Ask Eddy: Happy Thoughts and Pixie Dust

You've got questions, Eddy's got answers

 

Illustration by Aaron McKinney
Illustration by Aaron McKinney

How Long Can Humans Hold Their Breath Underwater?
People can hold their breath underwater longer than they can on dry land, says Kirk Krack, founder of Performance Freediving, which teaches courses for surfers and kayakers who want to improve their breath holding times. The mammalian diving reflex naturally slows your heart rate and shunts oxygenated blood to the core so you won't have to breathe as often. That's helpful for seals who need to chase fish, and for Eddy, when he harvests coins from wishing wells—the less often you surface, the less chance of getting caught. That's why breath-hold records are set underwater. That world record? Twenty two minutes and 22 seconds, which is ridiculous, and also, kind of cheaty since old Aquaman hyperventilated with pure oxygen for 20 minutes beforehand, lowering his body's carbon dioxide count. The hyperventilation-free record is 11 minutes and 35 seconds.

Krack says that by the end of his two-day course, most students can hold their breath for six minutes while thinking happy thoughts in a swimming pool. However, being stuck in a river hydraulic is not a happy situation, and paddlers who find themselves in that predicament are probably already a little winded, says Krack, "so expect a breath-hold time about a third of your personal best." Stuck underwater before you have time to take Krack's course? "Stay relaxed," he says. "Contracted, active muscles use five times more oxygen than relaxed ones do. Understand that your urge to breathe is only the beginning—it's uncomfortable, but you've got lots of time left, even when your diaphragm starts to spasm. Don't give into the panic cycle." After all, just because you spot what appears to be the shimmering image of a security guard on the wishing well surface, it doesn't mean they've seen you down there—they're usually just looking at their phones.

How Much Petroleum Is in a Plastic Kayak Anyhow?
Riot Kayaks founder Corran Addison estimates it takes the equivalent of about 12.5 gallons of crude oil to make the plastic in a typical sea kayak, though that's before factoring in the fuel for manufacturing and transport, not to mention the oil that goes into the asphalt the delivery driver is driving on, or the plastic bag he's eating his Cheetos out of. Also, plastic produced in the U.S. is derived from natural gas, not oil. Still, almost all plastic today is made from some type of petroleum. Almost all.

"You can make plastic from corn," Addison says, "but that has its own set of problems." He says the people in Seattle who were ridiculed for using kayaks made of plastic to protest oil drilling in the Arctic may not be perfect, but they have the right idea. "We could say those kayakers were hypocrites sitting out there in their oil made sea kayaks protesting oil, but you have to start awareness somewhere. If they had an alternative, like sea kayaks made from pixie dust, wouldn't most of them buy those over the ones made from oil? So we need to invent pixie-dust kayaks." Or, just make them yourself, from what is on-hand, though that can take resources (thanks, Pollys Perky Petting Zoo wishing well!) and time. Prepare for a few failures, a la the SS LePeu, Eddy's roadkill skunk skin-on-frame kayak, and the SS Smirnoff, his birchbark-style canoe constructed from liquor store cardboard boxes glued together with spruce gum, charcoal and lard.

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