Bouyancy Aids & Life Jackets: Similar But Not The Same

Consider climate change for a moment…

Our planet’s surface is covered by 71% of water. It would seem only natural that coastal cities and communities around the world would be more aware and in-tune with the unpredictability of our world’s oceans. Climate change has made things even more challenging and, eventhough some world leaders down-play the seriousness of climate change and global warming, even claiming that it does not exist, that it is a fabrication of the media to distract from other more pressing matters like the building of walls or the continuation of coal mine exploitation all over the world, this “lie”, this so called “distraction”, is well uppon us; just ask any local living in island nations like Mauritius, The Seychelles or Fiji. I am quite sure they would be the first to raise their hand aknowledging that climate change is finally, undeniably, here.

In fact, acccording to studies done by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (IGSS), May 2017 has been the second warmest May in the last 137 years!

Now consider heat and water…

Heat is responsible for creating tropical storms, hurricanes and typhoons. The warmer the water, the more intense the storm.

A natural occurrence…be prepared!

I live in a region where hurricanes are part of a natural, if often unwelcome, cycle. Unfortunately, climate change and global warming have had an adverse effect, creating bigger, more intense storms, also impacting on how frequently we have to deal with these weather phenomena. Getting hit by a hurricane (atlantic) or a typhoon (pacific) is something no one should have to go through. However, if faced with a rapid increase in water levels, PFDs (personal floating devices) such as throwable bouyancy aids (lifeguard rescue tubes, rescue line bags and life rings) can be extremely useful to keep you afloat while help arrives. They are designed to keep someone afloat, allowing the wearer full movement while being exposed to open water conditions.



However, if unconcious, the wearer’s head  could be face down in the water. This why life jackets, above any other PFD or bouyancy aid, are the preferred item for boat skippers around the world. Another interesting fact about bouyancy is that adults need just an extra 7 to 12  pounds of bouyancy to stay affloat. Also, life jacket bouyancy is divided into levels of floatability:

Level 50:

Intended for competent swimmers and who are not near shore or have help or rescue close at hand.

Level 100:

Intended for those who have to wait for rescue but in sheltered water. Not to be used in rough water conditions.

Level 150:

For general off shore and rough water use  where high standard of performance is required. Turns unconcious person into safe position without needing user to involve any further action to maintain position.

Level 275:

Intended for off shore use and by people carrying additional weight; also of value for those wearing clothing which traps air and which may adversely affect self-righting capacity of the life vest. This jacket is designed to ensure the user  is floating in the correct position with their mouth and nose clear of the surface of the water.

Life jackets are meant to be worn while sailing, using PWC (personal water craft a.k.a. waverunners), windsurfers, canoes, water skiing and any other similar extreme water sport activity. Also on open boats, small powered boats, or going on ashore on boat tender, as well as in yachts and motor cruisers. PFDs are divided into five types:

Whatever your favorite open water activity, PFDs are an essential part of any responsible waterman’s inventory. New materials and designs have made them much more comfortable to wear, without sacrificing their ultimate goal which is to save lives.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found the information useful. Please leave a comment below with any thoughts. I will be happy to read them and repply shortly. Thanks again!

Where Do Waves Get Their Energy?

Coming Face To Face With The Monster

Where do waves get their energy?

I remember the first time I felt the raw power of the ocean. I´m going to pause here a bit, not so much for effect, but rather, for anyone reading this (thank you!), to stop and consider these words: “raw power”. Unbridled, oceanic wave energy, traveling for thousands of miles across the largest body of water in the planet, most certainly born from some monster storm somewhere in the Pacific, and releasing all that energy in one very violent, ground shaking moment. That was my first experience. I came face to face with that power in Puerto Escondido, Mexico.

Surfers around the world call it the Mexican Pipeline, in honor of its Hawaiian cousin, the Banzai Pipeline, located in Oahu’s North Shore. Maybe
it should’ve been the other way around since the bathymetry that makes the bay of Puerto Escondido has been there much longer than the Hawaiian islands. Wait, go back, bathywhatsee? Bathymetry. Abnormalities in the contours of the ocean floor. It is also the measurement of the depths of oceans, seas, or other large bodies of water and it is key in understanding where waves get their energy and how they release this energy all over the world’s coastlines. Puerto Escondido has a unique bathymetry in that a shallow area exists about 20 nautical miles straight out from the bay.

This shallow shelf area is bordered on its left and right sides by a deep canyon. This allows for much of the wave energy coming from remote south pacific storms to funnel in and arrive at the Oaxacan coastline with fierce, raw energy. The Mexican Pipeline happens to be a natural magnet for these oceanic bombers.

The TWO T’s And The Big H

Over 70 percent of the Earth is covered by water. Tropical storms, tropical cyclones and hurricanes are the wave factories of the world’s oceans. Cyclones deep in the south pacific and the Atlantic churn and engender massive swell events that can travel for thousands of miles from their place of birth. Hurricanes and tropical storms are a bit more “fickle”, normally carrying less energy. Their wave interval from peak to peak is less than deep ocean super storms. Also, hurricanes and tropical storms form and originate in waters located relatively near coastlines, except for open Atlantic hurricanes and super storms in the pacific called typhoons. Regardless what they are called, all are responsible for giving life to waves around the planet. To make things even more interesting, the ocean is subject to the impact of wind, tides, and ocean currents, making it an energy dynamo of colossal proportions.

So… Only Adverse Weather Energizes Waves?

Not quite. And for the world’s coastline populations, this is very fortunate. Eventhough waves are indeed born from some of these natural phenomena, in general, waves owe their energy to wind. Waves are classified by the energy source that created them. In most cases, the waves that you normally see crashing on the beach are called surface waves. They are formed by wind blowing through the ocean’s surface. Without any obstacles that could interrupt their trajectory, winds create disturbances which steadily build and increase the wave crest’s height.

And then there are those waves created by natural events, born from the type storms mentioned above. These often create large and very dangerous waves. Two of the most studied wave phenomena are storm surges and tsunamis, both which we will go into in greater detail in another post.

Hope you find this post useful and interesting. Please feel free to leave your comments below.




Five “Must-Do’s” for safe, responsible open water swimming

Swimming is considered one of the most complete forms of exercise in the world. It tones and fortifies your entire body without stressing the joints, commonly found in high impact activities like running, tennis, and basketball. It can also be a very relaxing, meditative experience. After a few weeks in the pool, you notice that you are no longer the stressed out land creature that you were two weeks ago. You are starting to coordinate your body better. Your movements are less clumsy, your strokes and all around proficiency improving with every kick. You are on your way!

Fast forward and now you are standing on a sandy beach, looking out into the horizon, carefully assesing the ocean’s conditions: currents, wave intervals, backwash, riptides, etc.

Open Water Swimming

It is three months since your first lap around the pool. A covered, heated pool. Your swim coach, standing next to you now, recalls the challenge, given to you nearly three months ago: to complete your first open water swim. And you accepted gladly, knowing that growth comes from pushing yourself and leaving your comfort zone behind. And so here you are. But before taking on the ocean, you are reminded of 5 “must-dos” for safe, responsible open water swimming:

1. Get to know where you are swimming. Check conditions thoroughly.

This is a no brainer. Check the signs at the beach. They are there for a reason: to guarantee your safety. Also, take at least 20 minutes to check conditions, as already mentioned above.

2. Make sure you are properly equiped with the right open water swimming gear.

3. Beware of the cold. Hypothermia is a bitch!

4. Make sure someone knows where you are and that you have means to call for help, especially in remote locations.


5. Take note of local safety advice and ALWAYS respect the landowners and other users.



You look at your coach one more time, taking a deep breath and exhaling. He smiles and ecourages you. The marker, a red bouy floating 300 yards out, is the half-way marker. 600 yards in total. You put on your swim cap and goggles and plunge into the surf. You are ready…you got this!

If you liked this article, please leave your thoughts below. I read all comments and will gladly take the time to reply. Thanks for reading!