journey. The people you meet, the places you visit, the animals you encounter, the things you learn about your self are all part of it. So what if it takes you 10 years to get to 40m, who cares! You might of swam with Orcas, blue whales, bait balls and giant squid by then! You may have dove under the ice in Iceland, dove the beautiful blue holes on Belize, dove the crystal waters of the Cenotes in Mexico. After all this adventure, who cares if you can dive to 80m. 

The strongest free divers that i have ever dove with have learned the old school way, like Davide Carrera from Italy and Julian Hansford from New Zealand.

All that you need to understand is that with trust in your trainer, dedication to the techniques, respect to the self and consistent effort the results will come, you dont need to chase them, give the ego a back seat.

Its all about the journey...

Exploring Belize - 2013

Exploring Belize - 2013

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You create your own experiences

YOU CREATE YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES

 

From time to time, a person will be put in a situation where they will be forced to call upon all their skills to truly experience what they are doing. This is exactly what i am experiencing now and also what i have been helping others to achieve along the way.

 

When you spend a consistent amount of time living on the ocean your senses become very accustomed to the subtle changes of her moods. Temperature, wind, swell, current and tide changes are noticed instantly, almost without thought, you just sense it, subconciously. Underwater it is just the same, and you can pick up on the mood of the underwater world immediately.

Working to start acquiring this ability is crucial, and it is something that will require continuos work, as you will be forever learning and adapting. 

This ability keeps you safe, you are pretty much on your own out here, if your yacht gets damaged because you did not see/feel a squall coming in the night, or you get swept away in current while freediving, you get bitten by a shark or you suffer a deep laceration from hitting the reef whilst surfing, that could be a deadly mistake. You cant expect someone to save you in the remote areas of the South Pacific.


This has been the biggest joy for me on this trip so far, to face the challenge of being so remote and needing to call upon all my experiences and training as a waterman to really explore, really make a good go of it, to test my self and hopefully capture once in a life time images and experience once in a life time moments.

It is a dream to have access to some of the most pristine waters left in the world right off the back off the boat and I am so grateful for this opportunity. Freediving in these places is like nothing i have experienced, it is a giant playground of ocean activities.

 

A great tester for all watermen and waterwoman is how you react around sharks and as you probably have gathered from my recent photos posted on social media i really like sharks, allot! Not for some hippy romantic reason and not even for an environmental reason, i just really dig them. To me they are just simply beautiful and fascinating. I very much enjoy the fact that to observe many of the larger marine animals you must consciously monitor how you are within your self. To interact with them you must be calm and aquatic, otherwise they will not approach. I have dove with many species of sharks; whalers, bulls, hammerheads, great whites, grey nurse and have found they all react similarly to your mood at the time. Contrary to the beliefs of many people, sharks are really quite scared of you, if they think their is a slight chance of you posing a threat and they run the risk of being injured, they will dart away and sometimes not approach at all.

I will give you an example; During our recent visit to the remote atoll called Beverage Reef (130NM SE of Nui) I was doing dives to around 25 - 30m filming Dog Tooth Tuna where the reef drops off. My friend Josh had just speared an Amberjack for lunch and the action of the fighting fish had attracted two Grey Whalers. One of the Whalers was very calm and relaxed, he was the bigger of the two, a giant of a Grey at a length of around 8ft. The second Grey was a small female, around 4ft long which was very excited and inquisitive. On one of my many dives i was hovering in the blue, out off the reefs edge and the small female came at me, head on at a reasonable speed, so i lifted my camera and started getting some shots, she kept coming straight at me and i had to stop shooting and push my camera out to fend off her harmless curiosity, she got a very big fright, darted around my camera and swam flat out into my face with her nose, it felt like i was at boxing training and got a jab to the face. She then darted away to take cover in the reef and was a much more timid shark after that.

The very curious female Grey Shark on her approach before she swam into my face

The very curious female Grey Shark on her approach before she swam into my face

Now, this was my fault, not hers. I reacted to quickly and spooked her, at no stage was she aggressive or wanted to attack, she was just very curious. If the average snorkeler had of seen this interaction from the surface, i have no doubt they would have thought I was attacked. If this same interaction had of happened to an uneducated waterman or waterwoman they would have had/percieved a totally different experience to the one i had.

 

Here in Maupihaa sharks are everywhere in the pass, when you first enter the water you often see 10 - 20 sharks straight away, curiously circling under the dingy. The good thing about this particular spot is that the sharks are not to frightened of your presence during your dives. (As most of the experiences I have had with sharks is that they are very timid and do not like to get to close, rather they like to stay on the edge of your visibility or approach you from behind then dart away once you turn, especially if you have a camera!)

“As with most of the dives here at Maupihaa, I start my dive and notice the sharks would take interest in me straight away, some would swim up at me and follow my descent, once i hit the bottom they would cruise at the edge of my visibility and about 5m - 10m deeper than me. It seemed that they were sussing me out, to assess if I was a threat or not, because after about 30sec they would all take turns in passing very close by me, watching me very with that curious eye. At no stage did they ever show any defensive postures or aggressive swimming patterns, they just cruised by with amazing fluidity. I find the way they move hypnotising”. 

The current always runs as fast as you can fin on the surface in the pass, to gain any ground at all you have to fin at 100% power and sometimes even then it is in vain, then have to swim for one of the eddies, luckily you do not have to dive very deep at all to get some good shots, only 20m - 25m. 

The way you observe and react to situations in this environment will determine whether you have a great experience or a frightening one, its pretty much all up to you with your attitude and behaviour. 

It has been such a joy to share the watermanship teachings with the other young cruisers that we have bumped into whilst sailing. These guys spend most of their days freediving, spearfishing and surfing and I felt a strong urge to run them through some training to make sure that they were safe and got the most out of their adventure exploring the oceans.

There where four boats with young crew on them in the little lagoon in Moorea, French Polynesia; Soul Rebel with Ryan and Angie, Naoma with Ryan and Nicole, Oceanna with Greg and Casey and us on Kuhela. All these amazing people have come from very different places and backgrounds, but with one common goal, adventure.

We all piled into Ryan from Soul Rebels beautiful 50ft sloop, which is a very comfortable, finely finished yacht with all the best mod/cons.

I asked the guys some questions about their experiences in the ocean, how they breathe-up, what recovery times they were having, what they knew about the urge to breathe, how they conserved energy underwater and what safety aspects they knew. I found that their knowledge was extremely varied, some had really good knowledge, some had limited knowledge and some had no knowledge at all, this was not their fault of course, its a very common theme amongst spear fishermen and surfers to have limited knowledge of apnea and aquaticity.  

This was the point where I got very excited, I wanted this training to be a gift, a way that i could help others to really get the most out of their adventures, to help them experience these unique marine environments to the full and then, hopefully, they would share their experiences with others and the word would spread of how we need to preserve these unique marine environments. 

For me, this is why i founded One Ocean, to educate people so they will learn to respect the environment in which they play and intern respect it, hence the company motto; Educate, Respect, Protect.  

I think it was my time in the Military that made me see this way. Aggression will only lead to more aggression, people need to make up their own minds about things, through their own experiences.

 

It was quite a simple day of training, nothing fancy or complicated. A couple of hours theory followed by some static apnea on the beach finished off with safety and rescues. It was a highlight to see one of the lads (Greg off Oceanna) surface after a 4min static fresh as a daisy! And after completing his surface protocol, stare at me in disbelief when i told him his time. Everyone on the day more than doubled their apnea times, some tripled. Man, it was such a good feeling to know that these guys would be diving the next day and have a brand new experiences. They would have more comfortable dives and with complete safety. Because their comfort levels would be higher, their interactions with the marine environment would be completely different, they would be more a part of it, fluid, aquatic and calm rather than being some what uncomfortable in apnea.

It was great training with these guys, they all have have such great knowledge of their own and have already achieved such amazing things, as with all courses, I learn as much from the students as they do from me.

 

The next person I met who I felt would befit greatly from some fun training was actually one of the few remaining full time female ocean adventurers and waterwoman, Liz Clarke. I bumped into Liz whilst anchored up at a beautiful little island in French Polynesia called Huahine.

Liz has spent the last decade cruising the Pacific on her beautiful little sloop, Swell. Swell looked like what i imagined it to look, surfboards laid all over the deck, an out rigger canoe slung to the port side and surf stickers painted the underside of her solar panels.

Liz is one of those people that has the ocean in their blood and you can see the ocean in their eyes. If she is not surfing she is paddling, if she is not paddling she is freediving, if she is not freediving she is sailing and when she is not doing any of those things she is writing about her adventures to help inspire others.

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As with the other group, Liz had a natural ability in the water, her movements were already very fluid and calm. 

After a brief lecture on the basics of freediving we went out to the Pass off Huahine to begin practical exercises. 

Liz’s first “hang” was 2min! (For beginners a “hang” is best performed by pulling your self down a line to a depth of 10m where you will be neutrally buoyant. The diver waits until they feel uncomfortable or feels a diaphragm contraction (urge to breathe), what ever comes first and then surfaces, this is used as an effective warm up for deeper dives in freediving as it evokes the dive reflex) Liz had no contractions, no uncomfortable feelings, she just said she was blissed out listening to the whale song. When i told her her time she did not believe me! She just laughed. You know when you are teaching a well rehearsed waterwoman when she can put the theory into practice immediately. 

After a few more “hangs” and some Constant Weight Training (CWT is when a freediver dives to a desired depth and returns powered only by the use of fins or if the freediver does not wish to use fins, their bare hands and feet) we went to swim with the sharks, it was great feedback to see the sharks approach us instantly, a sign that we were diving well. It was an amazing feeling to see a person having brand new experiences as a result of a newly learned skill. One of the many joys of teaching.

 

You learn a great deal from spending time with other people in environments subject to constant change. They always have a different perspective on things, how they perceive their environments can be very different. For example, a sailor might find that his or her comfort level is sailing in 15 - 20kts of breeze, in these conditions that sailor will notice every little detail in their environment; the crests and troughs of the swell, the birds, the clouds and subtle changes in wind. But if the conditions were to change and push that sailor out of their comfort zone they most likely would not observe nearly as much, they would be focused on the rigging of the boat and steering a true course, immersed in their own little world of survival. So if you are with someone who’s comfort levels exceed your own in challenging conditions, you can learn a great deal indeed, and no doubt this will lead to a very different experience.

Having a positive attitude as a waterman is extremely important, you could be a very practically skilled waterman but if you are a negative, worrisome person then you are self sabotaging your experience. 

The best waterman i have had the privilege of spending time with all have very similar personality traits; optimistic, calm, humble, patient, observant and happy. This is not a coincidence, for these traits will always steer a waterman to the positive side of a situation, they will always back themselves and never panic.

There is an old Buddhist saying that i find explains what leads to the undoing of a waterman in challenging situations quite well, “While walking down a dark alleyway, a man notices a tightly coiled object in his path. A worrisome man would immediately see it as a snake and fear would take over him, a positive man would see it for what it is, a coiled piece of rope”.

 

I am reading an interesting book at the moment called “Deep” by James Nestor. During its chapters which dive into the different adaptions animals have as they descend deeper into the oceans, frequent references are made to the special abilities humans have, almost like special sensors that enable people to do extraordinary things; Some individuals being able to point South no matter where they find themselves, blind people being able to navigate busy streets using a form of echolocation, free divers being able to dive well past 150m and buddhist monks being able to significantly increase their body temperatures through meditation. Never underestimate your own potential! If you always back your self, you will not panic. 

Enabling your body to perform to its full potential, correctly observing and discerning situations and living an experience to the fullest requires obviously some of the skills, knowledge, equipment and experience to perform the task but moreover having an optimistic, calm, humble, patient, observant and happy attitude.

 

The Polynesian people are always on the water, the ocean has always been a strong part of their culture from the beginning, for thats how they populated these islands, by travelling across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the eastern most islands of French Polynesia, as was re-enacted in the epic adventure tale, “Kon Tiki”.

The way French Polynesians relate to the ocean depends a lot on their location. In Papeete, the cultural roots of their connection to the ocean has been somewhat diluted by the French influence and the locals indulge in all sorts of ocean sports, the most popular being outrigger canoeing. They do this not out of necessity, but as i saw it, to experience the ocean the way their ancestors did, a sort of romantic indulgence, that you can easily observe brings them much joy. 

In the more remote islands of French Polynesia like Maupihaa (270NM East of Papeete), the locals relate to their ocean as a recourse, as well as their small islands flora and fauna. They do not indulge in ocean sports, if they need to paddle a canoe it is for a purpose which benefits the community, like fishing or transporting stores from the supply ships. The 24 inhabitants fish daily for small reef fish, hunt lobster from the shallow reefs at night, gather coconut crabs from the islands undergrowth and collect bird eggs from the nesting grounds. The coconut trees which make up 90% of the flora on the island, they use for the thriving Copra industry. The meat is dried under large tarps and tin roofs then shipped to Papeete to be used for coconut oil, the coconut trees are also used for their house frames and the coconut leaves used to clad the roof. Nothing of what the locals gather is wasted, everything is used down to the last bone, leaf or husk.

Although the people of Maupihaa have a strong connection with their environment as a resource, their cultural respect for their environment has been all but lost, this being the common theme throughout the islands i visited in French Polynesia.

But there is hope, there is a shimmer of it resurfacing amongst the young people of French Polynesia. You can see it in the way they proudly name their local reefs and how they manage them from environmental exploitation and how they take pride in how their islands are very clean and relatively free from locally produced rubbish. Out of all the people I have met so far, one young lady stood out to me as leading the pack. Poema Du Prel from Moorea. Poema is like the unknown version of Liz Clarke, spending her time sailing around the Pacific on her little sloop, Black Pearl; surfing, freediving and exploring. She works for a large environmental program called Global Ocean Legacy  being a translator and guide for the many scientists who work tirelessly to maintain healthy environments around the world. Poema does not seek any publicity or praise for her amazing work at all, she prefers to stay silent, following her passion and doing her work for the love of it. She is the most inspirational person I have met on this trip so far.

 

By going out of your way to spend time with these beautiful people really makes for an amazing experience. By showing interest in their culture and having respect for their islands they will often invite you in to their world and take you on some amazing adventures. The locals live the most basic lives with the most basic resources but are so happy and content with their lives. They exude happiness which is so incredibly infectious. Often we would bring in some tuna for the locals as a gesture of our appreciation for their hospitality and they would not let you leave until they have loaded your arms with eggs, fruit and vegetables, they have so little but always want to give so much. Its a beautiful trait and i think one that many people living in busy western lives could learn from.

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I want to finish off this blog with a little story, a short tale that shares an experience of how it pays to get off the well travelled path, take a gamble and choose a less travelled, less known route.

When we were setting sail to leave Maupihaa, we planned to head straight to Nuie via Palmerston (a small island in the Cook Island group). We heard some other travellers that there was another option, to stop at a very unique and remote coral atoll a couple hundred miles off Nuie. This atoll receives very little traffic and therefor is relatively untouched by humans.

After a week at sea, staring out at the endless horizon we finally saw the breakers detonating onto the outer reef.

I could really talk about this place for a long time but in the interests of your eyesight and patience i will keep it down to just one experience.

This place was the ultimate playground! Surf and epic freediving! The reef was alive with everything! I imagine it was what all our reefs looked like 200 years ago. 

I was freediving off a reef edge which disappeared into the infinite blue abyss, I was filming the schools of tuna and patrolling grey reef sharks. I must have been diving the edge for 2 hours and was really in the zone, feeling really relaxed and comfortable. I was absolutely frothing! I had never dove such a rich marine ecosystem! Then the dream became reality, it was already an ultimate experience but it was made even better when we found ourselves surrounded by whales. They were so curious and relaxed. Males, mothers and calves swimming all around us, I had the most rewarding and profound interaction I have ever had. The experience will be for ever imprinted in my mind, and the images i captured will be forever hung in my home. I was so very happy we decided to take a bit of a gamble and head out into the unknown.



It would be so easy to cruise around the Pacific as a passive observer, keeping to your self and limiting your exposure to any form of risk. For some people that is ideal, but for me that is not an option. To live an adventure where you will learn, adapt, capture and experience all their is to experience you have to challenge yourself not only as a waterman but you also have to challenge yourself in all aspects of your personality, having the courage to break through those old habitual patterns, let go and live life to the full. What has happened in the past is done and finished, what is going to happen is out of your control and unknown, what matters the most is right now. Is your attitude conducive to attracting the most positive and amazing experience you can have? Because as you are well aware, negative thoughts work against you in every aspect of your life. 


You create your own experiences. 

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A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor

It was always going to be a challenging course with the weather looking like it was not going to be pleasant with winds predicted to be from the south to south west in excess of 20kts, swell at 2.5m and possible thunderstorms. But as the 6 watermen students sat down for their first theory session, I told them this was why they were here, to learn how their bodies worked in challenging conditions... they all agreed.

The course consisted Brooksy, Devo, Rod, Isaac, Devian and Steve who were all very experienced watermen with many years of experience in all ocean conditions. After asking each of them to share what "spooks" them in the ocean, it was clear that the main focus of the course would be apnea, dealing with high CO2 and sea survival. The weather, as bad as it looked, was going to be a great help in achieving this objective. I was extremely excited to get into it!

The banter started straight away with Brooksy, the extremely honest boxing trainer, taking the lead in the piss taking. By half way through the first day my belly was sore from laughter! It was going to be a very fun course! Unfortunately for Rod, Brooksy took a liking to his Camo spearfishing wetsuit and from that point onward Rod bore the name of "Rambo".

After a solid session of Static training the men finished the first day strongly, all achieving times of 2min45sec and over. But more importantly for me, the team were performing well in their breathing techniques and comprehended the importance of proper breathing for apnea.

I was woken up on the morning of the second day by the wind and rain, it was gale force conditions... I smiled. This is exactly what the men need. 

I met the team down at the beach. You know when you have to brace yourself before you open the car door so as it does not rip away from the car body... thats what it was like! So we got geared up, I gave the brief and we got into it... No fins, no weight belts, no boards, pure watermanship... Rescues, resuscitation techniques, ocean swimming, sea survival and apnea. The team performed so very well during the ocean training session which tested the men both mentally and physically in all elements of watermanship. The team were faced with strong winds, rain, currents and swell during the session and had to use all their new learned skills to achieve their objectives.

Day two was finished off with an easy session in the pool were the men explored their ability to perform multiple breath holds with an ever decreasing recovery time. By the end of the session the team all achieved 3min breath holds with only a single minute to recover.

The final day of the Specialist Watermanship Program is always the highlight for the teams... Depth awareness training. This is were the teams can put the two days of watermanship training to the test in the open ocean. 

By having a relaxed mind, a positive attitude and by being totally focused on the objectives at hand the men achieved some great performances in the depth training session. The team repetitively dove to depths of up to 15m with ease in the challenging conditions. What was the best thing for me to see, far more important than depth or time, was the fact the men performed all the techniques of watermanship very well; breathing, apnea, streamlining, movement, equalisation, situational awareness and rescue. 

Seeing the men looking so good in the water, adopting the new skills and using them well and seeing them with huge smiles on their faces is the best! It means that i have done my job. For its not about numbers, its about having fun and being confident and compotent in the ocean. 

Thanks so very much to Russell Ord for the amazing shots and for his wealth of knowledge in all aspects of watermanship. Also a huge thanks to Cape Dive for taking us ocean obsessed people out even when the conditions don't look the best! Your a legend Tracy! 








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The South West Experience

I love how raw the south west is; surf pounding the rugged coastline, howling offshore winds, swell lines stacked to the horizon, deep blue off shore waters teaming with marine life. There is no better training ground for waterman and waterwoman, with the option of indulging in all the varieties of ocean frivolities. 

A bit of fun post training at canal rocks, Yallingup. Photo courtesy of Christian McLeod.

A bit of fun post training at canal rocks, Yallingup. Photo courtesy of Christian McLeod.

Its for this reason that One Ocean decided to pack up shop in Byron Bay and head to the south west for a few months and bring Watermanship Training to the home of Australian big wave surfing.

One Ocean has now set up shop with professional waterman Russell Ord. Russell attended a Specialist Watermanship Program in Dec 2013 and performed very strongly. He was, in turn invited to become an ambassador for the company and since that time his watermanship skills and knowledge have grown remarkably.

Russell Ord in his element. Photo courtesy of Trent Slatter.

Russell Ord in his element. Photo courtesy of Trent Slatter.

To be honest, i was pretty nervous about standing in front of the biggest chargers in WA and sharing the knowledge that i have gained over the past 10 years, “what could i teach someone who surfs 15ft south west slabs? At the same time I was very excited to see what these amazing watermen would achieve with this new learned knowledge.

South West Slab. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord

South West Slab. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord

I often get asked what the purpose of teaching these courses is? To survive a heavy wipeout? To be able to take multiple waves on the head? To learn how to hold your breath? 

Sure, the above mentioned are some of the reasons why people are motivated to come along to the programs, but for me, its about seeing and experiencing the ocean from a different perspective. When you are completely at peace in your environment, when you are confident in your ability to handle the unknown, your perception of that environment is very different to that of a mind full of anxiety and worrisome thoughts about something that might happen.

You notice every detail, every shimmer of light, every shade of blue, every swell lump and ocean movement. The way you ride your craft changes also, to that of fluidity, composure and calmness. To put it simply, you enjoy yourself more, you get a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment that leaves you with a huge felling of achievement. 

For this reason, the courses are suited for everyone, at all levels of watermanship ability, not just the big wave crew. 

The team relaxing on the surface, feeling comfortable 2km out to sea off the coast of South West WA during a Specialist Watermanship Program. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord. 

The team relaxing on the surface, feeling comfortable 2km out to sea off the coast of South West WA during a Specialist Watermanship Program. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord. 

So far there has been 14 watermen who have attended the programs since the 6th March, all of these guys have been such amazing people to train with and all of them having had different motivations for attending the programs. These span from wanting to learn to handle a wipeout better, wanting to learn how to swim better, to overcome fears of sharks, to learn how to rescue or to learn to understand how their mind works in a stressful situation.

From the feedback that i have had to far, all these watermen had achieved, to some level, their objective. That makes me feel so very happy. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share knowledge and my passion.

The team feeling comfortable to pose for a photo at depth. Photo courtesy of Christian McLeod.

The team feeling comfortable to pose for a photo at depth. Photo courtesy of Christian McLeod.

So I guess you are interested to hear how the guys have been going? Before i let you know, I want you to understand the numbers are meaningless if the way you achieve these numbers is not right. For example, I would much rather see a student achieve a 2min breath hold with perfect breathing and feeling very clam than a student achieving a 4min breath hold with bad technique and feeling stressed. With the correct technique and a calm mind the results will come, without much effort at all.

All the students on the courses have achieved static breath holds of 3min and over, and these statics have been achieved passively, with no tension or “pushing through” anything. Some of the students have been diving to depths of over 25m and some diving to 20m in body board fins. Again these free immersion and constant weight dives have been done calmly and with comfort.

Avid tow surfer Dean O'Shaughnessy ascending from an 18m dive off the coast of South West WA. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord.

Avid tow surfer Dean O'Shaughnessy ascending from an 18m dive off the coast of South West WA. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord.

The teams have performed strongly and with great aquaticity in the ocean training sessions, which they are subjected to hours of open water training where they learn to deal with increasing levels of CO2 whilst remaining clam and focused.

The teams have also performed strongly in the rescue scenarios where they have to retrievee casualties from a depth of 10m, perform the correct rescue techniques, tow the casualties to safety and then perform basic life support.

On the final day of the course the teams have to perform a series of depth training exercises 2km off the coast of South West WA. The guys have been diving very strong with the last group impressing me with their ability to remain calm and focused dealing with the huge chop and gale force winds.

Irish surf photographer, Christian McLeod feeling comfortable exploring a ship wreck in the South West. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord.

Irish surf photographer, Christian McLeod feeling comfortable exploring a ship wreck in the South West. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord.

Putting the breath hold aside, according to the feedback, the 2 best things that the students have enjoyed learning the most is:

  1. How to train properly. Training for a waterman is very unique, there are not to many sports out there which require such a broad range of fitness, strength and technique. The key? Be specific with your training and train in the stimulus!
  2. How to breathe properly, especially after a wipeout. There is so much information on the internet, from so many sources, and most of it is incorrect and very dangerous. It makes me feel good to know that the guys are doing it right and doing it safe.

 

Some of the guys from the courses been have already put their new learned skills to the test in the last swell we had from the 18th - 20th March. It was so rewarding to hear the stories of multiple wave hold downs and huge swims being performed with no stress. It really is a highlight for me, to hear the stoke in the lads voices after they achieve something new, over come a mental block or gain a new level of confidence.

Professional waterman Russell Ord putting his skills to the test while shooting at "the right". Photo courtesy of Gordon Becker.

Professional waterman Russell Ord putting his skills to the test while shooting at "the right". Photo courtesy of Gordon Becker.

I am really looking forward to the next few months of training, and observing the perceived levels of watermanship endurance being broken, revealing a new level of aquaticity and confidence.

The training that will take place is not only going to occur during the courses but also in the weekly training sessions that are happening, in which all ex-students are encouraged to attend in an aim to continue to increase their watermanship ability and connect a like minded group of watermen and waterwoman. 

 

Enjoying a light free immersion dive at the end of a depth awareness session during a Specialist Watermanship Program. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord. 

Enjoying a light free immersion dive at the end of a depth awareness session during a Specialist Watermanship Program. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord. 


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Local grommets perform in Intermediate Waterman Course

Patricki, Cody and Ollie looking stoked after completing their final course assessment, a unconscious waterman, unassisted rescue.  

Patricki, Cody and Ollie looking stoked after completing their final course assessment, a unconscious waterman, unassisted rescue.

 

Blue sky's and blue water topped off a great final day of an Intermediate Waterman Course with local grommet chargers Patricki, Cody and Ollie. The three boys at just 15 years old showed maturity in the water far beyond their years. The boys learned all the skills necassary to keep themselves safe in the ocean as well the ability to rescue others, these included:

  • Apnea Training 
  • Advanced Swimming Techniques
  • Freediving Skills
  • Sea Survival
  • Recue and First Aid 
Cody performing a series of controlled recovery breaths after easily completing a 2min30sec static apnea.

Cody performing a series of controlled recovery breaths after easily completing a 2min30sec static apnea.

By the end of the course the boys were easily perferming breath holds of over 2 minutes and up to 2 minutes 30 seconds. They also perfomed advanced CO2 dynamic apnea training tables with underwater swims with no fins of up to 40m.

The boys performing a static apnea training table  

The boys performing a static apnea training table

 

The course not only prepares them physically by swimming up to 4 km each day in all conditions but also mentally through a series of intense apnea training.

It was a pleasure to train with such a mature and positive group of young watermen and i look forward to trainong and surfing with them again very soon. well done grommets! very impressed!

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One Ocean Waterman - Train to succeed

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Victory awaits him who has everything in order, luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time, this is called bad luck.” Roald Amundsen

 The 6 Principals of training:

 Strength

When it comes to watermanship, strength is very specific. The power needed to paddle through a barrage of sets, the ability to swim through confused seas and aerated water, the ability to rescue an unconscious patient in surf and high seas… these are just a few examples of specific strength.

 Flexibility

 The flexibility component of training is not only focused on for injury prevention, but it is also important for the flexibility of your muscles to help conserve oxygen and maintain a relaxed state whilst in a “wipeout” situation.

 Depth Awareness

 Having the ability to equalise your ears, to understand the principals of positive, neutral and negative buoyancy, understanding and controlling airspaces in your body and equipment then using them to your advantage and becoming familiar with the feeling of water pressure and gaining  a perception of depth.

 Specificity

 Train in the “stimulus”. A watermans playground: The ocean, seas, rivers and lakes. Their machine: Their body. Their vehicle: Their craft.

Conduct training in the watermans playground, adapting their machine to handle the stresses that will be encountered and become an expert in handling your craft.

 Oxygen

 The second most important aspect of watermanship.

Applying training principals to have the ability to use oxygen more efficiently within your bodily systems and to unsure recovery from activity is as fast as possible, understanding the science behind breath hold and applying it, understanding and applying specificity to training, learning how to breath for watermanship.

 Structure

 The most important aspect of watermanship training. This principal will support all the others, if this fails so will the rest.

How strong is your mind? Panic, irrational fear and negative thoughts will lead to disaster. 

"Joe Knight is an incredible waterman, and the training I have received has certainly allowed me to keep pushing the boundaries of my photography" - Russell Ord.

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The Solomons!!!

The One Ocean Team is off to the remote Solomon Islands for two weeks to run a freediving camp. We will be back in civilisation on the 10th October. Stay tuned for the tales of adventure and exploration when we get back! 

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Ocean Fit

A few weekends ago, I had the most amazing experience of training and surfing with the biggest group of legends. So I thought that I would share it with you guys!!!

So... imagine this? 

Surfing, freediving, pilates, empty beaches, epic food and great company... all in one weekend! Epic right!? Thats what the Ocean Fit weekend was all about.

On the morning of the camp, I woke up at my beach home where the team was meeting to get into the day of training and I could hear the surf pounding on the sand... i jumped out of bed and ran out the back gate, over the sand dune to see perfect 3-4ft ft right and left peaks. As I was admiring the surf, I was met by the team, led by fellow Ocean Fit trainer, Wahine on Waves founder and pilates extraordinaire Fi Duncan. We just stood there watching the perfect waves and all feeling so keen to get into the day!

We laid out the towels on the beach and got into an amazing pilates session covering all the important balancing and strengthening exercises crucial to increasing your surfing ability. I was amazed how strong and balanced I felt after holding each pose, I was really getting excited to get into the surf! As we were going through the poses following Fionas lead, we were watching these perfect barrels, imagining we were locked in, feeling strong and balanced... it was such an amazing session! Fiona's charismatic and professional approach to the session left us wanting more! A great start to the camp!

After the pilates session, we all hit the water. The waves were pumping with everyone testing out their new found strength and getting their teeth into some tasty barrels! There was only one casualty with Julian Hansford from New Zealand, snapping his board during a gnarly lip attack! But in true kiwi style, he quickly located another board and 10 minutes later he was back out there! 

After the surf, we all had a delicious bite to eat at the local cafe and then it was down to the river to get onto some waterman training starting with static apnea... we ran through a great CO2 static table with the team finishing the table with smiles on their faces. From there, it was into the more surf specific action with a no fins, dynamic CO2 table... You won't find any training better than this for surfing! By the end of the watermanship session, the team was well buggered and ready for another round of veggie burgers at the cafe!

Sitting down to a cup of tea with the crew of Ocean Fit, reflecting on the day we had been through, I felt very satisfied with the training Fiona and I provided. Strength, flexibility, body balancing, core strength, spine mobility through Pilates combined with Watermanship skills made up of training principals, breathing techniques, apnea, freediving and advanced swimming techniques... topped off with an amazing surf session. So stoked!

A big thanks to Kylie, Julian, Rachel, Fiona, Lia and Jacque for coming along and bringing so much energy and enthusiasm to the table! It was such a pleasure training with all of you and I am pumped to get into the water with you again soon!

Stay tuned to One Ocean International and Wahini on Waves for the next Ocean Fit Camp coming up in November!

All the epic shots were taken by the amazing Lia Barrett. Oh! Except the waves and the bubble... they're mine!




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Motivation, Training and Goals

Motivation, Training and Goals…

I’ve always told my students how beneficial it is to have extremely motivating and inspiring goals to help them push through the hard training sessions and to keep their minds positive and focused…

I also learned in the military that you never ask someone to perform a task which you cannot perform yourself…  with this in mind I thought it appropriate to write a short post letting you all know what I have been up to over the last six months and what I am super excited about for the future!

After finishing the Caribbean Tour onboard Kuhela with legend sailor, adventurer and human Josh Knox, I arrived in Australia well trained and feeling fit, I had a goal of setting some new PB’s in Constant Weight bi-fins and no fins in the middle of 2014 so I wanted to keep my fitness levels growing with extremely specific training, focusing on spending as much time as I could in the ocean and steering away from pool training. 

Josh and I diving an offshore atoll in Belize

Josh and I diving an offshore atoll in Belize

The months of December through to April was full of running some great waterman and freediving courses (I must admit I am not the best at the social media update stuff, sorry about that!)… Its great running these courses regularly as it keeps me in the training frame of mind and gives me the opportunity to be involved in Apnea training whilst teaching, but I had to constantly remind myself that this did not count as a training session!

With the help of a few great mates like Anthony Superina, Lucas Handley and Peter Derham  I was able to keep myself motivated, positive and push the CO2 tables at least 3 times a week with the rest of the week being made up of core strength work, long slow distance training and intervals.

Anthony, Chris, Will and I after a training session in Byron

Anthony, Chris, Will and I after a training session in Byron

Then came along Simone Green... an amazing human, freediver and all round waterwoman from South Africa, she came at such a good time as it gave me extra motivation to train harder with an amazing new training partner and she also came with some amazing advice on Apnea specific training with her years of experience training with some of the world’s best freedivers. Through meeting Simone I found myself with a ticket to Egypt and training with the infamous Umberto Pellizzari and attending an Apnea Academy instructor’s course, attending a stage with Umberto Pellizari and finally in Dahab training with Jonathan Sunnex from New Zealand! Truly the most amazing opportunity I have ever had in my 20 years in the sport of freediving. I am so humbled and grateful to have this amazing opportunity… 

Descending into the Blue Hole in Egypt

Descending into the Blue Hole in Egypt

I also experienced something brand new… a new feeling of humble. I always feel a sense of humbleness being surrounded by such amazing free divers, waterman and waterwoman like in the Caribbean at the Vertical Blue Competition, in Victoria training with the big wave charges or in Egypt training with Apnea Academy. My new feeling of humbleness was after over training leading up to the Apnea academy course and subsequently falling ill in Egypt… On a training camp with Jonathan Sunnex, lying on my back, breathing up for a 60m monofin attempt and turning at 50m feeling tired and weak… and arriving at the surface saying to myself, hey Joe, its cool, just let go and accept this is where your body is at. As easy as it sounds, it was frustrating at the time but such a good feeling after accepting it. This really brought me back to what was most important… enjoying the ocean!

Being humbled by impressive waterman like Skeeta Derham, Russell Ord, Luke Burnes and Grady Fink in Victoria

Being humbled by impressive waterman like Skeeta Derham, Russell Ord, Luke Burnes and Grady Fink in Victoria

It was to no surprise that with Apnea Academy being the birth place of modern freediving, the first freediving school, and carrying the knowledge of the late Jacque Mayol through the words and wisdom of Umberto Pellizari, that the Instructors course was the most physically and mentally challenging freediving experiences I have had, with Umberto Pellizari and the other amazingly talented instructors testing all my skills and knowledge as a freediver and a teacher to obtain the instructors rating and being part of an amazing apnea family. The freedivers I spent time with in Egypt were some of the most upstanding humans I have ever met… positive, humble, professional, extremely talented and inspiring.

Long days of Static Apnea Training at the Apnea Academy Instructors Course with Umberto looking on.

Long days of Static Apnea Training at the Apnea Academy Instructors Course with Umberto looking on.

Apnea Academy Instructors Course Graduation

Apnea Academy Instructors Course Graduation

Training Camp with Jonathan Sunnex in Dahab

Training Camp with Jonathan Sunnex in Dahab

The opportunity of becoming an Apnea Academy Instructor not only means great training to be had because of the extreme motivation to sustain the highest level of freediving fitness and knowledge but also an amazing opportunity for One Ocean to expand its Freediving training potential and with it the level of Freediving education.

So, what’s happening at the moment??

  • A Facebook page called One Ocean Waterman has been developed so that all past and present One Ocean students can keep in touch and organize training sessions, dives, surf’s and all round awesome adventures!
  • New and revised waterman and freediving courses running up and down the east coast of Australia.
  • Tonga on the 16th July to run a One Ocean Freediving Safety and Rescue Course and research the whale swims and ocean adventuring for camps in October and December.
  • Running a combined camp with the awesome Fiona Duncan from Wahine on Waves from the 7th until the 10 August
  • Running workshops at the Byron Bay Surf Festival with Russell Ord…
  • Continuing to provide services to volunteer organizations like Sea Shepherd and I Am Water Conservation Trust

Yes!! Exciting and motivating times ahead! Personally I need these adventures to look forward to, to keep me honest in following my passions whilst keeping me motivated and focused.

In regards to my goals… Being stoked! Training hard, continuing to work on all the disciplines of watermanship; freediving, surfing, windsurfing, ocean swimming… and for One Ocean… to continue following the values of the organization:

  • Increasing awareness of the marine environment
  • Promoting a positive, active and healthy lifestyle
  • Creating a positive, pro-active and aware safety culture
  • Maintaining a strong connection to people, cultures and the environment.


But moreover continuing to build a waterman family who respects the ocean and value great company, encouraging each other and others to keep positive, motivated and to continue achieving their goals and dreams…

Thanks for reading and look forward to getting in the ocean with you all soon!!!


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Advanced Watermanship Course - Victoria, Feb 11-13.

Diary of the Advanced Waterman Course

11 – 13 Feb, Mornington Peninsula

It was with much excitement that I met the 3 watermen that would be attending the course; Grady Fink, Luke Burnes and Russell Ord, at Personal Trainer Andy Dells training space at St Andrews in Victoria to deliver the first of two Advanced Watermanship theory lectures. These three lads are in the higher end of watermanship ability, with a great deal of experience and exposure to some heavy situations, I was really pumped to get into some super fun and intense mental and physical training and do my best to enhance an already extremely high level of ability.

We started off the lecture with a basic rundown in Anatomy and Physiology to refresh the mens memory of how their bodies work relating it back to the situations in which they may find themselves. With that out of the way we got into the breath work, which the team... I found out later was super pumped to get into! Practically learning about CO2 and O2 levels during breath hold is always quite confronting but the lads took to it extremely well, adapting amazingly to the warm ups, breathing techniques and performing dry statics from 2min30sec  -  3min10sec! Next was an extremely important part of the course… planning and SAR (Search and Rescue). With these three men surfing in very remote locations it is super important to have a plan of what to do if things go wrong, which they often do when you are not physically or mentally prepared…

All round it was a great afternoon of training which I very much enjoyed! Having Skeeta Derham there assisting with his wealth of knowledge and experience in surfing waves of consequence was great, helping to relate the freediving principals of breath hold to an intense hold down situation.

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12th Feb

With the team working very hard to keep their fitness in check and always open to new ways of improving, the opening lecture of the final theory session was on training principals where we discussed ways in which to make their training more specific and proactive. Again I was so impressed with the teams approach to new ideas and theories of how to improve, such a pleasure to be working with positive and proactive athletes.

Again we touched on topics more related to the teams performance in the ocean… Such as Advanced Swimming Techniques; On this topic a great discussion took place on the best methods in which the men had found to maintain their strength and focus in intense situations, we then refined these techniques as much as possible introducing all the principals of Advanced Watermanship to ensure adequate recovery and maintenance of speed and strength. When I have discussions like this with watermen it always sends shivers up my spine because I can see the passion in there eyes and hear it in their voices when they discuss different situations that they have been in… God its good!

Next it was into some Remote Area First Aid to prepare the team for situations which occur often surfing in heavy waves and more often than not far away from help… Going through a Basic Life Support protocol contextualised to their needs, common injuries with signs and symptoms, treatments and evacuation etc... finishing off with advanced observation taking including circulatory, respiratory and neurological.

By that stage the team was well and truly ready to get into the ocean… and to be honest so was I!!! The ocean is were its at, its were the men will be using there skills and its crucial to get the team training in that element! 

Rescues, tows, fitness testing, swimming techniques, apnea training… it was a big afternoon! We even had a great swim with a few friendly seals! So good! And as i suspected the men were like fish in the water impressing me with great technique and strength! It was a very humbling experience seeing these three watermen in their element! We had Skeeta on his 9ft Gun as safety and it certainly added to the scene… every time i looked up at Skeet paddling that huge board it reminded me why these three men are here, to train their minds and bodies in preparation to surf waves of consequence, to push the limits of human endurance… to live life to the fullest! 

 

13th February

After epic ocean training the previous evening the team was pumped to get into the core of the Advanced Waterman Program… Apnea training, which is the final day and also the biggest day of the course… Over 6 hours in the water!

After running the team through a yoga practice and warm up we got into the pool for a series of apnea tests including static and dynamic apnea, this is done to set a base for the men to work off to gauge their progress and to install confidence in their ability.

(For those people reading this unfamiliar with these terms, Static Apnea is when an athlete holds their breath whilst floating face down on the surface of the water for as long as they can and Dynamic Apnea is when the athlete swims underwater for as far as they can with fins or without usually done in a 25m to 50m pool).

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WOW! Thats all i can say! Static Apnea performances of up to 4min! Dynamic Apnea No Fins performances of up to 65m! And done with ease might i add, with all the men coming up fresh and performing their surface protocols perfectly! Very impressive! 

With the team doing so well in the testing and overcoming some mental barriers it was time to put their mental endurance to the test with a series of underwater disorientation drills in which they are tumbled, turned and pushed underwater with huge amounts of air getting blown in their faces to simulate a hold down… it is up to the men to push through the mental barriers which are encounted with high heart rates and limited breath whilst being held underwater. This is where the perceived limits of mental endurance are smashed! Now... during the first high heart rate performance i have found it common that all watermen with no previous training hold their breath for about 10 seconds… we tripled this easily! Amazing work team!! Putting theory into practice in a functional way!  

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A well deserved lunch of salad wraps, fruit and muesli bars were ravenously eaten with big smiles and lots of laughter! Its amazing how fatigued the body gets from breath hold work alone.

Next…. Into the ocean for Sea Survival and Rescue!

With life jackets on and fins in hand we headed up the Blairgowrie jetty to practice vessel abandonment and sea survival. After the men started to get a bit close with legs wrapping around one another in the group huddle we decided that was enough and got into the other drills. Its so important to maintain a good sense of humour in survival situations as it increases moral and instills a strong will to survive.

Having the ability to freedive to at least 10m to retrieve an unconscious casualty is very important as a lot of the offshore breaks these watermen surf are in deep water and only break in large swells… so thats what we did and the men did it amazingly! Easily freediving the 11m to retrive the casualty (me) and swimming to the surface to carry out the protocol.

To finish off i thought it necessary to teach the men a swimming technique we used to do all the time at the Navy Dive School… group finning, preparing the men for the event of the ski breaking down and having to fin ashore whilst staying together, we swam the long distance easily and in good time with only a bit of lactic buildup! ha ha!

As we walked up onto the beach i ran through my head what we had done over the last three days and felt satisfied that i had done all that i could to have trained these three watermen to the best of my ability in all the aspects of ocean awareness that is applicable to there safety. I am very impressed with what they have achieved and would not hesitate to put my life in their hands if the time came. 

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I must again take this time to thank Skeeta Derham for all his help in running the course and making sure the men were safe during their training also using his knowledge and experience to fill in the gaps in the translation of the training principals into a functional and practical way applicable to waves of consequence.

A big thanks to Grady, Luke and Russ for attending the course, it was a pleasure training with you and i learned a lot myself just being in your company. Best of luck with your training and I hope all your ambitions in the big wave surfing arena come to fruition. I look forward to getting in the ocean for an adventure with you all soon.

Also a big thanks to Andy Dell for the use of his training space and a massive thanks to  Russell Ord for the photos that he so kindly supplied for the blog.

 

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Diary of the Freediving Apnea Level 1 Course - 26 Jan 14

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24 Jan

It was an impressive first day of the Freediving Apnea 1 course here in Byron Bay with all the students doing so very well!
We had an awesome morning talking freediving and science followed by 3 hours in the pool! A big pool session full of exercises in basic freediving fundamentals and some great 50m dynamics with great form with some impressive dolphin kick and no fins dynamics done too! Well done team! Frothing for the morning of PB's and ocean adventures! Yew!

 

25 Jan

Another amazing day of freediving training today! Lucas Handley from Tribes of the Big Blue came in today as guest freediver to share some of his extensive knowledge and it was so awesome having him onboard! He bought a wealth of experience to the course and such a great vibe!
This morning was all about personal best attempts in Static Apnea and Dynamic Apnea… we had some very impressive results with some Static Apnea performances of well over 3min! Also some outstanding Dynamic performances with a 65m no fins performed! And many 50 - 80m Dynamic Bi Fins! Such an awesome pool session! 

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In the afternoon we went out to Julian Rocks and got into some Constant Weight training… we had challenging conditions out there with limited vis and choppy seas but the team focused on their technique and smashed the first open water dives with some outstanding performances of up to 15m… Such an epic day of freediving action! So pumped for tomorrow when we get into some deeper water and have fun exploring Julian Rocks! 
So privileged to be working and training with such an awesome group of people!

 

26 Jan

After a good rest the team was at the dive shop at 0630 ready to go! Excited after yesterday’s dives they were keen to get out in the ocean and get into some great freediving action.

On the ride out off Cape Byron there was a 15 – 20knt south easterly blowing, this added to the adventurous atmosphere of Julian Rocks. Once out at “the rock” Lucas, Anthony and I jumped over the side to set up the buoys and we could not believe how blue the water was compared with the previous day! Anthony was pumped with the camera in hand ready to take some great shots! Lucas then turned to the students and in typical waterman style said, “its perfect mackerel temperature out here! Lets go! We might see a school”

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So the team jumped in consisting of Hiedy, Kieran, Sam, Chris, Will and Matthew… after a few warm up dives and acclimatization they were ready to go. Each of the team came through to the dive lines one at a time performing multiple dives including no mask drills, arms only ascent drills, streamlining exercises, free immersion dives, constant weight dives and hangs.

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In the end the team did some great dives to 15m and their technique had improved significantly from the day before. One of the key points from the previous day was to, “focus on the techniques and the depth will come” and this advice had a great effect on the level of diving today… Well done team!

Some of the team had some ear problems but its not to worry… Its all part of freediving and your ears will be back to health in a few days ready to go for next weekend! Yew!

Unfortunately due to an increase in the wind and swell whilst out at sea we had to cancel the deeper dives… the team will meet again at Byron Dive next Saturday to dive the 21m gutter off the NW end of Julian Rocks, one of my most faviroute dives in the area and I am so pumped to join this amazing crew and get into some more awesome freediving action!

Again well done to Hiedy, Kieran, Sam, Chris, Will and Matthew, you all did such a great job and are already well on your way to becoming extremely competent and professional freedivers! Also another big thankyou to Lucas Handly and Anthony Superina for your help with the course, you are both a wealth of knowledge and it’s a pleasure to be in the ocean with you. Legends!

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Protecting the Turtles of El Salvador - Joe Knight

Photo by Josh Knox, sails and sandals

Photo by Josh Knox, sails and sandals

So Tom in his super enthusiastic voice said, “come on, I’ll show you! They’re out there poaching eggs right now!” As we walked on to the beach, for as far as you could see in each direction I could make out flash light beams being turned on and off intermittently, I counted at least 10 different lights! “There they are” said Tom, “collecting as many turtle eggs as they can find!”

Turtle poaching in Central America is serious business, and on the 31 May 2013, 26yo Jairo Mora Sandoval, a local Costa Rican conservationist was kidnapped by at least five masked men with guns and brutally murdered while working for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Trust (WIDECAST) with four foreign female volunteers. Mora had worked monitoring and protecting baby turtle nests at Moin beach on the northern Caribbean coast.

Tom Pollak got his inspiration for La Tortuga Verde (The Green Turtle) from an incident in 2005, he was asleep on his property and was awoken by a man poaching turtle eggs as they were being laid from right next to where he was sleeping! He just could not believe this was happening so boldly on his property; unchecked, unregulated and literally devastating the turtles population. This incident prompted Tom to set up La Tortuga Verde, and he has been running the turtle sanctuary since 2009.

The Turtles that are common off the coast of El Salvador are the threatened olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), critically endangered leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the critically endangered hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).

 

Photo by Josh Knox, Sails and Sandals

Photo by Josh Knox, Sails and Sandals

The culture…

Historically, Turtle eggs have always been consumed by the local populations of Central America and the eggs are considered a delicacy, with the egg prices fluctuating with the demand... but with a massively increasing population it is completely unsustainable and is driving all Turtle species in Central America towards extinction, “Just arrest one person and it would influence others not to poach” says Tom

“It’s in the culture to eat eggs and it is a delicacy, we need to show people how beautiful they are so they want to protect them”, says Tom

 

CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species is an international agreement between countries that aims to protect species from extinction as a result of trade (this includes meat and eggs), El Salvador is one of the countries that has signed this agreement.

In addition in 2008 Tom spent a year harassing the government of El Salvador to restrict or abolish the practice of the taking of turtle eggs, the following year the selling of turtle eggs was declared illegal by the government of El Salvador

 

The Sanctuary

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La Tortuga Verde is helped run by locals (extremely well paid and well looked after) and friendly foreigners who pass through to lend a hand, like Harry a super friendly, happy and enthusiastic American from Florida who has been working with Tom for the last 8 months. Harry gained his experience working with Turtles from the Turtle Conservatory in Florida and I found his knowledge to be quite extensive and his passion for protecting these amazing Turtles impressive to say the least!

 

La Tortuga Verde has everything from nurseries, conservation volunteers, hatch and release programs, paid beach monitoring personell and more. After the eggs are planted they take around 49 – 52 days to hatch and everything is captured on video for the purposes of environmental education, “it’s all about exposure and education” says Tom. In 2008 La Turtuga Verde purchased, re-buried and released over 10,000 eggs back into the wild! This number has continued to grow every year since... 

Tom has also created a Green Zone in front of his property which has about 50ft of coverage to try and set an example to the other land owners and which is a deterrent for the many poachers eyeing off the Sanctuary and its eggs, along with this green zone Tom has hired and trained local people “vigil anti’s” as he calls them, who patrol his property for thieves and who also notify him of eggs that have been poached in the area so Tom can buy them, replant them and release them once hatched...

A Solution??

The way Tom is approaching the conservation of the Turtles of El Salvador is very pro – active and very unique… he has started up a TV series which promotes the Turtle populations as a viable tourism option and heavily involves the local community, especially the kids!

Tom with the kids filming his TV Show

Tom with the kids filming his TV Show

 

The more exposure we can get on this issue the better, to expose the environmental exploitation that is occurring around the Central American coast; like the stories of prawn fisherman cutting the back legs off turtles to get to the eggs in their bellies and throw them back in the sea to bleed to death, or the “Calvo” super trawler that is operating out off the coast of El Salvador raping the ocean of all it has including the catch of huge quantities of sharks for their fins…

The solution… is education and exposure as Tom put it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I see that the older generation is too far gone… stuck in their old habits and habitual patterns of environmental exploitation, it’s the younger generation that is going to save so many species from extinction and are actually keeping the world environmentally aware… I still have hope.

 

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Picking Up Our Game - Peter "Skeeta" Derham

Skeeta..... a super passionate ocean explorer, waterman, One Ocean Advanced Waterman Course Finisher and all round legend! Spend a bit of time with Skeeta and you are soon infected by his passion for the great ocean adventure!

Photo by ODOG

Photo by ODOG

Skeeta has been ripping waves since a micro grommet and the ambitious Victorian waterman continues to blow minds with his solid surfing style...

Through Skeetas adventures chasing huge waves around the world comes a solid respect for the environment, a deep seeded righteousness that keeps Skeeta being an amazing example of how surfers should treat this amazing environment in which we spend so much of our time....

Skeeta wrote this epic article after a recent overseas adventure...

Picking Up Our Game...

 

Our oceans and beaches don't ask much from us, but we accept a lot from them. As surfers we enjoy the sun, the sand, the waves, and we all have incredible memories of times spent on the coast. Perhaps we take all this for granted? However, now more than ever, our natural playground is screaming out for help.

How many times have you sat down and actually said 'thank you' to our big blue oceans or white sandy beaches for the enjoyment and fulfillment they provide us with?

Australians are proud beach goers, but as populations rapidly increase and threaten to dismantle our pristine beaches, it seems that our manners and respect have let slip - who is offering thanks anymore?

Recently, after a storm and the subsequent flooding of local rivers, a world class international beachbreak was left resembling that of a rubbish tip; plastic Coke bottles, chip packets and styrene cups had all been washed onto the white sand beach. The next morning, as many people were enjoying the perfect surf, it seemed attitudes towards pollution and rubbish management had been well overlooked.

Australians, Americans, Europeans and Brazilians, all fortunate enough to have the financial backing and freedom of surf travel, were sampling some of Mother Nature's finest assets, perfect head-high barrels in beautiful warm water. After a blissful morning of sun and crystal clear cylinders, the vibe was electric, however the beach was covered in extruded plastic toxins.

Surfers of all nationalities were staring at their feet as they kicked and rubbed salt into Mother Nature's veins. Not one person had picked up a single piece of rubbish in a morning that would have seen a few hundred beach goers walk past hundreds of metres of littered beach!

I asked myself the question: "Is it now not cool to walk down the beach after a surf with a empty plastic bag and fill it?"

So, after enjoying the morning session, I left with a sick feeling in my stomach, only to return with four garbage bags ready to say thank you and make amends to this beautiful beach. Within fifteen minutes, and with the help of a friend, we had overfilled our bags and restored 400 metres of beach back to its pristine glory.

Walking back up the beach loaded with rubbish I had these thoughts that we, as surfers and proud beach goers, need to change our attitudes and raise awareness and do with the rubbish what we are all thinking deep down. That is, BIN IT!

The great thing about cleaning up beaches is there are no critics, there are no doubters and no negative feedback that can arise from filling up a bag full of rubbish and dumping it in its correct place. Grab a friend, grab a bag, go for a walk, and say 'thank you' for the privileged lifestyle that we surfers all live.

Our oceans and beaches are not to dissimilar from our cars, houses, and partners too, they all need a little servicing from time to time. If spending fifteen minutes is all it takes to keep our watery playground serviced, then lets all jump onboard, and watch how the ocean shines on you the next time you enjoy her beauty!

"Yesterday, after another big rain, the beach was loaded with rubbish again. Myself and two Aussies started with three garbage bags and after almost two hours we had over twenty people lending a hand. We cleaned over a kilometre of beach and filled fifteen garbage bags full for the lifesavers to take away. It's gathering momentum!"

Peter "Skeeta" Derham

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Spending some time with Skeeta back in Victoria we soon discovered that this littering attitude is still alive in our backyard! While checking the surf, Skeeta, Caiden (another local ripper) and myself came across 3 garbage bags full of rubbish dumped in the dunes... this we quickly picked up a put into the back of the utes! We said to each other, "how could you do this to such a beautiful place?"

So lets work together and keep our environment pristine!! It’s the least we can do...

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Casa Guatemala Orphanege and Medical Clinic

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While staying at Monkey Bay Marina on the Rio Dulce I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to volunteer in the Medical Clinic at the local orphanage Casa Guatemala.

I thought I would write a small piece on Casa Guatemala, the clinic and the amazing experience I had their…

Casa Guatemala is a home and school for orphaned, abandoned, or abused children, located in the jungle on the banks of the Rio Dulce in beautiful Guatemala, Central America.

Casa Guatemala was established in 1977 and originally named Casa Canada as the original founders were a Canadian couple who reached out to assist the malnourished, orphaned and abused children during the brutal civil war. The couple had a simple mission; to provide a safe and nurturing home, provide health care and an education for the children of Guatemala who are abused, abandoned, malnourished, or living in extreme poverty. This mission is the driving motivation of the organization and still is to this day.

Casa Guatemala’s vision is to equip the children in their care with the skills and education needed to become upstanding, empowered citizens in their community and to become fully self-sustained through the businesses that they run which provide financial support and meaningful job training for the older children.

The set up at Casa Guatemala is impressive and very professionally run, led by head mover and shaker Heather Graham, an extremely motivated and inspirational lady who has been involved with the orphanage for over 12 years! With over 200 children, 10 staff and up to 15 volunteers coordinated on a daily basis, Heather is always keen to get a friendly helping hand from volunteers. Some volunteers I met had been at Casa Guatemala for 3 months… Very inspirational!

It is such an amazing experience to be surrounded by so many smiling and laughing children, each wanting to hold your hand or to be picked up, all asking you “Cómo te llamas” (what is your name) and “de dónde eres” (where are you from). Then you get whisked off to join in on playing their most favorite game in the world… soccer! And man! They are super good at it too! I headed out onto the pitch expecting not run much and to pass the ball gently around, I was kidding myself! 15min into the game I had a good sweat up and a queried partially strained left hamstring!

The children are all so polite and even when seated to join them for a lunch of beans and rice they will voluntarily come and take your plate when you are finished.

When it is time to leave the kids will come and shake your hand or hand you a small flower which they had picked from the garden.

Casa Guatemala Medical Clinic

The humble little clinic at Casa Guatemala in run by a very friendly and happy young nurse named Mynor.

Mynor does an amazing job, seeing an average of 40 patients a day, and being able to speak both Spanish and the local Mayan dialect of K'iche makes him very popular with the children.

Not only does Casa Guatemala Clinic service the needs of the orphanage but it also cares for patients from the surrounding villages.

Although the clinic is small I found it well equipped, thanks to the donations of many generous people, to deal with the simple day to day ailments that presented. When situations presented that where out of Mynors scope or the medical equipment was not available the patients were run into the nearest town of Fronteras to receive a higher level of care.

I saw a range of different ailments including skin infections, dermatitis, conjunctivitis and soft tissue injuries. It was a joy to serve such happy people, even when patients presented with painful or irritating skin ailments, it could not dampen their spirits.

I spoke with Mynor about some of the most common health issues in Casa Guatemala and surrounding villages and he said that the major one was Anemia, this he said was mainly caused by a poor diet. Although the local villages have access to the basic foods like beans and rice, it is not in large quantities and I believe that the inability to access clean water, good varieties of fruits/vegetables and spices, and lack of leafy greens in their diet would add to this.

Working in the little clinic with Mynor was an amazing experience for me, it was very humbling! Being able to be of service to these amazing people was an experience I will never forget and something I wish to do again.

I strongly recommend to anyone in the Guatemala area to make a trip to Casa Guatemala and lend a helping hand, and experience the joy of being able to serve and help these little grommets to achieve their dreams…

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Caribbean Tour Update!

Epic times in Belize! 

Epic times in Belize! 

It’s been an amazing journey so far, meeting many inspirational people and diving some great locations, but there is work to do… so at the moment I am with Josh Knox from Sails and Sandals with his yacht “Kuhela” on the Rio Dulce, Fronteras, Guatemala doing some maintenance and getting ready to store her for the hurricane season.

Sailing up the Rio Dulce

Sailing up the Rio Dulce

Next stop… El Salvador!

*Courses for Bocus del Toro, Costa Rica and Trinidad will be happening Nov – Dec, specific dates are to be confirmed.

One Ocean will be running surf survival courses in El Salvador beginning around the 27th September starting at El Zonte and K59 and running for 1 week.

Surf Survival El Salvador

Whether you are a beginner paddling out for the first time or an experienced surfer towing in to your first 15ft bomb, this course will give you the confidence.

The aim of the surf survival program is to give candidates the knowledge, skill and confidence to enjoy themselves in the ocean, whilst keeping themselves and others safe.

The count down! 

The count down! 

Course Overview:

Courses are designed to enhance students existing waterman skills in a relaxed, fun and safe atmosphere.

This is done by exploring the reactions the human body goes through whilst in stressfull situations like big wave holdowns, and breaking this down step by step to give the student an insight into the actual processes that are taking place.

This theory is then backed up by fun, challenging and realistic based training in a safe environment to put this knowledge into practice.

Practical training covers areas such as:

  • Breath Hold
  • Sea Survival
  • First aid and     Rescue
  • Panic / Fear     management

Cost: US$150 (discounts are applicable if the course is filled)

Maximum Students: 4

Pre- requisites?

·         Must be able to swim, have had previous surfing experience and be medically fit (see below).

Dates:

Disorientation Drill

Disorientation Drill

27th September – 4th October 2013

Course Structure:  1 Day

  • Theory – 2.5     hours
  • Lunch – 30 min
  • Practical – 4     Hours

What is supplied?

  • Freediving mask,     weight belt and weights.
  • Tea, water and     juice
  • Fruit

What you need to bring?

  • Towel
  • wetsuit (board     shorts/bikini and radiator minimum)
  • water
  • zink/sunscreen
  • pen and notepad
  • lunch.

Medical Fitness

You will be asked to complete a medical declaration and unless you suffer a medical condition that is a contradiction to watermanship training you will not be required to complete a medical examination. Medical conditions that are of concern are: lung conditions, heart condition, epilepsy, diabetes, any ear problems or any other major medical conditions.

If you are in any doubt regarding your medical eligibility please don’t hesitate to contact One Ocean.

For more information on the upcoming events please contact Joe at info@oneoceaninternational.org.

Whats Next???

When Josh and I return to the yacht in the middle of October we will be heading to Utila…

Watermanship Training Utila!

Whether you want to feel more confident in the ocean, understand the marine environment better or learn the art of diving on a single breath this course will give you the skills…

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Course Overview

These unique 1 and 2 day courses are designed to deliver students a broad range of knowledge and skills in ocean adventure and exploration!

Some topics to be covered are:

·         Freediving

·         Sea Survival and Ocean Awareness

·         First Aid

·         Fish Identification and Marine Education

·         Underwater Photography and much more…

Good bottom time brings in the fish for great photos... 

Good bottom time brings in the fish for great photos... 

Cost: To Be Confirmed

Dates: 27th October – 4th November (Weather Dependent)

Pre-requisites?

•             Must be able to swim, have had previous surfing experience and be medically fit (see below).

Course Structure:  1 and 2 day courses

1st Day: 0900 - 1600

·         Theory – 2.5 hours

·         Tea Break – 30 min

·         Practical – 4 Hours

·         Lunch – 45 min

2nd day: 0900 - 1600

·         Theory – 1.5 hours

Lone Barracuda  

Lone Barracuda  

·         Tea Break – 20min

·         Practical – 4 Hours

·         Lunch – 45 min

What is supplied?

·         Freediving mask, snorkel weight belt and weights.

·         Tea, water and juice

·         Fruit

What you need to bring?

·         Towel

·         Wetsuit or board shorts/bikini

·         water

·         zink/sunscreen

·         pen and notepad

·         lunch.

Medical Fitness

You will be asked to complete a medical declaration and unless you suffer a medical condition that is a contradiction to watermanship training you will not be required to complete a medical examination. Medical conditions that are of concern are: lung conditions, heart condition, epilepsy, diabetes, any ear problems or any other major medical conditions.

If you are in any doubt regarding your medical eligibility please don’t hesitate to contact One Ocean.

For more information on the upcoming events please contact Joe at info@oneoceaninternational.org.

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