Thursday, January 13, 2011

Surface Diving as Cardio?

When I was a lad there was this guy on T.V with these cool one hour specials. Perhaps you've heard of him..his name was Jacque Cousteau, the co-inventor of SCUBA and he was the leader of the "Voyages of the Calypso". 

Like eleventy-zillion other kids I REALLY WANTED TO BE A CABIN BOY ON THIS BOAT. They had such cool adventures on all the worlds oceans...whoa. Sigh. Instead I became an engineer. (I actually thought I'd be an ichthyologist but my high school biology teach cured me of THAT).

Toni catches me 15 feet down.
My friends and I, lacking access to the sea, ended up snorkeling in every large body of water (i.e. ponds, lakes) in a radius of biking distance. I learned how to snorkel really, really well. We even made our own "poor man's wet suits" by wearing a full set of pants and shirts and sealing the cuffs and sleeves with rubber bands (to keep the warm water ...ahem..such as it

I'm not anywhere near an elite runner for my age..but if there was some kind of competition for breath-holding diving I'd be way ahead of the game. Most people that go snorkeling do NOT do any surface diving. The ones that do, are pretty feeble at it from what I've seen.

Now that I'm a runner and lean and mean, I'm really really good at it. When we go snorkeling on one of these boat dive trips (as we recently did in Hawaii) I'd be first place if there was some kind of competition.  I like to look into all the caves and crevices for interesting critters you'll never see from up on the surface (e.g. octopus). And yes, I am certified for SCUBA, but snorkeling is so much more light and unencumbered.

It's quite a good cardio working doing these surface do a bit of hyperventilating, then dive down (my limit is probably about 35', which doesn't sound like much but is freakin' deep).  I love diving down on the mooring or anchor line for the can use the line to sit at the bottom. Normally you are floaty, and so you have to work to stay down..but with the line you can hang on and use no energy. I love looking around for a few seconds and see the world from a new perspective..look up and see the mirrored surface (so far away!) and see all the creatures swimming around, etc.

It's awesome. Like being on another planet. 
Toni looking down and giving me the hang loose..
When you finally come back up you're heart is working pretty hard (i.e. triphammer) and you have to be comfortable with the fact that you REALLY want some AIR ;)..

But it's all over in seconds. Not like a marathon!

After one or two hours of this, you are pretty wiped out and want to rest like a seal on the beach. It's like an interval workout, I think. Alas, there's no cross-training entry on my 'logyourrun' widget for surface diving 8)

Lucky for me, my dear spouse Toni turned out to be and even bigger fan of snorkeling than I am. She'd never done it until I introduced her to it..her first time was out of site of land, off of a dive boat. She'd never worn a mask or snorkel, even off a beach. She did great, saw an eagle ray in the first 10 minutes and was completely hooked. Alas, she can't clear her ears with depth (problems with Eustachian tubes) and so like most folks does her viewing from the surface. But she doesn't let anything stop her from seeing as much as she can every dive. Long after I'm cold and tired she's still gung-ho to see more.

On this trip, something really special and cool happened. I dove down about 15'-20' and as I was looking around I suddenly froze: I heard a plaintive sound...a very sad, almost moaning kind of song.  I dove down again and again to hear it and the deeper I dove the louder it became. 

Normally when diving you only hear things like shrimp crackling noises and boat props...turns out this sound was a Humpback whale singing (They come to Hawaii to have their calves). The sounds propagates better the deeper you go (for many miles)..and this is the first time I've heard it with my own ears rather than over a hydrophone or from a recording. Awesome. To be filed in the "Never will forget this" folder. 8)

If I lived in a place like Hawaii, I think I'd do surface diving a few times a week. If I could get a decent wage teaching people how to snorkel I'd really love it...I think it's as close to traveling to another world as we can get on this earth.



  1. Your newest challenge:

  2. Yes, but sooo dangerous..also I'm more into the critters than just the breathholding 8)

  3. I was introduced to snorkelling in the Bahamas and was immediately hooked. I would love to go to Hawaii some day...I hear you can do night snorkelling with manta rays in one area - looks absolutely magical!!

  4. @rae: Yes we had a chance to do this but it was too large a swell that day so it was canceled. (It's a night snorkel/dive.. they use likes to attract the krill the Mantas eat)

    Luckily we've swum with them before at Ningaloo Reef (Australia). They were amazing (and huge!).


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