Focused Living, One Month at a Time

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Challenge #2, August 2011: DIVING IN

I will get in the ocean every single day.

Note: I decided each month needs an inspirational quote, this one sums it up here:

“With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you're connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live.”  -Sylvia Earle

Most folks who have known me for any length of time, say twenty minutes or more, understand I am a bit passionate when it comes to this subject.  I am of the ocean, by the ocean, and for the ocean and so much of what I do and how I do it reflects this.  This month I wanted to deepen and renew that connection even more, by submerging all the way in (not just wading ankle, knee, or waist high) at least once every single day.  Yes I chose this month quite on purpose, knowing I had an easy head start with a scuba diving in Roatan the first week, and an trip to Kauai at the end of the month – a great way to bookend the local waters here in the South Bay.  This summer the water temp around here has been averaging a decent 67.  And yes, I appreciated living four blocks from the beach all over again - very convenient for this task!

How it went
The month started off great in the 84 degree Caribbean, where I was co-leading a REEF Field Survey trip.  A group of twenty-five, novices to experts, fish surveyors were tasked with identifying and counting hundreds of species and entering them into an online database - that’s the nutshell version of what we do on these trips.   Every single time I go on these trips (about a dozen so far) I enjoy learning and sharing knowledge about fish ID, behaviors, habitats, and so much more.  It so much fun to teach people about what they are seeing underwater, and perform real and valuable citizen science at the same time.  At home after that trip I swam a lot in the mornings with a group of folks who trained 3x a week in the ocean, or body surfed by myself at sunset – I definitely renewed my enthusiasm for riding waves with a pair of fins attached for extra power.  Rarely it was just a dip – like the time I didn’t get home from a work event until about 8PM, but it was still so refreshing to duck under that two-foot wave in the dark.  I also occasionally combined my plunges with a run on the beach, jumping in afterwards a few times in full running attire (except the shoes)!  Closing out the month for a few days in Kauai was perfect – such great snorkeling on this beautiful island paradise.

Who inspired me
Swimming was very much on the brain, and this month coincided with Diana Nyad’s attempt to swim from Cuba to Key West - 103 miles total, she made it 69 miles and then was forced to quit because of unfavorable winds and currents.  No matter that she didn’t make it all the way (nor in her second attempt the next month) – following her story really motivated me, as so did Martin Strel.  Martin is the guy who has swam some of the longest, coldest, and most treacherous rivers in the world including the Amazon, the Yangze and the Mississippi, just to name a few.  He spoke at the local bookstore, and hearing him describe some of his adventures (bitten by piranhas, sunburns, ships bumping into him, 49 degree temperatures, etc) made me realize how tame the ocean swimming I do is by comparison - which is basically just running into some stray kelp or sea grass once in a while, or occasionally a big wave set on the way in or out.  I also thought about Her Deepness, Sylvia Earle this month.  If I could do it all over again career-wise, I might well have chosen a path such as hers – what an exciting life filled with ocean exploration and so many amazing experiences…And finally I was inspired by my teammates – the Little Mermaids.  The eight of us swam a 12.6 mile relay over about 6.5 hours in the Santa Monica Bay, taking turns swimming our leg or riding a bike north, along the beach then riding home back to the starting point.  Not quite Dyana or Martin athleticism, but a great way to spend a Sunday with some fun active friends. 

The Worst and the Best
The worst part of this not-so-challenging month was really just a minor annoyance:  All around the Manhattan Beach Pier where I did most of my plunging, there seemed to be an abundance of the tiny sand crabs that had their pointy sharp hind quarters stuck up just enough to make it feel like I was stepping across a gully of sharp rocks or shells.  I don’t remember this ever being the case before, but it made me hurry across that 10 foot stretch, both going out and coming in to shore.  And that’s the end of the mini-whine, what else could I possibly complain about?

As much as I so enjoyed getting in myself, I also took a lot of notice of others enjoying the ocean as well.  This was quite obvious in the vacation destinations such as the Caribbean and Hawaii where it is all about the tropical beaches and clear, calm, warm water, but I was also reminded of what a paradise I get to live in on a full time basis.  Spending more time at the beach, running and walking down there, I observed a lot of foreign tourists (often identified by their active cameras, relaxed pace, and different language) enjoying their August holiday – walking along the pier or the strand, pointing at the surfers, occasionally daring to get their feet, or more, wet. One day I was running on the sand, and it was so much fun to see the five Indian women in their barely rolled up jeans holding hands and giggling and shrieking as the waves crashed barely over their ankles.  And the little kids - building their castles and riding their boogie boards and catching their sand crabs – were always a pleasure, I couldn’t help but smile at each and every one.  And the exhilaration of starting one of my days walking down the hill from home and stopping awestruck by the golden rays of sunlight peaking through grey clouds over a slate blue lake-like Pacific...perfection.  I also really enjoyed on the walk back up to my house the when I (often) got asked “how’s the water?” by random passersby, I would always answer truthfully, “It feels wonderful.”

Take Away
One of the best ways to say thank you and remember why I works to protect this most amazing place on earth was to just JUMP IN THERE! I felt like I was doing the opposite of  Public Outreach Campaign (would that be a Personal Inreach Campaign?), and it made me appreciate the ocean even more. It was just a matter of scheduling for the most part, knowing that I “had to” get down the street and get in at some point. The weather cooperated, the (lack of) red tide cooperated, and I definitely felt re-connected by making a habit of getting into the blue. If all these challenges are this easy for me, then I am doing something wrong.  On to a bigger challenge next month for sure…

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