Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Freediving with PFI | Performance Freediving Int'l

I decided to take my snorkeling to the next level (oh damn you, pun!) so I signed up for a freediving course with Performance Freediving International. It was something I've wanted to do for some time now and was gifted the course by my husband for our anniversary.

Previously, my idea of freediving was this:

What's wrong with this picture? Freediving with a snorkel in my mouth, and exhaling while down. I was also limited by my inability to equalize my ears with any efficiency. If you're doing it like most people who clear their ears on a scuba dive (or on an airplane) by pushing air from your diaphragm, you're wasting precious stores of oxygen when you likely have enough sitting in your mouth to equalize via Frenzel Technique. That technique can be seen here. 

And yes, I'm also freediving alone... but I will probably continue to do that as long as I live. 

We had a ton of classroom work where we learned the physics of freediving and all about theory and technique - especially safety procedures and rescues. Then we had a pool session to time our static apnea breath holds.

Mine was 2:36 as I struggled with abdominal contractions (aka, the "lying bastard" that is your body trying to scare you into breathing) and visions of blacking out... and other irrational thoughts. My theory is that if you have children, part of your brain goes a little crazy and certain risks may be forever "off the table" for you. For me, big risks now off limits include speeding in cars, heights, and apparently holding my breath too long underwater. Weird since I enjoy being in the water so much. But it may just take more time to stretch out that static apnea time. 

There was a dude in class who broke 5:30. His lips were blue when he came up... but in keeping with our training, he was just fine after taking his recovery breaths (he had been signalling "okay" with regularity throughout his apnea session.)

Next we hit the ocean for some depth training. My first session, I was hit by the thermocline and felt some anxiety. After some reflection and simply enjoying the ocean, however, I had a renewed enthusiasm for the spirit of the sport. 

At one point our rig collided with a mass of kelp. In moving it off, we discovered a cast of tuna crabs inside! It definitely inspired me to continue on my journey to earn my freediving certification.

Here are my amazing instructors. They were shadowing each of our dives to ensure safety. It was marvelous to watch!

with PFI Instructors Shell Eisenberg and Chris Bustad.
Shell is the national dynamic/no fins record holder, having reached 125 meters on one breath.

with PFI Instructor Andrew Miramontes

Check out video from my experience here:

I would also encourage anyone who loves to dive - even snorkel or scuba - to check out this kind of freediving course. You'll stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, and in doing so, gain invaluable safety information. 

And you'll make some great new friends, too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Snorkeling fun | pinniped heaven

Recently this gentle, giant baby elephant seal made her home on La Jolla Cove beach along with a friend. They are not typically in the area like the sea lions and harbor seals are, but somehow they chose the Cove for their annual molt between April and August. We locals are delighted to see them snuggling daily right alongside the sea lions. The tourists are too.

Sea lions or an elephant seal? Here we see both:

This elephant seal almost blends in with the rocks!

And speaking of tourists, I'm not immune to wanting a photo with these stars of the beach myself... though you'll be able to distinguish tourists from snap-happy locals by how alarmingly close the tourists will get. Although this is a pretty good distance, the truth is that as long as you don't touch them, they are fairly tolerant of people and if not, you'll know it when they bark at you.

Sea lions to the left, elephant seal to the right

Eyes wide open, checking me out before returning to her snooze...

The most active ones on the beach are consistently the sea lions. Somehow their antics never get old to me.

Watch my video to see a young juvenile sea lion who has a healthy dose of spring fever!

The only beauty "plus" to regular snorkeling with these cuties is beach hair, but the mental "plus" is much more rewarding: a great mood for the rest of the day. 


Thanks for watching, and I hope to see you out there! xo

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hoppy Easter | Hooray for suburban wildlife!

This is one of our wild little backyard bunnies.

Ever since our sweet old Bijou, a Boston Terrier, died last spring ~

Following the passing of our nineteen-year-old cat Cairo the previous fall (you can tell what a good cat he was) ~

We've been wanting more pets but just haven't been ready yet. Three kids is a lot to juggle, plus going back to work for me - in any capacity - is a recipe for chaos.

One good thing about having no pets is that there's nothing in our yard to deter the local wildlife from coming around and staying around. I would say that following the passing of our pets, the wildlife in the backyard has really flourished because there are no permanent resident predators - just the kind that always exist (coyotes and birds of prey, as well as the occasional marauding neighbor cat).

Behold our current "wild" pets. I know they're pests for some, but I don't have a decent vegetable garden to defend so I love watching these cottontail rabbits. They live under our home office/shed in the backyard and come out to explore often.

They hang out together and find different plants to nibble.

There are parents and babies (kits).

They scratch themselves and clean their faces with their paws between feedings.

The kits sometimes come in pretty close out of curiosity.

I guess they like honeysuckle!


They like to nose around in the kids' sandbox.

And what about birds? I've started putting out peanuts to attract crows.

But someone else has stolen their thunder with its beauty, personality, and moxie - the California Scrub Jay.

This is how it tucks into a peanut (I used to think this was a male, but then its mate showed up and they are identical). Did you know that they mate for life? For other amazing facts about these brilliant corvids, check out their Wikipedia page.

When it's finished all the peanuts, it perches right outside the window and looks at me expectantly.

They also pick up and drop several in a bid to determine which nut is best before flying away.

 I can sit only four feet away now!

We have other birds too. I'd be lying if I said these mourning doves didn't make me a little hungry. Hah!

This is a California towhee.

This is one hunting.

A Mockingbird.

Anna's Hummingbird!

She was thinking about nesting again in the chandelier.

This is a plucky House Wren.

They sing a loud, lovely song!

And a giant Red-tailed Hawk.

This is the smaller - but still sizable - Cooper's Hawk.

 And a lovely little Hermit Thrush.

Here's a handsome male House Finch. 

This one's a Flycatcher - a darling little hunter!

And this is a Western Fence Lizard, which eats a lot of the same insects that the birds do.

So now to our Easter Day. For us, Easter is the ultimate celebration of springtime. We started the day with a leisurely breakfast while watching our backyard animals after the initial excitement of basket-finding - with colored pancakes and bacon and eggs and strawberries.

Then I made my soft pretzels for the Easter party we were celebrating at a dear friend's home. I told you I make them for every party! She asked that we bring a dish "preferably from our country of origin" (assuming prior to the United States) so I used the Austrian heritage of our surname and had my daughter make a painted menu ala Jacques Pepin.
Haven't seen his lovely hand-made and painted menus? Take a gander herehere or here.

And the party! The kids enjoyed the egg hunt - the dads all hid tons of candy-filled eggs while the kids and moms waited inside. Here they are searching for their tiny treasures.

It's fun to spend Easter with the same families you've spent it with several times over the past years, watching all the children grow. I like comparing this year:

- with 2012: (how funny is Hugo in this one?)

We got home just in time to have a lazy Easter evening with a dinner of rack of lamb and roasted potatoes with a salad and baguette. Easy peasy for sure, especially when you buy the lamb pre-seasoned and make the potatoes using the Lipton soup recipe, tossing in a bagged salad to boot!

Hope you enjoyed your springtime Easter celebration.
Thanks for looking! xo