For Christmas this year, Santa brought the kids bodyboards plus swim vests.  He brought all five of us snorkeling gear.  That Santa dude is a nice guy.
From what I hear, he did a lot of research when it came to the bodyboards.  He ended up choosing 36″ Pipeline boards that were mid-range in price ($30ish).  Apparently, cheap boards can easily break in half or the coating can peel off.  We wouldn’t want anything like that happening.  Especially when James and I plan to make use of the boards as well.  Bodyboards are available online and in many stores, but the prices are really all over the place so it’s difficult to know what you’re getting unless you can physically compare them.
And honestly, we’ve only taken ours out now a grand total of once, so I’m not even sure if they are winners just yet.
As far as the snorkeling sets, we did a lot of research before we knew Santa was going to take care of this for us.  It appears that Amazon beats our local Sports Authority store in price by a mile for the kids’ travel sets.  Those include masks, snorkels, fins, and a travel bag.

When it comes to the adult sets, we had a hard time finding the exact set online that was located in the store.  But this is one very similar:

However, I would really recommend you go into your local sports store and talk to someone knowledgeable.  There are really so many choices and the price differences are vast.  We’re happy Santa chose to go with the more expensive brand – we had really good results.

And lastly, the kids received swim vests.  Audra is a fairly strong swimmer, Austin can tread water, and Aidan hasn’t shown a ton of interest in learning.  It’s funny how different they all are.  We wanted them to have a little buoyancy advantage without wearing a bulky life jacket.  We’re happy they received the Speedo Swim Vests.  These are a swim level 2 which is basically for kids who feel comfortable in water but aren’t yet swimming on their own.  That didn’t really match all three kids’ skill levels, but it still worked out pretty well.


In addition to Santa’s gifts, James bought me the Nikon AW110 waterproof camera.  I had done so much headache-inducing research when it comes to waterproof/rugged cameras for our adventures.  I used to have a photography business and my camera bag still includes a Canon 5D.  But after attempting to drag that along on a hike, I realized that I’m way too lazy to deal with the weight.  But the problem is that I really expect DSLR quality in my photos.  So essentially, I want poster-size quality from a tiny compact camera.  Demanding much?

For my everyday camera, I just use a Canon Powershot SX260 HS.  It’s a few years old but the quality is okay and the zoom is great.  But after using it here in Hawaii, I’ve been frustrated by the quality.  My pictures are pixelated and the colors are flat.  So instead of just grabbing an underwater housing for it, we decided to find something new altogether for our ocean adventures.
Well, I read every review site and basically settled on the AW110.  My heart was calling out for the Nikon AW1, but the price difference ultimately made the decision for me.  We’re saving our pennies to buy a pair of paddle boards.
For hiking, I may eventually upgrade, but for now I will test out the AW110 and continue to carry along my SX260.  With some time in photoshop, I can help the images come to life.  And I’m not really printing any of the photos just yet, so the pixelated quality will just have to do.  But I will certainly keep you updated if I upgrade.

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Oh!  And my dad and stepmom sent wetsuits for the kids for Christmas this year.  In three different colors.  Obviously.  I didn’t do my own research on those, but I know that they used the kids’  measurements at Swim Outlet to make the selections.  That worked out great, and apparently they now want to wear them every time we go to the beach.  Plus, they didn’t come home with 6 cups of sand shoved in undesirable places.  Win win!
So with our new gear packed up, we were ready to hit the beach!


We made the decision to visit the Ko Olina Lagoons because the water is tame and I’m not nervous about sharks.  Yes, seriously.  Haven’t gotten over my fear yet.  But we had seen people snorkeling out towards the rock barriers on previous occasions, so we figured it’d be a great place to try it out.

This would be a good time to note that none of us have any snorkeling experience.  I think Austin played around in the pool with a mask and snorkel once, but it was hardly leakproof.  So we were all pretty dang excited.

Of course, we weren’t alone in our Christmas Day beach plans.  The parking lots for all four lagoons were packed, and we had to park at the marina for $10.  Worth it.

Side note – I am in absolute love with my children being old enough to carry their own stuff.  It makes every experience 10x less stressful.

They were super eager to test out their bodyboards, so we dropped our stuff and they jumped in the water.  See all these people?  That hasn’t been the norm all two times we’ve been here before.

It was hilarious watching them try to hop on in such shallow water.  And honestly, I didn’t know how to do it myself, so I couldn’t exactly explain it.

But once they got it, they started heading out.  And seriously, seeing their excitement was priceless.

And I have to say that taking that camera out into the water was so absolutely exciting.  I can just get so much better shots!

Aidan was working it hard.  “How do you paddle these things?!”  He got it under control.

I love this boy!

I don’t know why I feel it necessary to take 72 thousand pictures.  We still feel as though we are on vacation, and what do you do on vacation?  Take pictures!

This is a picture for his future grandkids.  In Hawaii.  Mountains in the background.  Floating in the ocean. Real smile on his face.  It just doesn’t get any better.

These two abandoned their bodyboards and got a little brave while wearing the swim vests.  This is one of the great things about the lagoons – I’m not as worried about the current and we can allow them more freedom to explore.

(However, James and I learned firsthand why they have that middle area roped off.  If you get too close, it WILL start to suck you in.  It’s pretty scary.)

After some time testing out the boards, we decided to try out the snorkeling sets.

And this picture is everything I have of the kids doing it.  Aidan was too busy playing in the sand with a new friend (and it was Christmas, so I didn’t have the heart to make him stop).  And these two got frustrated within a minute and a half.

Mommy and Daddy?  Totally different story.  And we decided to figure out what we were doing while the kids were happily spending time in the sand so we could show them later.

Of course it took a while to work out the foggy mask situation.

Snorkeling selfies.  What?!

We stayed really close to the beach for a while because the younger kids went back to playing with their bodyboards.  You go under for five seconds and then snap your head out of water to do a 1-2-3 kid count.  Then back under to practice the breathing.

I have to say that I thought snorkeling would be more difficult and uncomfortable than it was.  The rebel in me wanted to start taking fast shallow breaths immediately after sticking my head in the water.  But then you just remind yourself to breathe normally and it works just fine.

The foggy mask issue was fairly easily resolved.  As long as you dipped the whole mask in the water and then remembered not to try to breathe from your nose, it was okay.  My biggest issue was the couple of times water got in my mask (not from leaking, but after I dipped it), the salt water really burned my eyes.  Ouch.

And once the kiddos got back safely in the sand, we felt more comfortable checking out the area near the rock barriers.

FISH!

Under the water, these kind of looked like baby sharks.  I had a moment of panic, I’m not going to lie.

I even got a little bit of video.


More pictures of us.  Nerds.

We also went back and grabbed our fins.  We thought we wouldn’t need them in the lagoon, but we were wrong.  It’s really tiring swimming around constantly!  Plus, James cut his foot on one of the coral(?)/rock areas, so the fins helped with that as well.

We checked out both sides of the rock barriers, but then headed back to spend more time with the little ones.

Audra wasn’t interested in trying to snorkel again, but she wanted to go out and try to see the fish from above water.

She said, “There’s a turtle!”  I think she was wrong, but it’s not impossible.  They do come in the lagoons.  But I didn’t have my gear on, so I hope she was just seeing things.  She also thought she saw a snake, and that was definitely not the case.

I was practicing using my camera half in and out of the water.

Oh color casts – I wish Santa would have gone with all white bodyboards. 😉

The vest was perfect.  It didn’t make her feel like a baby, but it helped me feel safer about her just hanging in the deeper water.

And then we needed a good Christmas Day picture before heading home.  All together since last year James was in Afghanistan.  What a huge change.

And as we were getting out of the water, Austin finally realized that I could take pictures underwater. So we had to test it.

And this picture is simply here because I think my man is handsome.

Another real smile!  He’s so happy at the beach!

It was an incredible day, and James and I loved snorkeling.  We don’t really enjoy just hanging on the beach for hours, so it’s fun to have something to do.  Now we just gotta get the kids on board and comfortable with their gear.  And we’ll have to research the best snorkeling spots on the island.  And I’ll have to check my fear of sharks.  I’m on top of that.

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Kaena Point Trail
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