Summer Daze in Kona: Scuba Diving, Freediving, Hiking, Living

The Big Island of Hawai'i: a Weird and Wonderful Place

Freediving with Hawaiian spinner dolphins

Freediving with Hawaiian spinner dolphins

Let's face it, the best part about creating an ocean brand is the mere fact that we get to occasionally jump in the water and swim with some of the world's most majestic animals.  This isn't to say that, like all businesses, there isn't a lot of desk time (there is, trust us).  But when we do get to charge the camera batteries, put on our fins, and spit in our masks, the anticipated experience is truly validating.  

And so it happens that I (Lia Barrett), find myself on the most climate-confused island in the States: The Big Island of Hawai'i.  Yes, this place is magically weird.  You'll find varying topography and temperatures island wide (altitude does that), flora and fauna that look like they emerged from the deserts of the American Southwest, and mountainous (volcanic) terrain reminiscent of Ireland. If you didn't know where you were and woke up on this island, you could potentially be in a dozen different places around the world.  Misplaced, strange weasel-ferret like creatures run back and forth across roads like confused squirrels. Cardinals stare at their reflections in side mirrors of your rental car (probably thinking, "Who am I?  And how did I end up in here?").  The nature Gods must have been very confused when they threw this place together.

Go with the Lava Flow

Flowing lava at Kalapana

Flowing lava at Kalapana

In trying to figure out how to maximize my time here, it became clear that my priority had to be seeking out lava.  Apparently, the lava flows every couple of years, and when it does, it's a view not to be missed.  And so, my buddies and I packed a bit of dinner (leftover bulgogi and kimchi if you must know), some cameras and GoPros, put on our Prawno tees and hats, and hiked out to the lava for a glowing sunset view.  Of course, the day after we saw the lava in all of its apparent glory, it decided to run over the road, and spill into the ocean.  There might be a round two trip out that way, for that, I do believe, is a sort of once in a lifetime sort of sight.  

Underwater: Where the Wild Things Are

But let's get real.  Cardinals: we can see in our home state of North Carolina, and lava, well, that's just an awesome distraction to the real reason we are here.  Other than visiting retail partners, such as the wonderful folks at  Kona Honu Divers, our main objective is to see and dive with as many beautiful ocean creatures as possible.  Thanks to Kona Honu, we were able to see our first tiger sharks last week.  We had two beauties come in and swim around us. One was about 12 feet, the other about 10 or so (I'm a terrible judge of size), and having just spent the week before at Tiger Beach in the Bahamas (where we didn't see any), I was elated.  Exiting the water at about 6:30 am, I was already energized for the day with thoughts of t-shirt designs for our fall collection.

Freediving into the 10-20 Meter Abyss

If you're not looking for tiger sharks, perhaps the best part of Hawai'i diving is knowing you can leave behind your tank and still see a stunning array of marine animals. In preparation, we did a Freediver course with the talented Shell Eisenberg of Performance Freediving International (PFI). Unfortunately, I couldn't Frenzel (form of equalization), so I ended up going down a line to 17.7 meters "backwards" with my socks on (long story and sadly, no photos to share).  Shell taught us the mechanics of freediving and the physics, physiology and safety involved.  Having covered freediving for many years, going through a full course was long overdue.  I could have done without the four minute static that Shell made us do (we held our breath for four minutes in the pool, and no, it wasn't pleasant in case you were wondering); however, I am glad that I did it now that it's behind me.  

Free immersion skills during our PFI course

Free immersion skills during our PFI course

And though I am now a little more comfortable holding my breath and diving down past ten meters, I am still more interested in the animals and a lot less interested in diving on a freediving line.  Luckily, there are supremely calm and talented folks like Shell whom I can photograph diving deep and gracefully with animals.  Shell took us out for a beautiful swim with Hawaiian spinner dolphins .  We had a pod of over thirty individuals, and I couldn't believe how inquisitive and friendly they were.  I'm used to the smart dolphins that disappear as soon as you jump in the water, but was ecstatic to be in such close proximity to more curious dolphins.  

Shell charming spinner dolphins

Shell charming spinner dolphins

We tested our skills (and a new Prawno rashguard) around a few sea turtles, and basked in the glory of our newfound abilities.  And though Shell would prefer that I go head first instead of socks first down the line, to Frenzel and to count my kick cycles, I am excited to get more time in the water with the dolphins, mantas, pilot whales, and who knows what else around these parts.  Our Hawaiian adventure is far from over so stay tuned. We have much more material to gather and more inspiration to be had!

Testing out the new Prawno rashguard.  

Testing out the new Prawno rashguard.