Swaggerjack recently took a trip out west to beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico in support of the Racquetball World Championships. Being only a short 4-hour drive from our favorite alligator farm, naturally we made the short road-trip to Alamosa, Colorado for an action and fun-packed trip to Colorado Gators. Along the way, there were many beautiful sites to see, such as desert, desert, rocks, and some more desert! Seriously though, the drive is full of many beautiful rock formations and you may even be lucky enough to spot an elk! Swaggerjack truly feels at home with a long empty highway laid out before them, surrounded by America’s beauty.
We are fortunate enough to have become close friends with the Young family, owners of the farm, who welcome us with open arms and gators in need of check-ups every trip. For those who have not visited the farm, it is really a treat and worth the drive! Even if you have visited the farm, they are ever-changing and expanding, recently redesigning their gift shop and introducing new animals and displays constantly. Colorado Gators is the only establishment in America that offers a legitimate hands-on alligator handling class. For a low fee, you will start with small (1’-4’) gators and work your way up as far as you are comfortable, getting professional guidance on how to properly handle and interact with these prehistoric beasts. Students who listen are rarely injured, and those injured aren’t typically that severe.
The number one thing to do while alligator wrestling is to “not hesitate!” Jay Young or Josh Stokely will drill this into your head during their World’s Only Alligator Handling Class at the family farm, Colorado Gators, in Mosca, Colorado. We warmed up by having a little bit of fun while searching for any gators in need of medication. At the end of breeding season, it’s crucial to inspect alligators for any wounds sustained over the season.
Unfortunately, even following all their directions, accidents can still happen. Our camerawoman, Stefanie, received her very first alligator bite on this recent trip. She has been handling gators since 2008, and was moving this gator to shore for medication when this happened:
That wasn’t the end of the gator shenanigans, however; Josh Stokely was ready to do a world’s first- the world’s first alligator hand-stand! He was reasonably nervous, but after carefully selecting his gator and getting her onshore, he tackled the feat! Check out the video and pictures below:
We had a great visit to the farm! The gift shop had been recently renovated and looked better than ever! There were new animals to enjoy, as well as old favorites to marvel at and admire how much they’ve grown. Thanks again to the Young family for such great hospitality, and for sharing your wonderful farm with the public! For more information, please visit http://www.GatorFarm.com/
After some fun-packed days in Colorado, it was time to head back to New Mexico to enjoy the art, culture, and food of Santa Fe and Albuquerque. We dined on amazing Elk tenderloin and Ahi Tuna at the famous Coyote Café, fine Mexican at the Thunderbird Cafe, and visited a friend’s jewelry store, the Anasazi Gallery.
The image below stopped me in my tracks;it really makes you think about the treatment of the Native Americans and the impact corporations have had on our country.
Gatorfest 2010 and 2011 DVD’s are available! Each video featuring up to an hour of heart-thumping close calls with the living dinosaurs we call alligators! Only $25 gets the DVD shipped to your door and you can enjoy following the one-of-a-kind event and listening to amazing local rock artists! Check out the trailers below and visit www.SwaggerjackProductions.com for purchasing info!!
With a home-base in Gaiberg, Germany, just a few miles east of Heidelberg, we had a very advantageous central location to access Europe from. Italy? About five hours away. Switzerland? Only four. Paris? Four and a half hours with traffic. With so many options yet limited time, we made the choice any 20-something year old American would, Amsterdam! At a mere five hours away on the autobahn, we would be silly to skip out on the opportunity of a lifetime to see this amazing city! We drove north, rejoicing at the signs welcoming us to the Netherlands with our excitement growing as we passed more and more signs for Amsterdam. Being on vacation, we did not have our professional cameras with us. Only a small digital, and good, ole-fashioned disposable cameras. This is why the picture quality on this post may differ from our usual.
Entering the city was pure chaos. We were relying on the GPS to tell us which way to go, all the while getting honked at by cars for letting the bicycles go, then receiving a chorus of bells from the bicyclists we upset by not moving by fast enough. Amsterdam hosts over 3 million bicycles on average, with them littering the streets at every direction. We even saw one bike chained to a bridge, hanging over the edge. Signs for hotels were everywhere, but there was absolutely no parking to be had. After several nerve-racking minutes of negotiating our way on cobblestone side streets through crowds of pedestrians, bicyclists, and unattended children on roller-blades, we spotted a familiar American hotel name that appeared to have a parking garage. We made a bee-line and managed to check in to one of the most beautiful views of the city we could ask for. On the twelfth floor, there is an excellent bar with nothing but windows for walls, so that one may enjoy a full panoramic view of the city. In one look, you can take in a gorgeous cathedral, glows of red from the red light district, the sun flickering its reflection on the city’s canals, and a wonderful mix of old and new architecture spanning across the horizon. Day or night, Amsterdam is a beautiful city.
We took the advice of a bartender and left the hotel in search of a coffee shop called The Bulldog. It was touted as one of the best in town, so we were on a mission. After several blocks of wandering through a city I could only compare to Bourbon Street, New Orleans, I was ready for a break. We had not found The Bulldog yet, but I noticed a heart-shaped sign with the name “Sheeba,” and the title “coffee shop” underneath. This was to be our first Amsterdam coffee shop, and easily became our favorite.
Offering THE BEST cappuccino I have ever enjoyed, delicious side-treats, and a kick-ass atmosphere, Sheeba is my highest recommended coffee shop. They have several televisions through the shop which are always playing old concerts by artists such as Santana, Aretha Franklin, and Bob Marley. Occasionally, one TV will be used for soccer, but the chillax music continues. There are also murals painted around the shop featuring musical artists, soccer stars, and Hollywood celebrities. The employees are friendly, helpful, and know how to make an American feel welcome. As a first-timer going into a coffee shop and having no idea what to expect, Sheeba treated us with respect and made itself feel like a home-away-from-home; a place we can go to to relax and enjoy ourselves, undisturbed.
There is far more to Amsterdam than just the coffee shops, so after we had officially settled in, we hit the cobblestones again in search of adventure. There is an entire row of sex shops, the Sex Museum, the Human Torture Museum, more sex shops, tourist shops, and hey, another sex shop, with the occasional restaurant in between. Personally, seeing how many groups of men would stand gawking at the miscellaneous display windows was even more entertaining than the content within!
Most restaurants we found offered fast food, such as easily heated pizza slices, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. There were also many ethnic foods available, ranging from Halal shoarmas to sushi to roasted ducks hanging in windows. There were even several Thai restaurants as well as American-style steakhouses.
With all this great food available, you need something to wash it all down, right? Cue the countless bars littering the downtown streets. Irish bars, dive bars, speakeasy-style bars; every bar you could hope for featuring beers from just about every continent! That’s not all; Amsterdam is also home to the Heineken Brewery, which offers daily tours through its “Heineken Experience.” For a low fee, you get entry wristbands, about four fresh, 3-day old beers, a tour of the facility, and access to all sorts of fun Heineken-related games. This was a fun behind-the-scenes look at the process of a brewery, as well as a great opportunity to try some of the freshest beer of our life! It was crisp, flavorful, and refreshing.
Amsterdam is famous for many reasons, but I had never heard of its canals. The city is intertwined with a canal system offering boat tours, romantic boat houses, and a beautifully rustic taste of old Europe. To get anywhere, you will at one point cross a bridge. They are arched gracefully to allow enough room for the passing boats, and give the city such a historic flavor. I had always associated canals with cities like Venice, but never Amsterdam. They were an excellent surprise an addition to this amazing city.
The streets are lined with eye-catching buildings left and right! There is a wonderful blend of old and new, with classic architecture proving its strong influence. There are several areas under construction, but upon closer inspection, they appear to be under renovation. The locals take great pride in their historical buildings and put great effort into keeping them available for future generations to cherish.
We discovered that the most intimate and efficient way to see the city was with bike-taxis. Whizzing through the crowds and buildings as gracefully as a bird flies through the sky, bike-taxis offer a ground level perspective at low enough speeds for you to take the sights in and enjoy yourself. The fares are usually quite reasonable and the bicyclists are fairly eager to share tour-like information while taking you to your destination. After several hours of wandering from our hotel, we had no earthy clue how to get back. What did we do? Hail a bike-taxi, get an awesome tour-like ride, and we got back to our hotel safely and quickly. One could compare it to restarting a video game; we wandered until we were lost or tired, got a bike-taxi back to the hotel, recharged and hit the streets again!
One bike ride led to adventure; we were casually riding down a cobblestone street as a policeman on horse passed us, going the opposite direction. Instantly, he turned the horse around and took off in a thunderous gallop on the cobblestone street. He and another policeman on horse had just cornered and apprehended a man who had apparently just robbed a tourist. Our bike-taxi driver was just as stunned as we were, as he sat there less than two meters away from the scene, until we ushered him to pedal forward. Just minutes later, a taxi car swerved off of his road and into the bike lane, forcing our driver to an abrupt stop nearly jumping the curb to avoid being hit. The car driver was texting, and only realized his swerve at the last minute. Texting and driving causes trouble, no matter what country you’re in!
Another coffee shop I would like to recommend is the Coffeeshop 36. It backs up to one of the many canals and offers two large windows for patrons to look out and even hang their feet out. With a strange heat wave hitting Amsterdam during our visit, the open windows and cool canal breezes were very refreshing. Not to mention their extraordinarily delicious “green cake” brownies, made locally and holding a strong potency. There are also many hand-painted works of art through the shop, creating a very relaxing atmosphere.
It seemed as if everyone was in a good mood thanks to the weather and the natural good vibes that the city has to offer. With hot days encouraging locals to rest, it made the night life even more exciting. Back to my New Orleans comparison, the streets light up with a neon glow and herds of people roam from bar to bar, coffee shop to coffee shop. Whereas most of New Orleans’ activities are centralized on Bourbon Street, all of downtown Amsterdam is a part of the party. Every few feet, you hear a different genre of music blasting and see a different crowd dancing. With so many cultures meeting and partying in one place, Amsterdam truly is a melting pot.
As we walked, we would hear a group of British men signing a drinking song, then a group of French girls giggling and doing shots off of each other, then a group of Turkish men arguing outside of a red-light window, about who knows what. Moving deeper into the heart of downtown, we inevitably ended up in the infamous Red-Light District. There are glass doors decorating alleys and business strips, each holding a lovely lady in skimpy clothing. Some would be brushing their hair, others giving tourists a come-hither finger and flirty smile, and even some sharing a window and teasingly playing with each other to lure customers. There are also a variety of shows, ranging from comical to full-on XXX hardcore. There are countless toy shops, another sex museum, and many entertaining displays.
Feeling comical myself, we approached a group of three officers, standing on a bridge observing the crowds. Two men, one woman. Earlier we had witnessed this trio subdue an angry drunk Scottish man in a quilt, who had gotten upset about something and was yelling belligerently. After getting him to calm down, they simply instructed him to go home. No beatings, no tasers, no handcuffs and no paperwork. The way police work should be when dealing with fun-loving tourists. Now to the female officer; she had curly blonde hair and an official hat on, as well as her tool belt fashioning a gun, baton, handcuffs, and a taser. I approached her with a question in mind, and at the time, it seemed like a great idea.
“Excuse me, do you know where the lesbian sex show is?”
This truly shocked her. Just think of what this woman sees on a weekly basis while patrolling these streets, and my question was able to shock her. She required a moment to gather herself enough to say “Sorry, I don’t.” Already pleased with myself, we began to walk away when the older gentleman of an officer to her right nodded his head down the way saying “There. They do the lesbian sex shows down there.” He had such a matter-of-fact tone I had to question whether or not I had just imagined that response, but I can honestly say that an Amsterdam policeman directed us where to go to see the lesbian sex show.
At another point in the night, we had just come through an alley and made it back to a main street when Captain Jack Sparrow jumped out from the darkness. We were startled, then tickled at the idea of such an elaborately dressed pirate popping out of nowhere in downtown Amsterdam. This seems to be a town where truly anything can happen! We had discovered a true adult playground, now reminiscent of the City of Lost Boys from Pinocchio, where indulgences flourished and no one ever wants to go home.
With the sun setting at about 11pm during this time of year, it was easy to lose track of time while out enjoying the city. We ended our last night there around 3:30am, hailing one last bike-taxi to get us to our hotel. We certainly couldn’t have navigated our way back at that point, even with a map. Many neon lights had been turned off, the half-moon was shining brightly in a cloudless sky, and all we could hear is the pleasant buzz of the chain on the bike as we drifted through the darkness back to our hotel. Majestic, romantic, refreshing, and truly peaceful; we had fallen in love with Amsterdam.
Being American, we had mixed expectations for what we would and would not have access to in Amsterdam. We discovered that we had access to anything and everything our hearts could desire. We had access to things we didn’t even know existed! The most important thing is to act with respect. Respect for their city and their country, respect for their welcoming outlook, and respect for America and how we represent it. This blog is only the tip of the iceberg of our adventures in Amsterdam, but much like Vegas, what happens in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam! Please feel free to comment any questions you may have- we will be happy to answer!
After an extended stay in beautiful Santa Cruz, California, it was time for the Swaggerjack crew to pack up and hit the road. We were Colorado-bound to film some alligator fun at the Colorado Gators farm and set up a display for our Gatorfest DVD’s. Gatorfest is an annual alligator wrestling contest/rodeo between amateurs who have learned to wrestle gators at the farm. They run, jump, and swim through the swamp to catch the largest gators as quickly, and safely, as they can. Currently, Gatorfest 2010 is available for sale and is a 30-minute HD video edited to music from local Gainesville, Florida artists. For purchase information, please visit our website, www.SwaggerjackProductions.com . Our goal was to make the 17-hour drive straight from Santa Cruz to the small town of Alamosa, Colorado. Aside from a wrong turn at the famous Four Corners, it was a rather pleasant and uneventful journey.
The majority of our drive took place overnight, but we were able to enjoy some sights before the sun went down. We saw gorgeous mountains, hillsides, and amber fields of grain. We saw the terrain slowly change from bright green lush vegetation to dry, dusty barren fields with sporadic bushes and the occasional small tree.
The sun rose as we drove through the Colorado Rockies and revealed snow-capped peaks surrounding us and mini-waterfalls on the rocks walls beside us from melting snow above. Fortunately for us, Wolf Creek Pass hadn’t seen much snow in the previous week and was fairly free of traffic. Once we made it through, we knew we were in the home stretch. As we got closer to our destination, we recognized a familiar peak, Mt. Blanca, covered in snow, letting us know we had made it.
Saturday morning greeted us with lighter skies and teases of sunshine. It was definitely shaping up to be a better day than Friday. The waves had more of a smooth, glassy surface and the winds were a bit more forgiving, at least in the earlier part of the day. This was the contestants’ last chance to score points in order to make it to Sunday’s finals. The high performance heats put on a great show, dropping in on massive waves and showing excellent control. When the stand-up paddleboarders had their turn, they didn’t disappoint. They braved the growing ocean, thrusting their boards over the incoming surf and scoping out the best spots to wait for the next set.
Even though these great competitors make it look incredibly easy and graceful to pull the stunts and tricks they do in the waves, there are times that they remind us they are human.
Through the day, we experienced sparse moments of sunshine and somewhat of a break from the rain. Low tide brought in slightly smaller waves, but that never stops kayakers or stand-up paddleboards from doing what they do best!
Directly below is Mark Pastick, a veteran kayak surfer, wave-ski surfer, and SUP-er. He has competed in the Santa Cruz Paddlefest for many years and never disappoints. You can always easily spot him by his bright red helmet with a happy blue star. Today is his birthday, so happy birthday, Mark! Thanks for everything!
Between all of the talented kayak riders and SUP riders, it was an entertaining day for all. We saw many close calls between the riders and each other as well as between the riders and the cliffs! As the horns signifying the end of the last heat blasted, remaining competitors headed back to their barracks for a warm shower and a little rest before the planned party at the Cocoanut Grove. We were treated to a “Cajun bluegrass” style band and the winners of the SUP race were announced. Shortly after the heat results and next-day schedules were posted, many rushed home for some much-needed sleep, as tomorrow was the finals; their chance to win it!
Nature greeted the Santa Cruz Paddlefest 2012 with high seas, dark skies, and chilling rain. Everyone attending the event was wet, including the spectators. Kayakers are known to not let an obstacle defeat them, and they owned the churning seas. Steamer’s Lane was doing its best to provide a good break given the conditions, and the competitors were still able to pull of some eye-catching cutbacks, awesome 360’s, and even the occasional backwards ride. 2012 was starting off dark and messy, but with such a great group of competitors, they were able to pull it together and raise the bar for competition.
The weather started to show improvement through the day and produced some clean, fun waves. Swaggerjack was there through the cold and the rain , filming and taking pictures the whole time. We were working as team non-stop through the day, but one man, Dennis Judson, ran full-speed the whole event supervising the entire event. He served as an announcer, coordinator, problem-solving extraordinaire, and as if that wasn’t enough, he also competed in the event!
Kayakers weren’t the only ones braving the turbulent ocean; Stand-Up Paddleboarders also had their turn taming the waves. SUP-ers have been a great addition to the Festival and are the future of the sport. They perform similar, yet very different stunts on their boards and have a different style of riding the lane. At the end of the last heat, the day concluded and everyone hoped for better weather the next day.
Sqwish Sqwash SEAL Tough challenge took place on Saturday, February 4th in Brooklyn, Alabama at the Boggs ‘N’ Boulders Off-Road Adventure Park. Challengers were put to the ultimate test with a 10.5 mile run/ obstacle course. They had to run rugged, uphill terrain, wade through thick mud, climb ropes, crawl through a cave, and even jump off of a 16-ft cliff. There was a tight-rope spanning accross a pond they had to cross and multiple wooden obstacles they had to climb over. Swaggerjack followed the action through all 10.5 miles and captured it all on video and camera! Pictures are available for sale through our website, www.SwaggerjackProductions.com.
Here is the second edit from ESE’s very first winter SCUBA course in beautiful Puerto Rico!
Please enjoy and share!!!
Following one of the most intense weeks of diving a young man can imagine, the students of EXTREME SEAL EXPERIENCE deserved a reward, just not before competing in a tropical style monster mash. They had to run laps around the hotel resort’s parking lot while carrying fresh coconuts and between laps, they had to swim laps in each of the hotel’s pools. The contest ended with a coconut-throwing competition trying to aim towards a small target in the lot, both very amusing and frustrating for the competitors. Symbolizing the end of a hard week, the students (and Swaggerjack Productions crew) were treated to a day trip aboard a catamaran to eat, drink, snorkel and be merry. The best way to share the day is through pictures, so please enjoy!
Once we got back on board, the wonderful crew had laid out a delicious spread of lunch meats, cheeses, fruits, and pasta.
After lunch, we traveled to another area better suited for some beautiful snorkeling. Along the way, we passed the famous island where Corona shoots its commercials and the final scene from the most recent Pirates of the Carribbean was filmed.
After dropping anchor in our new location, the fun began!
The peacful boat journey back to the marina was a time for relaxation, reflection, and contemplation. What a perfect way to end such a fun day and grueling week!
Swaggerjack would like to thank EXTREME SEAL EXPERIENCE for allowing us to tag along for their very first SCUBA course in beautiful Puerto Rico!
For Thursday, we ventured to the other side of the island to experience some different dive spots and a whole new perspective of Puerto Rico. The Sea Ventures crew had driven the boat to the different marina and had the gear ready to go. While the crew boarded the boat, the grey skies above released some refreshingly cool rain, a big change from the weather we had been experiencing. The students reached for their long-sleeve shirts and sweaters, ready to go out into the Atlantic for some more amazing SCUBA. Since they had completed all the necessary skills for their certifications, these two dives were considered “fun dives.” Students enjoyed some new scenery as well as some more lionfish hunting.
Today, not only did the students get to catch many lionfish, but a spiny lobster was also brought aboard. This was an excellent treat and was later cooked up by Mama Shipley and served poolside by candlelight.
Several students also got to swim through a school of beautiful moon jellyfish. While they are almost hypnotic to look at, they do pack a punch with their stinging tentacles. Nothing a little urine can’t help with though, and the boys were more than happy to offer their assistance to anyone stung.
The waters on this side of the island were much more blue than the other side and the students enjoyed having a free-dive where they weren’t concerned with practicing any skills and could simply enjoy the dive.
These were the last two dives of the trip, so even our cameraman pushed himself to the extremes to film every minute he could.
A huge thanks to the crew from Sea Ventures for facilitating quite possibly the best week of diving possible in Puerto Rico! The boys got a nice afternoon to relax and reflect before their intense PT in the morning. No week of SEAL camp in complete without a monster mash! Plus, after the intense PT, they have a very relaxing reward in store, stay tuned!
The morning started again at 0600 with an intense PT led by Fuch. After a quick 0700 breakfast, they were loaded into the van to drive to the marina for another day on the water. The dive staff already had all of the equipment laid out and ready to go; thanks, Luis and Joel!
The dive crew did en excellent job preparing the students for the dive sites they were about to encounter and ensuring that all safety practices were acknowledged and followed. A couple of the students even got to practice a safe buddy-assent in the open ocean! They were careful not to disturb the coral and got to explore many sites unique to the Caribbean while still getting the most out of their dives.
After getting in two dives, it was time to head back to the hotel, gear up, and load up in the van towards the Puerto Rican rainforest! We drove through windy roads surrounded by lush, green vegetation up the mountain before reaching the trail head to the beautiful waterfall/ swimming hole. The trail was mostly concrete though the forest, with plenty of step and slips along the way. Once we reached the falls, several of the students got to enjoy a dip in, refreshing water before heading back up to the parking area.
Following the journey to the rainforest, we were treated to a delicious dinner back at the hotel served poolside by Mama Shipley and the girls. It was a delicious spread of treats and meat, just what the students needed after a morning in the water and an afternoon in the rainforest. They relaxed poolside into the evening, exchanging stories and sharing complex discussions before heading to their rooms to get some sleep before another 0600 PT session.
Swaggerjack Productions would like to thank the wonderfully talented Kristin for her dedication to underwater videography and amazing photography skills!
The morning came quick with an 06:00 PT in the hotel resort’s gym, led by Chief Fuch. The students challenged themselves to run just a little further, bench just a little more, and work just a little harder than they had the day before. His goal seems to be encouraging each student to reach their fullest potential and push themselves that extra bit to surpass their best from the previous workout. The students were having fun in the gym and genuinely enjoying the challenge, proud of what they had accomplished.
PT ended with a trip poolside to enjoy another delicious spread of breakfast foods before departing the resort for the the marina, where the students would get on the dive boat and get to put the skills learned previously in the pool to use in the wild, untamed ocean. The divemasters had all of their gear ready to go and the students got their first tastes of saltwater while exploring the beautiful reefs under the Caribbean sea.
While diving, the students got a short lesson in Lionfish hunting from the divemaster. Lionfish are native to to Pacific ocean, not the Atlantic, so they have no natural predators here. They are considered an invasive species because of this and the fact that they eat the native fish.
Sunday morning at the Puerto Rico EXTREME SEAL EXPERIENCE SCUBA Camp started with an intense PT session by Chief Fuch- just what the guys needed after the New Year’s celebration! They did nearly an hour of exorcises in an outdoor field with the intense Puerto Rican sun beating down on them, followed by a quick 3-lap run including some steep, challenging inclines.
They then got to enjoy a rich breakfast before some poolside dive instruction and training from the awesome dive masters, Luis and Joel. The divemasters first made sure that the students were capable of swimming by having them do 20 laps in the pool, timed, as well as a 10 minute float. After confirming their swimming ability, it was time for some basic gear instruction and to get suited up to dive the treacherous pool.
After practicing the skills they would need to be safe and competent divers in the open ocean, the students had a brief break before heading to the dive shop for the in-class instruction necessary for not only their safety, but for the safety of their fellow divers and ocean life.
The Swaggerjack crew had an amazingly blissful flight to beautiful Puerto Rico thanks to JetBlue airlines and landed in a wonderfully warm, humid climate ready to make our way to Fajardo and break in the new year. We were meeting the EXTREME SEAL EXPERIENCE crew already stationed at the hotel and ready to party. They provided us with tickets to an amazing new year’s celebration at the El Conquistador Resort where we dined on an astounding spread of every food and dessert you can imagine, rocked out to the best 80’s cover band, danced on the salsa floor and played with glowsticks in the disco. There’s no better way or better company to break in 2012! All photos are compliments of the lovely and talented Kristin
Of the many competitors that started Gatorfest, only 4 remained on day 2 to compete for first place. No one really knows why competitors drop out after the first day; some say that they finally come to their senses, others say they just wanted to claim that they had competed in a gator wrestling contest. One thing we do know, it’s the true champions that come back for day two in the swamp.
It was the Fox brothers, Dave and Steve, versus Derrick, a reigning champion from years ago, looking to reclaim his throne, and Jason McDonald, another former champion. The Fox father, Charlie, had won the past 3 Gatorfests, but was not competing this year due to doctor’s orders. His sons wrestled bravely and each got bit this Sunday! It was late in the day, their last catch. For Dave, he was neck deep in the swamp, feeling his way around an alligator trying to locate the head, when the gator’s head located Dave’s elbow. It was a quick snap and some mellow thrashing in the water leading to a lovely crimson shower spewing from Dave’s arm. Video of this and the aftermath will be available soon on our website, www.SwaggerjackProductions.com.
Derrick ended up being crowned champion of this Gatorfest, regaining the title after years of forfeiting it to Charlie Fox. He managed to catch the most inches of gator throughout the contest, even if the margin was less than 6 inches. One of his most daring catches involved crawling into a small concrete tube, head first with no room to turn around, in an attempt to fish out a gator that had wedged itself in there. He caught the gator and won the contest. Go Derrick!
Derrick with his champion gator, winning Gatorfest for the first time in years, he will cherish this year’s experience, trophy, and bragging rights!:
We have finally made it to Friday, the final day of the class. This afternoon the students will graduate and celebrate this past week, an accomplishment that will make them proud the rest of their lives.
There is no PT this morning, as the “Monster Mash” is scheduled. This consisted of a run from the river to the lake, a swim across the lake, flutter kicks, more running, pull-ups, dips, more running, more swimming, and ending with even more running across the field to the finish line, where ice cold Gatorade awaited them. The men started today by loading up their swim gear and getting on the bus for a short drive to the river. Shortly after we arrived, the helicopters made their entrance, ready to give each student a ride he’ll remember forever, ending with a 25′ drop off the skids into the river and a swim to shore.
The men loaded each helicopter two at a time and had a brief, invigorating ride closely following the twists and turns of the river with exciting bank turns often triggering warning lights and alarms. There were times where the skids almost touched the water. The pilots also maneuvered very closely together during strait-aways as well as coordinating bank turns for us to get the best shots highlighting their skills. Out of all of the helicopter flights that the SwaggerJack crew has taken, these were certainly the most daring, brave, and talented pilots. At one point, near the end of the flight, the heli banked through turn after turn after turn, then continued strait towards the treeline, making everyone think we would crash. At the very last second, the pilot pulled the craft up and over, gluing us to our seats, then pointed the nose down as we crested the peak to create a zero-g effect, often making ourselves and the students float out of our seats, or at least feel weightless. The pilots really were amazing.
Shortly after the zero-g thrill, the pilot would shout “Stand by!” to the men, signalling them to unbuckle their seat belts, refasten them behind their backs, and step out onto the skids while holding a support bar. This was their ready position to drop into the river.
When the heli was hovering over the correct area, the pilot would shout “Bust ’em, bust ’em, bust ’em!”, signalling the men to step off of the skids and drop into the water. Even though this was the first time in a helicopter for many of the men, not a single one hesitated when he was instructed to drop. Once they resurfaced, they swam to shore to be greeted by Chief Fuch and Senior Cheif, then enjoyed a short break before beginning the Monster Mash.
The men completed their grueling Monster Mash within 45 minutes, and each had a quiet celebration for their completion. This signified the end of their course, they had passed their final test. They were ready to graduate EXTREME SEAL EXPERIENCE. It was a simple ceremony, with a few special acknowledgements of standout students, and beautiful thank you for the camera crew, and each student receiving his graduation certificate and letter of recommendation for the BUD/S training course. Now it was time to celebrate, reminisce, and for the men to enjoy their last day with their new found brothers.
Thursday morning’s PT started with a warm-up of basic moves, then transitioned to a fun touch-football scrimmage between the shirts and skins. Once again, the men split into their teams and took turns playing each other on the field. Once one team scored, the other team would take over to play the winner. This was a good way for the guys to get in some PT and have some fun, all while relieving some of the week’s stress with the game.
After PT, there was a brief break before loading up the bus to travel to a local air soft field with a 48’ rappel tower and generous firing range. Today’s activities included rappelling, fast roping, and shooting a wide variety of weapons, all while the heat index climbed to 114°F.
For the men on their second week of class, they started lessons on all the different artillery the instructor’s had available. The men on their first week were briefed on rappelling, issued gear, and climbed to the top of the tower.
Luckily for the camera crew, Senior Chief Don Shipley was more than willing to let us get in some of the action too, setting us up with harnesses so we could rappel and film while going down the tower. Not only did we get some awesome footage, but we all got to share in the same experience as the men, conquering our own nervousness by rappelling strait down this 48’ foot tower, even “Aussie Style!” After the rappel lesson and practice, it was time to shoot the .50 caliber Barrett from the top of the tower. Once again, Senior Chief was kind enough to allow the camera crew get a piece of the action, each getting their turn to shoot, even allowing the first shot to be done “ladies first” by our own camerawoman, Stefanie.
The .50 caliber Barrett has a specially designed muzzle which projects the pressure through special vents, making the recoil much less than what one would expect from such a large gun. In turn, this causes a shockwave which damages hollow organs, shakes the ground, and causes nosebleeds and headaches after several shots by one shooter. The bullet is capable of travelling over 5 miles and the longest recorded accurate shot was clocked over a mile away.
While that team was rappelling and shooting the .50 cal., the other was practicing shooting a variety of firearms including M-4’s, M-14’s, 9mm pistols, .308 sniper rifles, and a .40 caliber Glock. They were practicing double-taps and shooting balloons at a variety of distances. They also had pre-mixed containers of explosive material which they shot, being quickly rewarded for hitting their target with a loud explosion.
Once each group had completed that area of training, they switched. The ones rappelling were now shooting and those shooting were now rappelling. The men now rappelling were on their second week and had previously rappelled the week before, so they practiced more advanced techniques, such as swinging directly in and out of windows while performing a controlled drop down the building. This was a particularly fun challenge, as the men were directed that the proper technique included yelling “weeeeeee” while swinging in and out of the windows. Also, Senior Chief added another element of danger by shooting his flamethrower through the windows and the men rappelled down. As one would imagine, there were also many crashes into the window frames, provided some entertainment for men.
Before leaving, the mean each got to “fast rope,” a technique where they grab the rope with their hands and slide down it as if it were a fire-pole, without using their feet for stabilization. This technique is also considered a controlled fall.
Time for one last explosion before leaving…
By the end of the afternoon, everyone was exhausted and ready to hit up the local rope swing. So after getting back to camp and unloading equipment, the men enjoyed a good dinner and a fun evening at the local rope swing at the lake. Tomorrow morning is going to be their last physical challenge, the “Monster Mash,” as well as their heli-casting training.
Wednesday started bright and early with some PT including a nice jog through a wooded trail. Shortly after finishing, the men were issued gear and loaded up the bus. They were on their way to a beautiful farm field with two amazing large, decrepit abandoned houses for some CQC training with live air soft rounds.
The men split into teams, one to defend the house and one to seize it. They practiced shooting in the door with shotguns, then using explosive charger devices. Once the main entry door was breeched, the men would form a train and meticulously work their way through the house, room by room, clearing each area and shooting any opposition.
After several runs where they simply “killed” whoever was defending the house, they transitioned to a capture mission, where they would detain those defending the house rather than just shoot them. This is where the men really started to have some fun with choke holds and body slams, doing whatever they felt necessary to detain the “terrorist.”
Each team did several runs before loading the bus back up and driving back to camp for an afternoon break before coming back to these farm houses for some night runs.
For the night runs, the men switched from a one-story house to a two-story house, adding the danger element of a stairwell. Once again, they split into teams and one would defend the house while the other would seize. On some runs, the men seizing the house would also be on a rescue mission, trying to save one of their own from the “terrorists.” They did several runs into the night, each becoming progressively smoother and more intense. The night ended on a high note, with a well-executed run initially breeching two doors with both the 12-guage shotgun and explosive charger.
The men were eager to rinse off and get to bed, as tomorrow was another early morning with PT starting at 0700.
Today started at 0500 hours, waking, readying the camera equipment, and heading to the beach to film the team’s sunrise PT session. The sun rose at 5:59am, just as expected, with all of its beautiful glowing coral glory, all while the men were transitioning between pushups, flutter kicks, and many other PT exercises. After watching the men lunge, run, and bear-crawl up and down the beach, they were led in a long run by their instructor. Our cameraman Ryan decided to get in some PT too, running with the team almost all the way, with video camera in hand.
After a quick clean up, the men turned their attention to packing up their gear and supplies for the move back inland for the rest of training. I must say, it’s very impressive how quickly a huge house can be packed up and cleaned when 21 dedicated men all work together to achieve their goal. After the ride back to camp, they unloaded and enjoyed a short bit of rest time before beginning the afternoon’s activities.
Training this afternoon consisted of close quarter combat (CQC) training with live air soft rounds. The men started by practicing formations in separate groups. After gear issue, they proceeded to shoot each other with the air soft rifles from increasing distances to test both their accuracy and ability to take a shot during training. Once the men had completed these exercises, they were off to another local compound with abandoned buildings to practice seizing a compound and defeating the enemy.
Splitting into groups, one playing the enemy defending home base and the other playing the SEAL team defeating home base, the men practiced formations and tactics they had just learned. With one squad stationed in a series of buildings, the other would infiltrate the compound and work their way through the structures, clearing each one as they went. Leaders of the SEAL squad would split their group in two, commanding each smaller group though the specific movements and steps of approaching and taking down an enemy building with their stealth and weaponry. The squad playing the enemy would set up to defend their base and readily attack their opposition with their air soft weapons. Naturally, the SEALS always won.
After several hours of training exercises within the abandoned compound, the team packed up their gear and headed back to camp for the night. They’re going to need their rest, as tomorrow begins at 0700 with PT and quickly moves on to 0900 CQC training.
We got to the SEAL house at 0800, ready to film the men have an early morning PT session, ending with a long run down the beach. After their run, the men prepped their zodiac boats and mounted their engines. While one team practiced with the zodiac boat engines, breaking through the waves and beaching the boat again with the motor safely risen, the other team was sent on a long swim training session learning how to maneuver through the sea wearing the gear, boots and all. After the grueling PT and training sessions, it was rest time for the men and for us film crew.
After a few hours’ break, the men readied their zodiac boats once again for a mission to storm the beach in front of a nearby restaurant, a well-deserved treat for the men. The students split into two groups- one rode the boats to the restaurant while the other half rode in the bus.
Tonight’s meal was a great break and reward for all of their hard work. Tomorrow morning is an 0600 sunrise PT/run, looking forward to seeing the dolphins with the sun rising in the background.
We arrived Sunday morning right on time to find the students already awake and roaming the house. Senior Chief had given them orders to prepare for at 0900 hours, and they were scrambling to get dressed properly and ready. We filmed them going through some rigorous PT, running on the beach, doing flutter kicks while laying in the break of the waves, getting wet-n-sandy, and many other training activities. The students were dedicated- sprinting into the water, running back on land to drop in the sand and roll around like dogs. When instructed to get sand in their hair, they eagerly rubbed fistfuls of sand into their scalps, then jumped to attention awaiting their next command. The team learned how to operate zodiac boats by paddle, working like a well-oiled machine to make it through the breaking waves and back on shore without dropping anyone overboard or losing control. These young men are pushing their preconceived notions of their own limits and performing in ways they never thought they could.
The afternoon was spent learning close-quarter-combat maneuvers and techniques. The students teamed up and practiced seizing the house, clearing rooms and controlling their weapons. We followed them through their drills before some brief break-time leading up to the night ops, where the fun began. The students teamed up and practiced drills on the beach before running a mission with the zodiacs boats over three miles down the coast. By the end of the night, we were all exhausted from the day’s events, and we were due back at 0800 the next morning.