Thursday, January 5, 2012

Salt Life Pilot Whales | Whale watching pictures

Whale watching is also part of the Salt Life. One of the first things I saw when I was out on the water this monthin New Zealand was this group of Pilot Whales. It was almost as ifthey were waiting for us to come back down and visit.The first day they were in the distance and what I thought was 3 or four medium sized adults quickly revealed itself to be a large group with everything from little babies to old scarred up bulls with chunksmissing out of their fins from some fight or encounter with a kraken. It was a few days before I saw them again. This time the little guys were were being helped along by their stronger family members and despite the rough seas had figured out a way to get a good breath on their own without having to be pushed to the surface by their big brother or sister.At first I thought the little guys were trying to jump but all that they were able to get out of the water was their heads and sometimes up to about their fins. Other whales "spyhop" where they just pop their heads up to look around. I've seen Killer Whales do this in the arctic when there is only a small spot in the ice open for them to actually even reach the surface. The Orcas are usually doing it because they want to see if the Seals and penguins are around so they can snatch a little snack later and honestly having watched them do this, I seriously think they do it to just to terrorize them.
Well these little guys, I can only imagine, were having trouble getting air to their tiny blowholes so they were spyhopping to get a proper breath in the growing seas. Cute as can be.





Freediving Class Part II: 4 min breathold EASY?!?!?

The first two days really opened my eyes to the physiology (what is happening within your body) and breathing techniques to reach my full potential.
Most important for everyone in the class, and this should be for all of us in the world, was the safety aspect.
First off, I don't suggest anyone ever push themselves in diving especially when you are alone. You need to know what is going on with your body and if and when you or your friends are in trouble, you need to be able to identify it and react calmly, swiftly and efficiently to make sure that person lives to dive another day.
After hearing the classroom lecture and seeing a number of videos of divers blacking out, samba'ing and losing control while ascending, we learned how to bring those in trouble safely to the surface and get them to start breathing again.
In real life, if this has ever happened to you while diving, it can be really scary, I know having seen it firsthand 4 times now. The first time it happened, I had an idea of what to do and was able to get the diver back to to the surface and our other buddy in the water had just taken the PFI class, was over to me within 30 seconds of hitting the surface and we had him breathing again after the scariest few minutes of my life.


I am not a PFI certified instructor and can only suggest you dive with them or another Freedive Trainer to learn how to dive deeper, stay down longer, and most of all, save a life. You never know, it might be your own.
I found quite a few things that I had been doing in my own diving that were limiting what I was capable of and robbing my body of what I needed to dive safely.
Prior to the class, I could not hold my breath on land for much more than about 2:30 seconds. Honestly, its not something that I have ever really worked on as I didn't see the advantages of it but with set training tables and having seen what just two days of proper breathing, warm ups, and relaxation technique can do for your own personal diving.


Our first day was spent learning all the safety techniques before we were even allowed to put our heads under water. Might sound extreme, but it goes to show how dedicated to teaching proper diving and safety the PFI team is and how closely they pay attention to their students.
Once we had all checked out on the proper techniques, I personally felt more comfortable if I was to see someone blackout or Samba and confident I could assist them when need be.
Well, that time would come sooner than any of us believed and the next day while were doing statics... sure enough we had a few Samba and chance to practice what we'd learned.
Always dive, train, and prepare with a partner. Having someone watching trained in PFI techniques watching you is mentally reassuring and will make you dive better.
On the second day we did Static breath holds which are simply holding your breath with your body immersed in water (floating on the surface) while staying completely relaxed.
Like I said, I've never been a fan of Statics but was curious to see what was possible and tried to zone out and get into a relaxed state to make sure I didn't embarrass myself with a 2 min breath hold.
Well, I need not have worried as I ( and most of the class) coasted through 1, 2 and 3 minute breath holds enroute to our goal for the day of 4 min.
AS your partner counts out the breathing you are to be doing for this 30+ minute warmup and set of breath holds, you let yourself slip into the "zone" and lose sight of the fact that you are going to be holding your breath for longer than should be humanly possible.
Before you know it, you are 3 minutes into your breath hold and feeling surprisingly calm, relaxed and focused.
Your partner taps you at 3min 30 seconds and tells you calmly to get your feet up underneath you and slowly move your hands to the wall. You give a good signal and its now 3:45 seconds and you are still coasting and fighting the urge to believe it has already been this long since you've had fresh air in your lungs.
No sooner has that thought run through your head then you raise your head from the surface and your partner is counting out your recovery breaths, 2, 3,..5,6 and you give the ok signal and a high five to those around you.
You have just entered the 4 minute club and disproved what 99% of the world believes is possible of the human body.
Maybe there is something to these statics after all, that was pretty cool and I feel like I could have gone on much longer... Maybe tomorrow.
If you are interested in learning how to Freedive or just want to be a safer snorkeler, visit www.performancefreediving.com





Freediving Class part I

This past week I had the pleasure of joining some good friends and meeting some new ones as well at the Perfomance Freediving Class in Miami Florida.
If you want to dive deeper, stay down longer, and dive safer this is the class for you. It doesn't hurt that the classes are taught by World Class Divers who, don't be fooled by their beauty in a wetsuit, have dove deeper than most of us ever will and can do it under pressure of competition.
I had great expectations coming in to the class but was a bit worried as I had spent the previous 5 weeks working out very little with no diving and would have preferred to have been in better physical shape.
Well, I should have worked out harder as the crew we had in our class had a bunch of awesome people including 3 guys that had done some professional Standup paddling.
From the get go, the class was professional and as we got to know everyone in the classroom we all became attentive students with our three world Record Holders Erin Magee, Ashley Futral, and Grant Hogan who are all freakishly talented and well versed in the details of the sport that would become our drug for the next four days.
If you haven't checked into the class and are a freediver and spearfisherman, I can assure you there is nothing more important than learning the safety and physiology presented there. It will save your life and your friends in the coming years and be money well spent.
Over the next couple days I'll take you through what I got out of the class and how it has changed how I approach the sport of Freedive Spearfishing.








Muttons Gags and Lobsters Oh My!

The East Coast of Florida still has fish and you don't have to run all the way to the Bahamas to get good Muttons which is a relief.
From Stuart to the Florida Keys is a great stretch of reef that holds some awesome fish and this time of year the bait is all time.
Its winter time so these same spots are covered up with boats flying kites and live baiting so beware of hooks, props, and angry line fisherman who are frustrated at having to rock and roll in heavy NorthEasterly swells waiting for a fish that resembles a giant needle fish with its bottom jaw knocked off and has a cool purple and blue spotted mohawk on its back.
While Sailfish are protected in the US from Spearos with them come a host of other species that are much better on the table. Dolphin, Wahoo, Cobia and an assortment of other pelagics and bottom fish alike that all share in the feast. The same reefs we were diving also hold some of the gnarliest sharks of Florida.
While the "greens" fight to protect a resource (sharks) that is supposedly disappearing at an alarming rate the numbers of big munchers continues to grow. Last year one of the local divers in Palm Beach was attacked and lost a portion of his calf when a big bull shark hit him on his way to the surface.
Luckily, we didn't have any heavy run ins and our sharks we encountered were well behaved.
Congrats to my cousin Aaron Kirkconnell Scott who came down and dove with me a few days before the end of the year (and grouper season). We spent some time refining his technique and improved upon his safety too. Its amazing to see him diving 100+ ft and shooting fish with the best of them. He has natural fish sense and in the coming years will be one to watch.
Hopefully he and the younger guys out there will take the safety to heart and realize there are so many incredible years ahead of them with thousands of chances to dive again if they stay within their limits, watch their buddies, and don't push it.
Here are a few pics from the day.

















Transworld Surf Magazine Dive and Surf Dream Trip



Just got the report from my buddy Justin Cote who along with some spearing and surfing buddies just did a really enviable trip down the coast from San Diego to the islands and some of the best waves and pinnacles on their way to Mexico. I did my best to at least get invited but alas I surf like a three legged donkey and therefor am not very photo worthy.
They crushed it though and there will be a spread in the upcoming Transworld Surf. Here is Justin's report from the Transworld webpage. Check it out:
Baja By Boat
A rag tag band of hired guns ventures into Baja in search of waves, fish, and fun.
Like a lot of great adventures, this one began on a barstool. I’d gotten word that an old friend, Cary Dodson from Success Sportfishing, was taking his 58-foot boat, the Success, from its mooring in San Diego to their winter fishing grounds near Magdalena Bay—a 600 mile journey south. Instantly I thought of the amazing surf and spearfishing you could discover along the way. I brought the idea of surf/dive trip up to Cary and he was pumped. “I’ve always wanted to do something like that,” he said over a happy hour beer. “The potential is limitless.” Over the course of a the next few months we’d meet at the same bar and check out nautical charts and plot a course that would, in theory, put us into some decent surf and really good spearfishing...
For more photos and a few GoPro clips of the boys shooting wahoo and a dorado click on this link: http://surf.transworld.net/1000141733/photos/baja-by-boat/

New Airplane Wreck Found off Jupiter Florida!?!?

Have any of you all seen this one? Supposedly this one was "found" in the past couple of days. I am guessing that like most wrecks and secret spots they have just not been shared with the world and instead remain untouched and little honey holes for Divers in the know.
click here for Airplane Wreck Off Jupiter Video and Story

http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/region_n_palm_beach_county/jupiter/scuba-divers-discover-airplane-submerged-off-coast-of-palm-beach-county

Have any of you all seen this wreck before off Jupiter Florida? Who gets the spoiler alert for blowing this to the world?
I seriously doubt there is anything more than a two feet high that has not been marked by fisherman or divers within 4-6 miles off of South Florida.
And by the way, any dive captain that drops me in 185 feet in a "random" spot is not my buddy. If I'm going to make a dive that deep, it better be right on the spot because I'm not going to look just for the hell of it at those kind of depths.
Very cool. My questions is where the hell are the Warsaw Groupers? I think they must have left that part out of it.
Well my question was quickly answered when Pirate Dave sent me a message telling me a bit more about the dive when they found the wreck sorting out a bit of the mystery:
I was apart of the team that found it. It happened to be lying in an area where there is a ledge between 160-185. We happened to drop directly on it. Did get a nice snouted hog and a 30lb gag. It was just quoted as “random” because the captain didn’t know it was there. I wanted to pop my warsaw cherry. It didnt happen. Not one warsaw. Those were the only two fish on the wreck the first time we dove it. It was deep enough to hold the shutter down on the camera we brought down.
Very cool! All of us can only hope to one day find something like this! Thanks for the email Dave and hope to see some more video in the future from this wreck!

Punta Mita Fishing and Diving Video

Having just gone down to Punta Mita with our friends at Puntamitaexpeditions.com I can only look a this video from another group and wish I was back there.
To book your diving trip today click on their link on the right. Sebastian Melani runs one of the best operations for spearfishing in the world and there is no better place to fish and dive for Wahoo, Tuna, Marlin, Sailfish and monster Cubera snappers. This time of year (winter), is the best time for bottom fish like Colorado, Cubera, and Barred Snappers as well as big Groupers.
www.puntamitaexpeditions.com has a great package for any group staying at the 5 star St. Regis resort with pumping surf all to yourself out front, snorkeling, paddleboarding and hundreds of yards of empty white sand beach and three amazing pools to choose from. More on Punta Mita and Jenn and I's time there soon but check this video out from another group that just got back.

Check this cool diving video out.


Spearfishing Girl Kelsea on Fox News

I missed this a few weeks ago but its still cool nonetheless. Having dove with Kelsea a few times she is a great diver and hunter both on land and in the water.
If you ever get a chance to sit down with her she has come wild stories and is always keen for an adventure.
Check out the video and news article: http://www.fox43tv.com/dpp/news/local/spearfishing-growing-in-hampton-roads

Lobsters in New Zealand

Pat Swanson is a buddy of mine I met a while back in New Zealand who is a diver, father, and outdoorsman in one of the most beautiful areas of the world I've had the pleasure of visiting. As we do here in the US, they live to be on the water and while their "crayfish" come from colder water and taste a fair bit better than their American cousins the Spiny Lobster, the adventure and life that we lead is of the same language. Here's Pat's story from this Xmas dive: (Cameron Kirkconnell)

Christmas is a time for sharing - good company, good wine and good food. There's nothing like fresh seafood at a summer Christmas in New Zealand, and most people's favourite would be fresh crayfish.
NO matter where you are in the world you can live and celebrate the SaltLife.
The weather had been great, but the crayfish locally had been scarce, and small. My mate Simon and I decided to take the risk and head up the coast to a place I manage to get into about once a year. Two times out of three you will go there and not even bother getting in - the substrate here is a type of sedimentary rock, and the slightest swell reduces the visibility to zero. Add to that the fact that the fishing is not always that good, it can be a long swim for not much.
On this day, the sea was flat, the sky was blue, and the viz looked doable. We swam the 700m out to the reef, to find viz of about 3m, outstanding for this spot! My first dive down to a ledge about 3m down showed the risk had been worthwhile - three large crays clinging to the underside of the ledge, with nowhere to go. Within ten minutes we had our limit - six each, all around two to two and a half kilos in weight. We stayed out a while longer, and fed some crays by hand with some fish we had speared. There were many many more crays there, but it is a spot I would be happy to leave alone for the next year. Simon had scavenged a cray pot, tied it to his float, and started towing it back to shore. I had the crays in my plat (catch boat), which made the swim so much easier. Back on shore, Simon gloated, showing off the 10kg yellowtail he had speared in barely a meter of water on the way back.
Notice the sled for keeping the crays and the fish out of the water. The area we are in New Zealand they have a White Shark they call the Taranaki Terror that they see offshore every year and we had it swim past our boat last year. Makes you think twice about dragging a bloody fish a few hundred meters from shore...
Both of our families enjoyed a Christmas feast that would be unaffordable for most people, but had only cost us a drive up the coast. Now I'm waiting for the weather to settle again so I can start chasing those albacore that I know are just off the coast!
Pat Swanson
Taranaki New Zealand








Happy New Year! Time to clean house and get rid of some photos.
I simply have too many.
Back in the good ol' days when cameras used film and before the soul of photography was highjacked by Photoshop and the digital age, you took only a few photos and you made them count when you did.
Sadly, the art of single photo has been tarnished a bit but not lost. I myself have fallen, or should I say climbed, onto the digital bandwagon and find myself sifting through hundreds of pictures at the end of a trip and then have to battle with deleting only the best.
The difference between GOOD photographers, and you and I, is that single shot. That skill it takes to come home with 100 great pics out of 400.
The 1/4 rule is what I'm aspiring to.
That goal... is still a ways out, for now, I resign to spending hours on end dumping thousands of megabites of photos that will be never seen again to save place on my computer for ones that matter.
Well I'm going to start dumping them here for your enjoyment, photographers rarely share the ones that suck, they only want you to see the fantastic ones, the photoshopped, cropped, color corrected and sorted out from 100 crappy ones.
Here's the ones that aren't making the cut: This week, Mark Healey and his big Dogtooth Tuna from our FREEDIVEFIJI.com trip. The fish was a monster but these pics are going in the bin...
1. "This is Marks big doggie from the videos, not a bad pair to take home after a long day on the water
2. "Yeah just not feeling it. bad angle, light etc..
3. "Yeah just a cluster. Sun in your face...
4. "This one of Mark and Jaga is pretty cool but this was the lesser of the two I shot like this and had to go. Stoke that this fish brought to the trip was amazing. The guys that just got back from there saw some in the 200lb class so I hope to get back to visit them soon...
5. "Another kind of cool one but its headed for the trash. "
6. "Mark Healey is full of shit. He's leaning back looking like he's straining on this big Dogtooth Tuna but in actuality I think he was trying to get his hair situated just so... Nah just kidding, he's actually just a weakling"

Hiking Tie Hack



Longtime Salt Life friends Mike and Annie Doyle recently hiked Tie Hack. They know how to live the Salt Life; even on snow!!!


Salt Life

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Freediving class part 1 | Learning from world-record divers

This past week I had the pleasure of joining some good friends and meeting some new ones as well at the Perfomance Freediving Class in Miami, Florida.

If you want to dive deeper, stay down longer, and dive safer this is the class for you. It doesn't hurt that the classes are taught by World Class Divers who, don't be fooled by their beauty in a wetsuit, have dove deeper than most of us ever will and can do it under pressure of competition - not just spearing mutton and gag grouper.

I had great expectations coming in to the class but was a bit worried as I had spent the previous 5 weeks working out very little with no diving and would have preferred to have been in better physical shape.
Well, I should have worked out harder as the crew we had in our class had a bunch of awesome people including 3 guys that had done some professional Standup paddling.

From the get go, the class was professional and as we got to know everyone in the classroom we all became attentive students with our three world Record Holders Erin Magee, Ashley Futral, and Grant Hogan who are all freakishly talented and well versed in the details of the sport that would become our drug for the next four days.

If you haven't checked into the class and are a freediver and spearfisherman, I can assure you there is nothing more important than learning the safety and physiology presented there. It will save your life and your friends in the coming years and be money well spent.

Over the next couple days I'll take you through what I got out of the class and how it has changed how I approach the sport of Freedive Spearfishing.

Muttons, Gags and Lobsters, Oh my!

The East Coast of Florida still has fish and you don't have to run all the way to the Bahamas to get good Muttons which is a relief. New Zealand has good lobsters, though!

From Stuart to the Florida Keys is a great stretch of reef that holds some awesome fish and this time of year the bait is all time.

It's winter time so these same spots are covered up with boats flying kites and live baiting so beware of hooks, props, and angry line fisherman who are frustrated at having to rock and roll in heavy NorthEasterly swells waiting for a fish that resembles a giant needle fish with its bottom jaw knocked off and has a cool purple and blue spotted mohawk on its back. While Sailfish are protected in the US from Spearos with them come a host of other species that are much better on the table. Dolphin, Wahoo, Cobia and an assortment of other pelagics and bottom fish alike that all share in the feast.  The same reefs we were diving also hold some of the gnarliest sharks of Florida.

While the "greens" fight to protect a resource (sharks) that is supposedly disappearing at an alarming rate the numbers of big munchers continues to grow.  Last year one of the local divers in Palm Beach was attacked and lost a portion of his calf when a big bull shark hit him on his way to the surface.  
Luckily, we didn't have any heavy run ins and our sharks we encountered were well behaved.
Congrats to my cousin Aaron Kirkconnell Scott who came down and dove with me a few days before the end of the year (and grouper season). We spent some time refining his technique and improved upon his safety too. Its amazing to see him diving 100+ ft and shooting fish with the best of them. He has natural fish sense and in the coming years will be one to watch.

Hopefully he and the younger guys out there will take the safety to heart and realize there are so many incredible years ahead of them with thousands of chances to dive again if they stay within their limits, watch their buddies, and don't push it.

Here are a few pics from the day. Live the Salt Life!

Diving and Spearfishing in New Zealand

Pat Swanson is a buddy of mine I met a while back in New Zealand who is a diver, father, and outdoorsman in one of the most beautiful areas of the world I've had the pleasure of visiting. As we do here in the U.S., they live to be on the water and while their "crayfish" come from colder water and taste a fair bit better than their American cousins the Spiny Lobster, the adventure and life that we lead is of the same language.  Here's Pat's story from this Xmas dive:  (Cameron Kirkconnell)

For great diving gear, be sure to visit Salt Life Dive.


Christmas is a time for sharing - good company, good wine and good food. There's nothing like fresh seafood at a summer Christmas in New Zealand, and most people's favourite would be fresh crayfish.

NO matter where you are in the world you can live and celebrate the SaltLife

The weather had been great, but the crayfish locally had been scarce, and small. My mate Simon and I decided to take the risk and head up the coast to a place I manage to get into about once a year. Two times out of three you will go there and not even bother getting in - the substrate here is a type of sedimentary rock, and the slightest swell reduces the visibility to zero. Add to that the fact that the fishing is not always that good, it can be a long swim for not much.

On this day, the sea was flat, the sky was blue, and the viz looked doable. We swam the 700m out to the reef, to find viz of about 3m, outstanding for this spot! My first dive down to a ledge about 3m down showed the risk had been worthwhile - three large crays clinging to the underside of the ledge, with nowhere to go. Within ten minutes we had our limit - six each, all around two to two and a half kilos in weight. We stayed out a while longer, and fed some crays by hand with some fish we had speared. There were many many more crays there, but it is a spot I would be happy to leave alone for the next year. Simon had scavenged a cray pot, tied it to his float, and started towing it back to shore. I had the crays in my plat (catch boat), which made the swim so much easier. Back on shore, Simon gloated, showing off the 10kg yellowtail he had speared in barely a meter of water on the way back.

Notice the sled for keeping the crays and the fish out of the water.  The area we are in New Zealand they have a White Shark they call the Taranaki Terror that they see offshore every year and we had it swim past our boat last year.  Makes you think twice about dragging a bloody fish a few hundred meters from shore...

Both of our families enjoyed a Christmas feast that would be unaffordable for most people, but had only cost us a drive up the coast. Now I'm waiting for the weather to settle again so I can start chasing those albacore that I know are just off the coast!

Pat Swanson
Taranaki New Zealand

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