BLOG 5: Turtles, Dolphins, Whales and Wildcats

During last season's Paradise Jam Tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the tournament experience included a boating and snorkeling trip for the players and staff. The Maui Invitational has several fun events included in the week, but a boat trip is not among them.

The team had such a fun time last season and in past years on the boat that Coach Ryan and his staff wanted to squeeze one into this itinerary. After a late arrival Friday, practice and evening events on both Saturday and Sunday and of course games Monday through Wednesday, the only window was Sunday morning.

Bon voyage!

A giant catamaran floated onto the beach behind our team hotel and picked us up for a three-hour tour. Yes, yes, get your Gilligan's Island jokes out now. Skipper, Ginger, etc. Let's move on.

Hiring a boat without prior experience can be somewhat risky. But, thanks to the recommendation from our terrific host at the Westin Hotel, Patricia Ramsey, we were in the capable hands of the great Teralani Sailing Adventures staff.
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We cruised to a nearby harbor and snorkeled over an old bridge that was sunk by a hurricane many years ago. The fish and coral may not have been the best on the island, but we could have been snorkeling in the pool at the SERF on campus and the guys would have had fun. For several of the guys on the team, snorkeling, heck even swimming in the ocean is a rare treat.

The team did get to swim with a few big sea turtles though, which sent shockwaves of excitement through our floating menagerie. Ryan Evans and a few other brave souls even swam close enough to touch the turtles' shell and head. In related news, Ryan will be playing this tournament with only nine fingers. Just kidding.

Sunscreen was being squirted and spread as often as... well, as often as a big travel party from Wisconsin I guess. Go figure. Probably a good thing though. Playing basketball with a bad sunburn would be pretty tricky. The jokes about the glare shining off a few of our guys were rampant nonetheless.

On the way back, things got even better as our boat flirted with a herd of at least 25-30 dolphins. More than once I was nervous that the boat would capsize from the entire travel party gathering in one corner and leaning over the railing to get as close as possible to the dolphins. The dolphins were mere feet from the edge of the boat darting back and forth and out of the water. It really was remarkable. To top it off, we chased a whale and watched as it breached the surface and blew its spout a few times.

Rob Wilson, who swam in the ocean for the first time last year in St. Thomas, had the quote of the day, "This is the first time I've seen a dolphin and a whale in the same day."

Me too Rob... me too.

ON WISCONSIN