Monday, September 27, 2010

Swimming---Going to Great Lengths

A swimmer performing the front crawl.Image via Wikipedia

Swimming offers both a short - and long-term payback for those who do it regularly and with a reasonable level of intensity.

Quite simply, it can save your life. In the short-term and hopefully unlikely scenario – falling into deep water perhaps far from shore – the ability to remain calm and swim strongly can be a life saver. In the long-term, it is an aerobic exercise that boosts cardiac fitness and improves both quality and duration of life.

There is also the bonus of a “swimmer’s build” for those most religious in their workouts in the pool. But swimming isn’t just for elite athletes. Whether you do the breaststroke, side stroke, front crawl or even the dog paddle, any exercise in the water is beneficial. As your skill level and endurance increases, you may feel comfortable to increase the intensity of your workout.

Swimming has a long history, with its earliest records going back to paintings of about 7,000 years ago. It was part of the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. Thankfully, my roots in swimming are much more recent. I was born a water baby. Growing up near the St. Clair River and Lake Huron, I learned to love the water at an early age and was soon paddling and swimming through it. For me, swimming is both for exercise and a stress reliever. Working and standing on my feet takes a toll on my body, causing stiffness. Swimming loosens the muscles and provides a sense of well-being. Swimming laps can be boring, but I do most of my best thinking when in the water. It clears the mind.

But it is not so good for the hair and skin. Chlorine and salt water can also take a toll on your swim suit. It’s worth paying a little extra to get a good swim suit and good products to keep your skin from drying out and to prevent your hair from discoloring.

But any of these problems are easily remedied.

So what’s stopping you? Get in the swim.

Kathy Dowsett

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dive Women Canada

Diving pictureImage via Wikipedia

Mission / Vision


As a woman who has been diving since 2000, I was struck from the beginning at how few women expressed an interest in the sport. At one point in my life, not long after I was certified, I experienced a career crisis, and my best friend and partner suggested that I become a diving instructor. He felt that if I became an instructor, more women and particularly young women and girls may be inspired to learn to dive. It is eight years later, and for the past year and a half, I have been collaborating with another lady instructor, an extraordinary woman, Shannon Gough, and during that time, Shannon and I have gone from being the “token females” on a dive expedition to leading teams of predominantly women divers. Having said that, I want to make it clear that our goal is to not exclude anyone who wants to dive. Considering how we both earned our experience, not to mention some of the best memories of our lives being mentored by some of the finest men we have ever met, we just want to make sure that anyone who wishes to have these experiences is able to do so in an environment in which they feel comfortable, regardless of age, gender, or background. It is all about living life to its fullest and not living in fear of what lies out there in the abyss. Let’s see what’s out there together, and dive on!!!!!

‘When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.’

Friedrich Nietzsche

Thanks Andrea

Kathy Dowsett
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

The last of the sea nomads

War Game-Messages trans. at sea (LOC)Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

For generations they have lived on the ocean, diving and fishing, and rarely setting foot on land. But now they risk destroying the reefs that sustain them…

Diana Botutihe was born at sea. Now in her 50s, she has spent her entire life on boats that are typically just 5m long and 1.5m wide. She visits land only to trade fish for staples such as rice and water, and her boat is filled with the accoutrements of everyday living – jerry cans, blackened stockpots, plastic utensils, a kerosene lamp and a pair of pot plants.

Diana is one of the world's last marine nomads; a member of the Bajau ethnic group, a Malay people who have lived at sea for centuries, plying a tract of ocean between the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. The origins of the Bajau diaspora are recounted in the legend of a princess from Johor, Malaysia, who was washed away in a flash flood. Her grief-stricken father ordered his subjects to depart, returning only when they'd found his daughter.

Over generations, the Bajau adapted to their maritime environment and, though marginalised, their knowledge was revered by the great Malay sultans, who counted on them to establish and protect trade routes. They are highly skilled free divers, plunging to depths of 30m and more to hunt pelagic fish or search for pearls and sea cucumbers – a delicacy among the Bajau and a commodity they have traded for centuries.

Since diving is an everyday activity, the Bajau deliberately rupture their eardrums at an early age. "You bleed from your ears and nose, and you have to spend a week lying down because of the dizziness," says Imran Lahassan, of the community of Torosiaje in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. "After that you can dive without pain." Unsurprisingly, most older Bajau are hard of hearing. When diving, they wear hand-carved wooden goggles with glass lenses, hunting with spear guns fashioned from boat timber, tyre rubber and scrap metal.

The number of Bajau living on traditional lepa-lepa boats (narrow, high-prowed vessels, highly prized among the region's coastal populations) is dwindling fast, however. Nomadism has always been at odds with the fixed boundaries of the nation state, and over the last few decades controversial government programmes have forced most Bajau to settle on land. Today, many live in stilt villages such as Torosiaje, though the settlement is unique in that it lies a full kilometre out to sea.

Ane Kasim and her son Ramdan spend six months at a time on their lepa-lepa, subsisting on whatever they can harvest from the reefs. At dusk, they gather with the other boats in the lee of a small island, beside a mangrove forest where the water is calm. They build small fires in the sterns, grilling crustaceans and boiling thin mollusc stews. Their connection with the natural surroundings is vital: "I love being at sea – fishing, rowing, just feeling everything, the cold, the heat," Ane says.

It's not an easy life. Most lepa-lepa have rudimentary engines, but Ane can't afford one. "When I go to Torosiaje, I have to row. We don't have anything; my husband died from the cramp." She means decompression sickness, or the bends. These days, those who can afford it dive using compressors. Air is pumped through a garden hose so divers can go deeper for longer – 40m or more. Unaware of the need to restrict their exposure to pressure, countless Bajau have ended up crippled or killed by deadly nitrogen bubbles in their bloodstream.

The practice continues, however, because it's lucrative – especially when potassium cyanide is involved. Cyanide fishing was first introduced in the Philippines by Hong Kong fishing boats looking for reef species such as grouper and Napoleon wrasse to satisfy seafood restaurants' rising demand for live fish. It quickly spread throughout the Coral Triangle, a bio-region that spans six south-east Asian countries and is home to the planet's greatest diversity of marine species, including 76% of all known corals. Divers use plastic bottles to puff poisonous clouds at target species, stunning them and damaging the coral habitat. Today, the industry is worth upwards of $800m a year, according to research by WWF.

Torosiaje used to be flanked by teeming reefs; now there are only wastelands of broken coral, the legacy of years of dynamite and cyanide fishing. It's a common story throughout the Coral Triangle – communities destroying the environment that sustains them, driven by voracious global markets. Thankfully, things are beginning to change. Charities such as WWF and Conservation International are helping create marine management programmes that encourage sustainability through no-fish zones and a return to traditional fishing methods. It is often the Bajau who pass on such programmes to local communities.

Traditional Bajau cosmology – a combination of animism and Islam – reveals a complex relationship with the ocean, which for them is a multifarious and living entity. There are spirits in currents and tides, in coral reefs and mangroves. Such reverence and knowledge could be used to conserve rather than destroy.

Thanks to Guardian in the UK for a great piece!!

Kathy Dowsett
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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ear Pressure Equalisation

When you're diving, the air in the closed spaces inside your ears is compressed which gives you a "squeezing" feeling. It is necessary to prevent ear damage to "equalise" the pressure.

How to properley equalise your ears

Step 1: Descend until your head is just below the surface.

Step 2: Pinch your nose and firmly but gently breath into it

Step 3: Make sure you control your descent and continue to equalise as you go down

Step 4: If you're still having trouble clearing your ears, try tipping your head to either side as you do this.

Ear Equalisation Tips

Tip 1: If you are experiencing pain in your ears, ascend slowly until the pain is gone and try equalising again.

Tip 2: Never go diving when you are congested or have a cold - even with medicine, if you become congested again underwater you'll get reverse block on the way back up

Tip 3: Equalise early and equalise often! Once you have got the technique down, you should not be experiencing any pain whatsoever!

Tip 4: If you are still having trouble equalising, try the alternate methods of moving your jaw or swallowing.

Tip 5: Take it slowly, a lot of people have trouble equalising after not diving for a while!

Kathy Dowsett

Thanks to the Scuba Site
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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Former Sault Athlete Helps Earn Medal In Underwater Hockey

Underwater HockeyImage via Wikipedia

Former Sault residents who recently returned from the World Underwater Hockey Championships in Columbia last week helped the Canadian team place third.

Kimberly Grattan recently moved to the Ottawa area but grew up in the Sault and played for years with the local Sault Tridents Underwater Hockey Team. Kim had just been in the Sault the week before going to the World Championships in order to get some last minute training / scrimmaging with her old teammates.

Kim Grattan played on behalf of the Canadian Women’s Team which earned third place at the end of the tournament; the championships ran from August 8 – 15th in Medellin, Colombia. These girls played some very stiff competition and played well for Canada. The women played well throughout the round robin portion of the tournament. The women initially lost 6-2 in a close match to the U.S. women’s team at the very start of the tournament but rallied back afterwards. The U.S. Women’s team beat the Colombian Elite team by one goal followed a few games later by the Canadian Women’s team beating the Colombian Elite team 3-1. At the end of the round robin, the girls had a 5-1 record going into the gold medal round.

The girls faced off against the Colombian Elite team for the gold but unfortunately lost out in a tight 3-2 match. This left Canada playing for the bronze medal round as the Colombian Women’s Elite team ended up beating out the U.S. Women’s team for gold and silver respectively. The girls played off against Team Orca, a second Colombian women’s team, for third and ended this game with a final score of 10-0, securing the bronze medal. One of Kim Grattan’s teammates, Amy Cannon, picked up a trophy for most goals scored in the tournament by a female player – 34 in total.

This is Kim’s first kick at the world circuit but she has played for the last few years on the National and Provincial levels. Kim has a strong aquatic background competing on a variety of levels and competitions. Kim’s brother Dave Grattan also played for years with the local Sault contingent until moving to southern Ontario.

The Sault Tridents have had a number of players compete on a Provincial, National and World level. The team itself has competed as a whole for many years in both Provincial and National tournaments. The team has traditionally done very well at these tournaments. World teams are selected through the assistance of the national underwater games body and several members from the Sault have competed regularly at this level.

World competitions are held every two years with the next competition slated for Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2012. The local Sault Tridents play weekly at the YMCA and occasionally at the John Rhodes aquatic facility. The team partakes in several tournaments a year including tournaments in Lansing, Michigan, London, Ontario, Champagne, Illinois, Chicago, Illinois, Guelph, Ontario, and Toronto. The team’s local website can be found at:

Underwater hockey was started by Alan Blake, Secretary of the Southsea British Sub- Aqua Club of Portsmouth, England, in 1954 to improve the snorkeling skills of his scuba students. The game came to Canada via Norm Liebeck, an Australian SCUBA instructor, who introduced the sport to the Vancouver Vanquatics SCUBA club in 1962. Ten years later, the Underwater Hockey Association of BC (UHABC) was formed and received support from the BC government.

In 1975, the first Canadian Men's Championships were held and in 1978, the first Canadian Women's Championships took place. Both were held in Vancouver, B.C., as well as the first World Tournament in 1980, now a biannual competition. The first Canadian Mixed Championships were held in 1982 in Montreal. The Canadian Underwater Games Association (CUGA), which governs both underwater hockey and underwater rugby in Canada, was formed in 1985. It was around this time that stick design and methods of playing had evolved to what is seen at present.

Today, the sport is played in more than 20 different countries including Australia, New Zealand, France, Holland, South Africa, the US, the U.K., Sweden, Hungary and Japan. Internationally, the sport is governed by the Underwater Games Commission of the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatique (CMAS), the world diving organization. In Canada, CUGA is our national contact.

Thanks to Jack Rice from the

Kathy Dowsett
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The Cove PSA - My Friend Is...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Virginia Hatter, not your ordinary dive instructor

Photograph of a PADI Master SCUBA Diver badgeImage via Wikipedia

If PADI dive instructor “Virginia from Virginia” Hatter’s experience is any indication, there has been a “surge,” no pun intended, in SCUBA diving interest on the part of women.
When she started instructing in San Diego, her male students outnumbered their female counterparts by a ratio as high as 80:20. Now, it has become equal, if not more women, maybe as high as 60 to 70 per cent female, she says.
“I do not advertise. Almost 100 per cent of my students are referrals,” says Virginia, who only learned to dive herself in 2004 and quickly progressed from PADI Open Water Diver certification to several specialized disciplines, PADI Master SCUBA Diver, PADI Assistant Instructor, PADI Open Water Instructor and PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer.
In her case, female students recommending her course to their friends is a factor in changing the male-female ratio so dramatically. But it’s also a sport that is as suited to one sex as the other.
“Everyone loves the ocean, exploring wrecks, canyons, reefs and all different types of diving.”
Growing up in Virginia (hence the nickname “Virginia from VA”), she had learned to love a variety of water sports, from small time sailing to waterskiing, jet skiing, surfing and swimming.
“I’m a water person anyway,” Virginia says, so she welcomed the challenge and opportunity when her staff at a sports retail store she managed urged her to sign up for PADI Open Water Diver lessons the store was offering. “I loved it from the first breath I took underwater in the pool. Little did I know it would change my entire life.”
Being a stressed out HR manager in Virginia wearing dress suits and paying to park, turned into her passion for “changing the lives of others for the better through SCUBA diving instruction.” She adds that “the only difference is my panty hose are now seven-mm thick.”
Virginia had moved to San Diego by the time she took up SCUBA diving and instructing has become a full-time job for her. She has a waiting list of students.
She prefers to work as an independent so she can control the number of students in her classes and does not press her students to finish in a prescribed time. “There are no make-up fees for classes missed, nor will I promise a certification date.”
“I do not believe in large classes,” says Virginia, who never teaches more than four students in the water at once, and usually instructs private or semi-private classes. “I don’t want to be the biggest. I strive to be the safest.”
It has been a little slow this year due to problems that affected all dive operations in the San Diego area. They include high surf, red tide, strong currents and low visibility.
“I do not take students in unfavourable conditions. Instructing students to dive in these circumstances and conditions is simply not safe. Diving is already a little intimidating as it is. Safety must come first, then education, followed by fun.”
Virginia also suffered two sting ray hits that kept her out of the water for awhile. The second one was more painful. A large number of small, aggressive sting rays had congregated close to shore off San Diego for four or five days and there were more than 100 hits, including hers.
Virginia says she doesn’t know if her female students are more comfortable with a woman instructor than a man, but that wasn’t the case for her. Her instructors were all men and she called them “the best of the best.” She never experienced any male chauvinist attitude among instructors who taught her or among those who are now her competition. “Most are men for whom I have the highest regard.”
In fact, she adds, when she couldn’t instruct while her foot recovered from the sting ray hit, a male instructor who was her competitor helped her out by finishing the course for one of her students whose completion was time sensitive. Another female instructor helped with the same student, only proving what a bond SCUBA instructors develop, no matter who they instruct for. This student is now becoming a commercial diver in hopes to aid with repair efforts in the Gulf of Mexico on other oil rigs. “We’re all on the same team.”
Virginia credits SCUBA Diver Girls for playing an “awesome role” role in attracting women to the sport. She once got eight women together to dive in hopes it would lead to something better “but it just fizzled out. So when Scuba Diver Girls started, I said ‘way to go, girls.’ SCUBA Diver Girls are in a class of their own, they rock.”
The next step is to involve the entire family in the sport more often. Virginia has certified children as young as 10 as PADI JR Open Water Divers. One of them who took her certification class went on to dive on just about every continent. The child’s parents took her course, too, because the whole family was going on a world tour “home schooling” their daughter.
Another young diver of hers is currently working on her JR Advanced Open Water Diver with her father in tow and plans to complete PADI JR RESCUE Diver, as well.
Could family diving become the next trend?

Kathy Dowsett
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