For the competition, you get three attempts. You have to tell the organizers how much you plan to lift for your first attempt and after you do your first attempt, you decide what you want to do for the next one. If you don’t make the first lift, you try that weight again. If you make it, you decide how much weight you want to add for the next try. You can only go up in increments of 2.5 kg and you can’t go down in weight, even if you don’t make the lift.
My previous personal record (PR) was 87.5 kg, which I’d previously lifted for 2 reps, so I decided to start with that because it was a weight that I knew I could get. Then I figured I’d go up to 90 kg, unless 87.5 kg felt really light, and in which case I might try 92.5 kg. And then my stretch goal for the final lift would be 95 kg.
So after what seemed like an eternity of waiting, when I finally got to the platform for the first lift, I lifted 87.kg and it felt light. So I decided to go for 92.5 kg on my second lift. And that felt great too, so many trainer said “That looked easy. How do you feel about going way up? Like 100 kg?” And you only have a minute to submit your number so I was like “OK” – didn’t have time to psych myself out of it. I figured I had 92.5 kg as a new PR, so even if I failed on 100 kg, I still have a new PR, so I’d be happy. But then I did it. I lifted 100 kg (i.e. 220 lbs).
Lifting in front of a crowd like that was a really interesting experience. I started to get nervous for this about a week ago when I learned that a real powerlifting judge was coming. I had just assumed that one of the trainers from the gym would judge, so finding out that it was going to be someone who judges real powerlifting competitions made it seem that much more real. So my nervousness started then and last night I dreamt that I was running a half marathon in Stanley Park that I hadn’t trained for and then I looked at my watch and saw it was 2:00 and I was like “Oh no! I’m supposed to be at my powerlifting competition!!” So the morning started full of nerves, but I had a shower and then I had some coffee and something to eat and then I got dressed and I thought “I want to look good.” I had a friend in undergrad who always showed up for exams with her hair done, make up on, and dressed really nice. And she said something to the effect of “If I’m going to feel terrible, I want to look nice because then I feel better”. And I thought, “If I’m going to feel this nervous, I may as well look nice!” (The angle in that video did me no favours, so I hope you just looked at the weight I was lifting and not my face!).
I was hoping that I’d be able to channel the nervous energy into lifting energy. I learned to channel nerves into performance when I did my drama classes in undergrad and it’s served me well whenever I’ve had to give a presentation or teach a class, so I figured it would work in this situation too.
When they call your name, you have one minute to get to the bar and start your lift, so you have no time to overthink it. I just walked up the bar, took my position, tensed up all the muscles I needed to activate, and lifted. I felt like the world shrunk from these dozens and dozens of people around me to just me, and the bar, and the judge’s hand. The judge is holding his hand in the air and once you do your deadlift, you lock out your knees and your hips and you have to make sure your shoulders are back and once the judge sees you have done of that, they lower their hand to tell you that you can lower the bar. So I heard nothing and I felt like my vision was tunneled to just the judge’s hand, until he held up the white card to indicate my lift was good, and the world came rushing back in and I heard all the cheers from my friends and trainers and gym mates and totally strangers and my heart leapt with joy: “I did it!” I really never could have guessed that I would lift 110 kg today! I was such a thrill!
To top it off, it turns out that I came in second place among the women!
The woman who won was absolutely amazing. I hadn’t met her before, as she doesn’t work out at my gym but does work for the non-profit we were raising money for, Purpose Service Society. Her name is Elizabeth (I didn’t catch her last name) and she is so amazingly strong. If memory serves, her final lift was 150 kg. Just so phenomenally strong and she made it look easy! It was a thrill just to get to watch her.
After the competition, there was a party, with delicious food and beer and vendors to shop at. My prize for second place was some cool stuff from Strike Mvmnt, a local company active wear company. I got a new shirt, hat, bag, and water bottle. And then I may have also bought a pair of shoes that feel so freaking good to squat in!
Now, I’ve spent the evening relaxing (with a bit of stretching so I don’t get too stiff) and experiencing my adrenaline crash (headache, dry mouth, and sleepiness) and I’m reflecting on the event. It was such a joy to watch every competitor today. There were 12 women and 12 men and even though not everyone made every lift, honestly it was a major accomplishment for everyone who competed to just to walk up on that platform and try. I’m so honoured to have shared the platform with everyone who competed today. You are all amazing!
Special thanks to the Strong Side New West team for putting this competition together – they work so hard for the gym members and the community they have built is amazing. Today was a special day where the place was packed with people who came to cheer on the athletes, but every day at that gym is a wonderful community of supportive, funny, wonderful people who celebrate in each other’s wins, cheer each other on through the hard days, and who I’m enjoying getting to know more and more as we pick things up and put them back down, week after week.
And special props to all the people who volunteered to make this event happen – the people loading the weights onto the bar for all the lifts really should have won a prize – they had to lift all the weights for 2 hours! And the event couldn’t have happened without scorekeepers and the judge and the people checking in the athletes when they arrived. Every one of them is amazing and I thank you for making this special day happen.
And finally, don’t forget to donate to Purpose Service Society. They do really important work in our community and the money raised at today’s event is just the beginning. Strong Side New West is fundraising for Purpose throughout December and however many dollars we donate, the trainers have to lift that amount of kilograms! So give early, give often!
I was having trouble deciding what to be for Halloween this year and then my office announced that they’d picked a theme for the annual costume contest: horror movies. I figured that would help me as it would narrow down my options. But as I thought about it, most of the iconic horror movie characters are male: Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, Pinhead, Chucky, Dracula, Frankenstein, Jack Nicholson in the Shining. The first two female characters that popped to mind were sidekicks to males: Bride of Chucky and Bride of Frankenstein, and I wanted to be something that was more her own character. I did consider Carrie and one of the twin girls from The Shining, but felt the latter was really a costume that required a partner. I started Googling for ideas and saw a movie that came out quite a while ago that I really liked: Corpse Bride. Yes, I realize that she’s also a bride, but at least she wasn’t labeled as the bride of someone – she just happened to have been murdered on her wedding day.
So I set off to the thrift shops to find either a pink prom dress to be Carrie or a wedding-like dress to be Corpse Bride. After going to FOUR different Value Villages, I finally found what I was after. Well, I did find some actual wedding dresses at the first few Value Villages I went to, but they were a bit more expensive than I wanted to spent on a Halloween costume. And also I was creeped out at the thought of buying someone’s actual wedding dress at a Value Village1. As an aside, if anyone is looking for a super cheap wedding dress, you can find them at Value Village in the range of $50-$200, which is pretty cheap for a wedding dress!
I ended up settling on two dresses in fact – there was one dress that had a good top but was too short to be convincing as a wedding dress and another that was long enough (but not too bulky), but the top of it was too small for me – I couldn’t zip it up due to the size of my back and shoulders from my weightlifting. So I just zipped that dress up to the waist and put the other dress on top. As a bonus, the short dress is totally wearable as a summer dress for me – and together they cost me less than $20.
The hard part of the costume was the makeup. I decided to go full on with body paint and do the blue skin and huge cartoon character eyes and paint a skeleton arm because the Corpse Bride has a skeleton arm. She also has a skeleton leg but I didn’t bother to paint that because my long dress would cover it and also just doing the face and arms took long enough.
My sister told me about the unknown-to-me world of makeup tutorials on YouTube (my niece is a teenager, so my sister knows about such things) and I found this video that I followed to do my makeup. And then I found this other video that I used to paint my skeleton arm.
I had to get up at 5:30 am to put on all this makeup – you have to do a few coats and you have to let stuff dry before you can paint other stuff. And there was a whole production about getting my dress on with the minimal amount of damage to my paint. In the end, I was pretty happy with how it turned out.
The worst part was that the makeup crumbled throughout the day, so I had to do some touch ups and I left a trail of makeup crumbs wherever I went. I’m sure the cleaning people weren’t too pleased that evening.
In addition to wearing this to work, I also wore it to the gym, as my gym does a costume contest too. Here I am doing a chinup:
All in all, I was pretty happy with the costume and I got lots of compliments on both the look and the dedication that it took to wear body paint all day. But I’m pretty sure that I won’t be doing another costume involving body paint for a very long time! I’m trying to convince my team at work that we should do a team costume next year. They seemed pretty enthused by the idea when they saw the costume that one of the other teams at work put together: they dressed up at Costco! The same team the previous year dressed up as the Price is Right. So we are going to come up with some kick ass idea of a team costume for Halloween 2020. If anyone has suggestions, I’m all ears!
Plus, I was planning to wear my costume to work and then to the gym, and a full on wedding gown with a train and everything, which is what I found at Value Village, was just going to be too much to wear to work and definitely too much to try to work out in. [↩]
Remember that time I joined Strong Side, the best gym ever and became obsessed with lifting heavy weights and then putting them back down? Well, in addition to all the other things I love about this gym (like the super knowledgeable trainers that help me get super strong in a safe way and the wonderfully supportive and fun nature of my fellow Strong Siders), I love that the gym embraces the community and finds ways to give back. They sponsor local community events, they do fundraisers in partnership with other local small business, and they even provide some classes for people in need with a local non-profit.
For the past few years, they’ve done a fundraiser for Purpose Service Society where the trainers have to lift 1 kg for every dollar that Strong Siders donate. Well, this year they decided to take their fundraiser up a notch by hosting their first ever powerlifting competition to raise funds for Purpose! Those who want to compete pay an entry fee and those who want to spectate pay for a ticket, with the proceeds going to Purpose. There will probably also be some donation opportunities on the day of. And I’m sure that my astute readers have figured out where I’m going with this….
So I’m competing in a powerlifting competition in November. For quite some time I’ve been intrigued by the idea of this type of competition, but I’ve not been in a place where I feel I can dedicate the time to entering a “real” competition. Some of the people at my gym do these – two people just competed at provincials – and I see the amount of time and dedication they put into it, and I know that I am just not in the position to do that right now. But when I heard about this fundraiser competition, I immediately wanted to take part. To me, it’s a low barrier way to try out a competition to see what it’s like. I can do my usual 3 days-a-week at the gym, learn about how competitions work, and compete in the supportive environment of my own gym surrounded by cheering friends! I’m super stoked about the whole thing.
My trainer, Dee, wrote me my first powerlifting training plan. And while the competition will just involve deadlifting, I am going to train all three of the big lifts that are usually done in competition (deadlift, back squat, and bench press) just for fun. My first week of the program involved finding my current 3 rep max (i.e., what’s the most I can lift three times in a row). My 3 rep maxes turned out to be:
deadlift: 80 kg (176 lbs)
bench press: 45.5 kg (100 lbs)
squats: 75 kg (165 lbs)
And now I work through my program for 4 weeks where I lift a given percentage of my max for a bunch of reps, lifting progressively heavier weights for fewer reps each week to make some sweet, sweet gains and see just have far I can get. Or, as my new t-shirt says:
Given that I’d just starting getting back into the heavy lifts after rehabbing my knee injury, the competition is coming at a perfect time for me. Plus, two of my 2019 goals are to deadlift and squat 90 kg, so this competition will be the perfect opportunity to work towards those goals!
Anyway, long story short, if you see me between now and Nov 30, I’ll probably bore you to tears with talk of powerlifting. And I may also hit you up for a donation, once I figure out what the donation system is going to be (maybe donate $1 for every kg I lift? I’m open to suggestions!)
While searching for Creative Commons licensed images to use for various things (like lecture notes, conference presentations, or blog postings), I occasionally come across an image that has nothing to do with what I was actually searching, but which strikes my fancy. This is one such image:
In part this was because Dr. Dan told me that the CN Tower Edgewalk was way scarier than skydiving because when you are on the CN Tower, your brain can perceive the distance and it’s thinking “if I fall off of here, I’m going to splatter”. But when you are at 10,000 ft, you are so high up, your brain just cannot process that kind of distance, so you don’t feel that fear. I took those words to heart and decided that skydiving was something that I really wanted to try. And I’m really, really glad I did!
Since Dr. Dan is in town, we decided that yesterday would be a good day to jump out of a plane. Two of his students – Nic and Marshall – were also up for the adventure. We didn’t book the excursion in advance because the not insubstantial fee is nonrefundable and whether or not you can skydive at a given date and time is very weather dependent. If you book in advance and then the weather is not conducive to jumping, you have to reschedule for another day and since Dan is only in town for the week that didn’t really work for us.
So we called yesterday morning to see if the weather would allow us to jump and they said things weren’t looking great but we should call back at about 1:30 pm to see if the situation had improved. We did and they said the weather still wasn’t right, but to call back at 4 pm to check again. When we called back at 4 pm, I think we were prepared for them to say “today is just not a good day to jump “and we would try again the next day2, but much to our surprise they said “Yeah, it looks good now. How soon can you get here?” We were at my place New West and we had to get to Abbotsford, which is where the skydiving placs is, and we had to pick up Marhsall, who was in Maple Ridge, on the way. And since my wee Smart Car can’t fit four brave, soon-to-be skydivers, we had to grab a Modo car share for the trip. So we jumped into action, booking the car, running around trying to find the car after I misinterpreted the description of where the car was, and then off we went!
We arrived a bit later than we’d hoped and skydiving people were waiting for us, so it was a whirlwind of activity: signing the waiver, getting on our jumpsuits, people were strapping us into our harnesses as an instructor explained the procedure of what we need to do. We all got a chance to demonstrate that we listened to the procedure we needed to follow: cross your hands across your chest, and cross your feet when you jump out of the plane, then when your instructor (who you are attached to during the jump) taps your shoulder, you raise your arms up. That’s really all you need to do, because in a tandem jump, the instructor does all the actual work. Then we each met our respective instructors to whom we were going to be attached to – mine was a friendly guy named Jess – and they did the double check to make sure all the straps and hooks were strapped and hooked so that we would not plummet to our deaths. After that we walked toward the plane feeling like something out of Top Gun. Well, I would have felt more Top Gun if they hadn’t given me a pink jumpsuit (*barf*). Dr. Dan got the cool army green one, so he looked the most Top Gun-ish, imho.
And then it was into the plane and we took off – it all happened so fast I barely had time to think, let alone be scared. I set my Fitbit to record my heart rate for the trip, because at all times I’m a nerd and I was dying to see how my heart would react to all of this.
The plane climbed and climbed and I honestly could not wipe the smile off my face. I was so happy to be doing this and when I realized that I had such a big smile on my face, I was even more happy that I was genuinely happy and not scared!
I looked out the window as the beautiful scenery – the lush green farmland and river below us, the mountains off in the distance, a few pretty clouds, and amazing sunshine – and all I felt was excitement. At one point Jess said “We are halfway up” and I felt my stomach leap a little bit as a thought “omg, we are going twice this high?”, but as quickly as I thought that, it was replaced with “omg, it’s so beautiful”.
My heart took another leap when the plane levelled off because I knew that meant it was go time. Marshall was up first and I was after him. Both our instructors, who has tightened our harasses and attached us to themselves, got up to open up the door on the side of the plane and in an instant, Marshall and his instructor vanished out the door. Jess moved us to the door and, being attached to him and all, before I knew it, I was standing at the edge of the plane looking at the 10,000 ft to the ground. I think I said something like “oh my god, this is really happening” and then he jumped. I remembered to cross my hands over my chest but honestly do not know if I crossed my feet like instructed.
I feel one second of sheer terror and screamed, and then instantly I felt completely at peace. My brain was just like “we are totally fine. We are totally safe.” We were head down, free falling towards the earth3, but because you are so far up, you can’t actually tell that you are moving – the ground doesn’t look like it’s getting any closer. So it actually just feels like you are sitting still in the sky but with a great wind coming up at you. It was exhilarating. According to the skydiving log they gave me afterwards, we were in free fall for 40 seconds, but it felt like 10 seconds – just like your brain can’t make sense of the height you are at, I don’t think it can comprehend time properly while trying to process this completely surreal experience.
My instructor tapped me on the shoulder, and I put my arms up like we’d been told me – we were now free falling in the belly down position and then it felt like we were being pulled back up into the sky. I knew that this meant he’d pulled the parachute and we’d slowed down a lot – and now we were heads up and it honestly felt like I was just sitting on a swing and floating in the sky. It was an unbelievable feeling.
And only then did I get a chance to look around and take in the incredible sights. We spun around and got to see the world from a vantage point like no other. You know how when you look out the window of a plane and it’s so cool to see the world from up so high? Imagine that you aren’t looking at that through a tiny window while sitting in a uncomfortable plane seat – but you are getting a 360 view of that while freely floating in the sky. The fields were so green. The river was kind of brown, but I marvelled at the fact that if I could follow that river, I’d end up back at my home in New West. The mountains were amazing off in the distance, and there were a few fluffy clouds in the same sky as I now sat.
As I looked around, I saw two other parachutes off in the distance, but both below me and I remember being a bit confused because I was sure that I was the second person to jump, so how could there be two people below me? But my brain wasn’t able to process it, so I just continued to look around and enjoy the surreal experience. As it turned out, Dr. Dan’s instructor seemed to have be a bit speedier than the other instructors in getting to the ground, so he actually was below me despite having jumped after I did.
We floated around for a bit, going here and there over the land, and I was chattering about the experience the whole time. I am an external processor, so when I thought about it later, I realized that I was talking as a way of comprehending what was happening. It was a very interesting experience to see my brain trying to understand what was going on – the experience is so unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.
And all too soon, the jump was over. We came to a gentle landing on the grass and I reunited with my friends to excitedly talk about our jumps. We had all chosen to get the video package where the instructor wears a video camera on their wrist – for me, Nic, and Marshall, it was our first times and we needed to have it documented. We had to wait for a bit while they edited our videos, which was OK because I think we also needed a bit of time to come down from the adrenaline rush.
While we were waiting, I decided to check out my heart rate from the jump. This is what my heart rate was from the time we got on the plane until the time I landed:
I was delighted to see that my heart rate mirrored my subjective experience – you can my heart rate actually lowering as we sat on the plane, a small jump which I think was when the plane levelled off and and I realized it was go time, a spike which I’m sure was the moment we stood up and then jumped, resulting in my one second of terror, and then an immediate drop as my brain said “actually, this isn’t scary. It’s amazing!)
As we waited for our videos, Jess came over and said “I’ve got good news and bad news. When we jumped, the camera malfunctioned – the screen just went blank – so while we were in free fall, I had to reboot it. I only got the last few seconds of free fall and then the rest of the time. So we are going to refund your money, but we will give you the footage we did get.” My reply: “If anything was going to go wrong during the jump, I’m glad it was just the camera.”
As it turned out, I think the video is just fine. I don’t mind that it missed the jumping part – that is the part where I was freaking out and screaming anyway! And I got it for free, which makes this cheap, cheap woman happy.
I can’t upload the video to YouTube because it’s set to music (which YouTube would flag as a copyright violation). And the file is too big for me to upload directly to my blog4. So if you want to see it, you’ll just have to ask me to show it to you the next time I see you!
In conclusion, skydiving was amazing and I want to do it again. I want to skydiving over all sorts of different scenery. Imagine skydiving over the desert! Or a lush tropical landscape! Or the Arctic! Anyone up for skydiving on every continent with me?
In fairness, the Patullo Bridge does seem like it’s about to collapse at any moment, so that fear is somewhat justified. [↩]
Although the price is more expensive on weekends and I’m a cheap, cheap woman. [↩]
I looked it up and in the head down position, terminal velocity is about 200 mph! and when you switch to belly down, it’s about 120 mph! [↩]
OK, so it’s not technically summer until Friday, but you’d never know it from the weather we’ve been having. It’s sunny and warm and the sun is up until nearly 9:30 pm.
Things I’m excited about for the summer, in no particular order:
The New West Grand Prix – watching professional cyclists ride around and around and around and around my home is actually a lot more exciting than one might expect. Plus my gym will have beer and snacks
playing tennis – Scott and I bought some tennis rackets that were on super duper sale at a sports store that was closing down, right before I sprained my MCL. And while the MCL healing has been going slower than I would like, it’s definitely getting better. So much so that I’ve been able to play hockey with a knee brace – so I think I’ll give tennis with a knee brace a try too!
the New West Farmers market – while the Farmers Market in New West runs all year, the winter market is uptown on Saturdays and somehow I never manage to get all the way uptown! But the summer market is at City Hall, which is just a short walk (up a very steep hill) from me on Thursday afternoons/evenings. I haven’t gotten out there for the first few weeks, but I’m planning to go soon.
canning/jamming more stuff – my friend Patricia has some pear trees near here that have those most amazing tasting pears EVER. I can’t wait until they are ready because I’m going to pick some and can them!
tackling stuff from my 2019 goals list– I am VERY behind on my goals for this year (I blame teaching too much in the January semester), but now that that is behind me (along with all my work travel for May), I can actually do some of that stuff
hiking – every summer I say I’m going to do more hiking. Hope springs eternal!
I also have a bunch of vacay that I need to book, but I don’t really want to go away when it’s so nice out and there’s so many fun things going on. Perhaps I’ll take some days off to do stuff around here (especially if a certain friend of mine comes to visit and wants to jump out of a plane with me, as we may or may not have previously discussed).
And maybe I’ll look at the fall for a trip somewhere…
My brother-in-common-law got a virtual reality (VR) game system for his and my sister’s family this year. So we’ve spent most of Christmas Eve doing this:
I mean seriously, if you’d told me when I was a kid that someday I’d basically be doing Jedi training in the living room, I would never have believed it! But here we are with computers in our pockets, a digital assistant that can turn up the thermostat with a simple voice command, and VR systems in our living rooms.
So I decided that I needed videographic evidence to prove that I can, in fact, do an unassisted chin up, so I asked one of the trainers at the gym to take a video of me doing a chin up. And much to my own surprise, I did two!
You know that thing where you go on vacation and then you come back and not only did all the work that you didn’t do while you were away not get done, but it seems to have made some new friends while you were gone so you now have about eleventy billion emails to deal with and decisions to make and meetings to present at and assignments to grade? That is officially my excuse for why this blogposting about my trip to Hawaii is coming 25 days after we arrived back how!
Anyhoo, I’ve managed to mostly catch up so now I’m just back to my baseline level of crazy busy, plus it is a 4 day weekend, so I have found some time to sit down and tell you all about our trip to Hawaii. Spoiler alert: it’s amazing and I didn’t want to come home.
We arrived in the afternoon on Sunday, after an uneventful flight from YVR to Seattle and another uneventful flight from Seattle to Honolulu. We’d booked our trip through Costco1, as it was the best deal we found, and the package came with transportation to and from the airport. The person greeting us also had leis for all, so here’s a selfie of us at the airport”
In what would become a theme for the trip, after a day of flying, my hair looks like crap.
The rest of Sunday was basically just getting checked into the hotel (the Aston Waikiki Beach hotel) and then wandering around to get the lay of the land. Since we got in around 2pm, which meant we didn’t have much time to see stuff before the sunset because omg, the sun sets early. I knew that Hawaii was near the equator, but I hadn’t really thought about the implications of that in terms of sunrise and sunset – it’s pretty much sun from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm every day, all year long. I’m used to living quite far north of the equator and so my brain thinks summer weather = suns sets at 9 pm, so it was kind of trippy for it to be 27°C and have the sun set at dinner time! Fortunately, it stays warm even after the sunset, so it’s still nice to wander around even after the sun goes down. If you’ve never been to Honolulu, it’s basically just all beach and open air malls, with an ABC store every 12 feet.
We decided to start the holiday off with a bang by taking a surfing lesson. As long time readers may recall, I have been surfing only two times in my life and had only managed to get to a standing position for about half a second on one of those two surfing days. And that was more than a decade ago. So I figured that an actual surfing lesson, which I didn’t do the last time, was in order. We found a Groupon for lessons through Moku Hawaii Surf Shop, which was close to our hotel, so we decided to take our lessons with them. And I’m happy to report that having a surfing lesson resulted in a much more success in the amount of standing on the surfboard! We had a fantastic instructor named Jennifer, who was the only female instructor we saw in Waikiki. She went over the safety basics and the basics of how to surf, and told us that the hardest part of surfing isn’t getting up on your feet – it’s all about timing – picking the right wave and then figuring out when to start paddling and when to jump up. We headed out to the beach and then Scott and I basically took turns getting some help from Jennifer – she helped us pick a good wave, helped us with timing when to start paddling, gave us a little push to get going, and yelled “up” to let us know when to pop up. Once we got the hang of that, she helped us with timing but without the push (which made me realize how much the push helped!). She also had a GoPro camera that was on my surfboard for the first half of the lesson and on Scott’s surfboard for the second half. She also remembered part way through my time with the Go-Pro to tell me to turn the camera off when I was just walking/paddling back out to the waves, which meant that there were a million photos of me walking/paddling back out from before she told me that, but no photos of Scott like that. We got footage of a few of our runs each, but of course none of my really good runs were captured on video!
Waiting for a good wave:
Starting to paddle – you have to make sure you get up enough speed before the wave gets there so you can catch the wave:
Then you have to pop up:
First up on your knees:
Then pop up to your feet:
Then you are surfing like a pro:
Until you fall off:
We had an absolute blast! Jennifer said that most people don’t last the full two hours, but Scott and I did. I credit all the hard workouts we did leading up to our trip2.
The water was pretty shallow and the reef was very sharp and what with all the falling off and getting knocked about by the waves, I managed to rip up my foot pretty badly:
It looked worse in person than that photo, if you can believe that.
Also, this picture is awesome:
After our lesson ended, we spent the rest of the day lounging on the beach. It was at some point on this day that I said “Let’s send for the cats! I want to stay here forever!” Sadly, the reality of not having jobs there or a place to live there or the necessary citizenship to do that quickly quashed my dream, so I had to just make do with 6 more days.
Here’s a video of me surfing (you really only need to watch the first couple of minutes – after that it’s just me sloooooowly walking back out to sea as I didn’t know I was supposed to turn off the camera!):
And here’s Scott – this video actually includes him surfing twice:
We had so much fun surfing that we decided to do it again the next day. Since we’d taken lessons from Moku, we were able to get a discount on renting boards the next day. We were just going to rent for a few hours, but they gave us the whole day, so we spent the day surfing, then lounging on the beach, then surfing, and repeat.
We also tested ou snorkelling gear3 in the hotel pool.
We rented a car for a couple of days because we knew we wanted to check out more of the island – and because I wanted to go swimming with sharks and you have to go to the North Shore to do that. So Wednesday we drove around the island, including stopping by the beach at the Turtle Bay resort to do some snorkelling. The water was pretty murky, but we still managed to see some cool looking fish. Sadly, there were no turtles!
We also managed to find Ted’s Bakery, which my friend Heather had recommended that we check out. They make some pretty fantastic pie:
Thursday was the day I’d been waiting for since we’d decided to go to Hawaii – swimming with sharks! When my sister went to Hawaii ages ago, she did this and it sounded so cool that I wanted to do it too! We found a Groupon4 for a trip with North Shore Shark Adventures, but then I discovered that if you book directly with them online, you get the same price as the Groupon, so I just booked directly. The concept is simple – you get on a boat, go out to a place where there are sharks, and then jump in a cage that’s floating off the side of the boat and snorkel while you watch the sharks swim all around you. Apparently the sharks are attracted by the sound of the boat because they go out to an area where people fish for crabs and the sharks have become accustomed to the crab fishers dumping their used bait out of the crab traps there, so the sharks hear a boat and think “dinner time!”5. The sharks in the area are mostly Galapagos sharks, with some sandbar sharks. I totally thought that Great White sharks were common in Hawaii, but the crew told us they are not.
We were supposed to be on a 10 am trip, but we got a call from the company a day before saying that forecast was for really choppy water so they were going to cancel the 10 am trip, but we could go on the 7 am one instead. Despite this meaning we had to get up at like 5 am to make the drive from Waikiki to the North Shore, we decided to do it ‘cuz we really wanted to swim with the sharks!
Here I am on the boat:
Here’s the cage:
And here are some of the freaking sharks, as seen from the deck of the boat:
There were 12 people on the boat who wanted to go in the cage, along with some crew members, and a few people who were just along for the ride. So one group of six went first while the rest of us watched and then the second group of six took a turn after. Here’s the other group after the ropes had been loosened to allow the cage to float a bit away from the boat:
While the other group was in the cage, one of the women popped her head up and asked the crew “What’s the little shiny silver shark?” One of the crew members said “Is it about this big [holding his hands about a foot apart] and kind of pointy?” When she replied “Yes”, he said “That’s a barracuda. You should watch out for that. It can get inside cage and it will bite”.
After the first group’s turn was up, we got to go into the cage. I was the first one in our group to get in the cage. It was such a cool experience! The sharks were so beautiful – so graceful swimming by, all around and beneath us. Some of the Galapagos sharks were quite big – the biggest one we saw was probably 10 ft long. I really, really wished I had a Go Pro camera of my own as it would have been amazing to capture it! I wasn’t scared of the sharks at all – there was no way they could have gotten into our cage and they really seemed pretty docile. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to stick my hand in their mouth or anything, but being in the cage felt totally safe. The barracuda showed up while we were in there and honestly, I was more afraid of him, because he could totally have swam into the cage and taken a bite! And he just sat their next to the cage, staring at us with his cold dead eye. I found this photo of a barracuda on Wikipedia and this is just what he looked like:
Scary barracuda is scary!
As I mentioned, the water was pretty choppy and eventually it got the better of me and I totally puked from sea sickness right in the cage! So gross! But I did feel better after losing my breakfast, so at least there’s that. (I also found out that several other people also got sea sick while we were in the cage – they were just puking off the side of the boat!) As much as I hate puking, it was totally worth it to see those sharks!
Also, while I didn’t have a Go Pro to capture this, some other random people who did the same dive as us on a different day did and put it up on Youtube. So check out this video and imagine that Scott and I are in that cage, because this is exactly what it was like:
After we finished with the sharks, we decided to head back to Turtle Bay for more snorkelling and lounging on the beach. Still no turtles!
Later that day, we hit the Dole plantation. We decided to go on the aptly named “Pineapple Express” train that goes around the plantation and features a narration that tells you about how the Dole Food Company is the most successful and generous company on the planet, pineapples are the greatest food ever to have existed and probably can cure cancer, and James Drummond Dole could walk on water6.
We did get to see some cool stuff, like how pineapples actually grow on bushes on the ground – I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I’d kind of assumed they grew in trees, like coconuts!
In addition to pineapple, the Dole plantation had a bunch of other stuff – sugar cane, lemons, limes, avocados, cocoa, coffee, coconuts, bananas, etc.
After we finished our Pineapple Express trip, featuring the musical stylings of a band that was willing to record a song called “Pineapple Express”, we checked out the shop to get some delicious Dole whip, which is basically like ice cream except that it’s made of pineapple instead of cream. I have to admit, it was pretty delicious. We also stayed for a pineapple cutting demonstration, during which the demonstrator took about 20 minutes using a special pineapple cutting knife while repeating “So easy!” over and over and over again. I will admit that it looked pretty cool when she was done, but I don’t think I’ll be adjusting my pineapple cutting ways.
Scott is a pineapple
After we were full of Dole whip and indoctrinated into the cult of Dole, we decided to try to find a waterfall that you can hike to at the Waimano Public Hunting Area. I was a wee bit concerned to start a hike that starts with a sign that says I might be hunted with a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun, a knife, a spear, and/or a bow and arrow (should I be mistaken for a pig or goat of either sex).
Also concerning were the angry looking clouds in the sky and, not fancying the idea of driving all the way back to Waikiki in soaking wet clothing, we decided to just snap this pic of us with the scenic background and head back to the car without getting to our destination. I guess this is why they say don’t go chasing waterfalls.
As usual on this trip, my hair is a mess. But I had to fight off sharks and a barracuda earlier that day, so I guess it is to be expected.
On Friday we jumped on the city bus and headed to hike Diamond Head, which is a 300,000 year old crater.
It’s not a super tough hike, thought these stairs at the top were not my favourite:
but they get you to pretty cool views;
I don’t know what that lighthouse is called, but I’m totally adding it to my upcoming blog posting “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”7
Since we’d already paid for a day pass for the bus8, we decided to head to the other side of town after our hike and checked out what was going on over there. Highlights included, this turtle who was hanging out in a fake pond by a restaurant:
these beautiful birds that live at the Hilton:
and possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten:
It was surprisingly difficult to find ice cream in Waikiki. You’d think there would be an ice cream shop on every street corner. But you’d be wrong. We had to go all the way to the other side of Waikiki to find it.
Another reason we had decided to go to that side of town was that every Friday night the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort has a fireworks show. So after strolling around to see the various sights and eat the various ice cream that was on the side of town, we strolled over to the beach to watch the fireworks.
Yet again, my hair is craptacular! Given how much time we’d spent in the ocean on this trip, I’d pretty much given up hope that I could do anything with my hair by this point.
We followed up the fireworks display with a meal at Morton’s steakhouse, which was super freaking delicious. We were also somewhat amazed that we could walk into a restaurant on a Friday night without a reservation9.
On the advice of my uncle Harry and my friend Sarah, neither of whom have actually been10, we visited the USS Arizona Memorial. The USS Arizona is one of the ships that was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbour and it still sits where it sank, with the 1,177 who died that day still on the ship. In addition, some of the survivors of the USS Arizona have decided to have the ship as the final resting place of their remains when they subsequently died, making it both a memorial to those who died in the attack and an active military cemetery. When you visit, you first watch a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbour, complete with footage of the attack and some explanation of how and why the attack happened. Then you go on a navy boat to the memorial, which is basically a platform that sits astride the remains of the ship.
The white structure in the background is the memorial, as seen from our boat as we headed towards the memorial.
Parts of the remains of the ship.
Oil still leaks from the ship, more than 75 years later.
There were some divers going into the water near the ship. I’m not sure what they were doing.
Divers in the water near the oil leaks.
Names of the men who died on the USS Arizona are written instead the memorial
It was very sobering to see so many names – 1,177 men died just on this ship, let alone all the others who died in various other parts of Pearl Harbor that day – and to think about how young they all were – just boys, really, and their ship was sinking, and then exploding, before they even knew what happened. Today, there are only five remaining survivors, ranging in age from 94-96 years old.
After the navy boat brought us back, we wandered around a bit to see the other things that were around, like this nuclear torpedo:
And read the various signs with more information about the event:
After that, we headed back to Waikiki to do more wandering around, eventually hitting Duke’s for dinner:
Delicious drinks at Duke’s
and then stumbling upon a hula show that was going on at the beach:
Sunday was our last full day on Oahu and we decided to spent it at Hanauma Bay, a beach on a bay that was formed by volcanic activity about 32,000 years ago, It became a very popular tourist destination because of its beautiful beach and amazing marine life, with about 400 different species of fish living there. They state has turned it into a nature preserve and when you first get there you have to watch a movie that basically just says “Don’t touch any of the living creatures, including the coral. Hey, did you know coral is alive? Well, you do now, so don’t touch it!” Then you are allowed to head down the hill to enjoy the beach.
Hanumba Bay was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, which is saying something because I loved pretty much everything about this trip. But the snorkelling here was amazing! The water was so clear and there were so many different kinds of beautiful fish! I was really regretting not having a GoPro while snorkeling here. You can see some of the types of fish that we saw on this Hanauma Bay Education Program Fish Identification Card – ones we saw included Bluespine Unicornfish, Bird Wrasse, Hawaiian Sergeant, female Spotted Boxfish, male Christmas Wrasse, Moorish Idol, many types of Parrotfish and tonnes of Reef Triggerfish and Convict Tang. There was also a giant purple fish that I think was a type of Parrotfish and it was so big that you could actual hear it eating when you were underwater with it!
I found this video on Youtube from someone who had a similar experience – it’s a different colour of fish, but you can see what I mean about hearing the fish eating:
Apparently there are sometimes reef sharks in the bay, but we didn’t see any. I would kind of loved to have seen one because sharks are awesome, but even knowing that there has never been a shark attack in the bay and reef sharks don’t feed on humans, I may have freaked out if I’d actually seen one because OMG SHARK!
We basically spent the whole day there, alternating between snorkelling and lounging on the beach. On one of our later times out snorkelling that day we finally saw the second thing (other than sharks) that I wanted to see in the wild: a turtle! We were just snorkelling around on the opposite side of the bay than we’d been before and Scott called me over to where he was and pointed down into the reef. And there was a beautiful green sea turtle, just swimming around and eating from the reef! Again, I was kicking myself for not having a GoPro! I did find this photo on Flickr of a turtle that looks just like the one we saw:
I spent a bunch of time just swimming around following the turtle – he was just so cute11!
Here’s a video from someone who was smart enough to bring a GoPro with them while snorkelling there (this is pretty much exactly what my day was like, except for the soundtrack):
Also at the beach were a whole bunch of cats, who apparently live, feasting on garbage and having somewhat of an uneasy truce with a bunch of mongooses.
At one point, Scott was petting the kitties and a little kid who was probably three or four years old and had clearly paid attention in the “don’t touch the wildlife” video admonished him “Don’t touch them!!!!!” Of course, not touching the feral cats is probably more of a safety rule for you rather than the cats, but he didn’t end up getting bitten or scratched, so I suppose we’ll call that a win for all.
And just like that, the trip was over! We got one last morning in Honolulu, where I snapped what is probably the nicest photo I took on the whole trip, and from the restaurant in our hotel, of all places!
On top of being a super amazing awesome fun time, my trip also allowed me to knock two items off my 101 list: #1 – Cage dive with sharks and #91 – Go to Hawaii. And as soon as I hit publish on this posting, it will put me 1/6th of the way towards achieving my 2018 goal of having “published at least six [blog postings] that are long form (minimum of 3000 words).”
In conclusion: A++, would Hawaii again.
Image and Video Credits: The barracuda photo is from Wikipedia and the Green Sea Turtle photo posted by FHKE on Flickr with a Creative Commons license. All the other photos are mine or Scott’s. The two surfing videos are mine and Scott’s and for sources of the other videos, follow the links to YouTube.
I’m reasonably sure that I’m slowly drifting towards an entirely Costco-based life. First it was just for food… then clothing… and now travel! [↩]
I told my trainer for January & February to give me a training program that would help me with surfing and/or looking good on the beach. So she gave me some crazy tough workouts and I think it really helped! [↩]
Which we bought at Costco (of course) before we left Vancouver. [↩]
Apparently some companies will chum the water to attack sharks, but it’s controversial as it can affect shark behaviour and even lead to sharks equating humans with food, which is not a good thing. [↩]
Honestly, the whole time I kept thinking that the narration should have been done by Troy McClure. [↩]
Note to self: write that blog posting that you’ve been meaning to write since forever called “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”. [↩]
As a day pass is the same price as going somewhere on the bus and then returning, we decided just to get the pass to get to the hike and back, and then use it to travel around town some more. Because frugality. [↩]
Though Sarah did plan a visit for her parents when they were in Hawaii and thus was able to give me detailed instructions of how to get there, get tickets, etc. [↩]
I’d also stalked some fish throughout the day – I’d find an interesting looking fish and then just follow it around to see where it would go. It got me wondering what the fish and turtle think about all these snorkelers – do they just think we are some weird looking fish? [↩]