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!!
Colorado Gators is a unique, family-centered reptile and fish farm hidden in Mosca, Colorado, about 17 miles north of Alamosa. Established as a public attraction in 1987, Colorado Gators welcomes visitors to check out their snakes, tortoises, lizards, crocodiles, and of course, alligators. It started as just a fish farm in the 70’s, but owners soon realized they needed something to do with the leftover tilapia. Baby alligators were the answer. The alligators began to attract locals, then locals started to bring in rescues. Before long, the farm was home to many critters of the strange and unusual, as well as venomous and deadly ones. This farm hosts the annual Gatorfest, a gator wrestling competition between amateurs every August. This contest draws a lot of visitors and helps get the farm through each winter.
Below is a feeding session for one of the older alligators at the farm, Elvis. He weighs over 500 pounds and is near 11 feet long. He is as aggressive as he is massive, and farm owner Jay Young was ready with dinner. As a starter, Elvis was offered a catfish grown in one of the tilapia bins. Coming up for the main entrée was a large slab of fresh meat for him to enjoy.
It wouldn’t be fair to feed just one of the hundreds of alligators at the farm, especially after such an unseasonably warm week. So next, we moved to a larger area of the swamp to feed the 7-10’ gators fresh meat.
Not only will Colorado Gators welcome you to check out all of their pets and let you feed them, but for a small fee, they’ll teach you how to handle an alligator! After signing a page-long waiver proclaiming that if you get bit, you deserved it and will not whine, your instructor takes you to the smallest gator pit on the farm where you learn the basics. I have been fortunate enough to of taken this class as well as multiple refreshers, so this visit I was able to play with some nice medium-sized alligators.
A major factor in handling the gators is inspecting them for wounds. Any time an aggressive animal like this is contained with other animals like itself, there are bound to be fights. Whether it’s over food, a warm basking spot, or during mating season, gators will find a reason to fight each other. When we handle them, we examine them head to tail for wounds and check their basic signs of health. Cuts and gashes are cleaned, sanitized, then coated with Neosporin to aid healing. The petroleum jelly in Neosporin acts as a barrier to the water, thus helping the wound stay clean longer and heal faster. We also check to make sure their eyes look healthy and that their behavior is normal. If an alligator doesn’t try to bite you, you may be dealing with a sick gator. Luckily for me, the gators I grabbed were feisty and healthy, bearing only a few minor scrapes we were able to easily clean and treat.
The farm genuinely cares about its pets and does not harvest any alligators for skin or meat. They offer much more to see than just reptiles as well; there are rabbits, emus, ostriches, donkeys, horses, goats, geese, peacocks, and more! They are open daily until 5pm and feature special events frequently, be sure to check the events calendar on their page for your next trip to the San Luis Valley! www.GatorFarm.com
Even Luche Libre wrestlers are welcome on the farm!
San Luis Valley is North America’s highest Alpine Valley and is home to many attractions, including the Great National Sand Dunes State Park. Massive sand dunes have been created over centuries and centuries of winds blowing through this dusty valley and accumulating sand at the base of the north-east surrounding mountains. These are some of the largest sand dunes in the Americas and starting at 7,500 feet above sea level, they are also some of the most challenging dunes to climb. For every step forward, you slide a few feet back. The sand is constantly moving under your feet and a river of flowing sand falls behind any progress you make up the dune. The view from the top is spectacular and well worth the climb. Not to mention, it’s amazingly fun to run full speed down the dune and have a sandy crash at the bottom. During this time of year, the dunes are usually surrounded by dry creek beds, but due to early warm weather, we were able to wade through the rising creek water, freshly melted from snow in the mountains.
In the main parking lot, we could see reflections of the sun shining on several dozen cars and the ant-trails of crowds making their way up the dunes. Watching the tourists climb up is reminiscent of movies showing the middle-eastern deserts with social castaways roaming through. Climbing the dunes definitely leaves me wishing for a camel!
We weren’t satisfied with the main parking lot -touristy areas, so we ventured to the back 4×4 roads that swirl around the base of dunes following them back to the mountains. This road, as one may assume, is primarily sand and not recommended for everyday vehicles, or drivers for that matter. After a few minutes of winding closer to the dunes, there is a pull-out area with a sign and a gate warning drivers that they are about to enter the “Point of No Return.” Now this is the part of the dunes we want to explore!
There is no camping allowed beyond this point and due to the difficult terrain, it becomes secluded quite quickly. Typically, only locals travel back here mainly due to simple local knowledge and the $400 minimum wrecker fee if your vehicle gets stuck. The Swaggerjack crew drives a 4×4 Toyota Tundra and has yet to find a road we could not handle. Along the rugged, desolate road were many trees and wild brush, as well as several families of wild deer. Being a state park, the area is also a wildlife preserve and you can tell just how comfortable the deer are here. It was early afternoon and hot for this area and time of year, so the deer were laying in the shade relaxing. They looked at us, acknowledged us, and went back to peacefully resting. I was even able to step out of the truck at one point and take a few steps for a better camera angle. One deer was caught in the midst of moistening his nose, so he seems to be sticking out his tongue. There were several babies as well, including one who was particularly camera-friendly.
Once we drove as far as the road would allow, we started to enjoy the dunes. We played in the sand, climbed them, waded in the rising creek and enjoyed the warm weather. There was one mission involved with this trip to the dunes; Oh Long Johnson. South Park had just aired its newest episode the night before and Swaggerjack was ready to make its own spinoff. Please enjoy the video below!
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.
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.
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