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water activities

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America's first 'surf park' to open in Austin, Texas

NLand Surf Park, America's first "surf park," opens Friday, and all skill levels are welcome. The waves can be calibrated from gentle to head-high.

With a pool nine football fields long, visitors can expect the rides to last a long time. 

That's welcome news, since surfers have been waiting months for the park to open. 

First, heavy rains stalled construction, then the county and company had to settle competing lawsuits over how to safely treat the park's water.

With the issue settled, and the park finally opening to the public, the next step may be bringing in professionals. 

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Red Bull hosted a surf competition last year at NLand's sister park in Wales.    

For those who aren't very experienced, NLand has a training center to help surfers develop their skills.

See more at NLandSurfPark.com

The Great Barrier Reef is dying

The Great Barrier Reef is dying, and tourists from all over the world are rushing to see it while there's still time.

Nearly 70 percent of people who visited the reef in 2015 said they made the trip to Australia to witness its beauty before it's gone.

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Almost half of the reef's coral has vanished over the past three decades, thanks to warming ocean temperatures, invasive species and coastal development.

This year, the reef suffered the worst coral bleaching in recorded history. One study estimated over 90 percent of the reef has been affected. 

The Australian government thought the reef's dire state would drive tourists away, but it's done the opposite. That's great news for the multibillion-dollar tourism industry, but it could be bad news for the reef itself.

This phenomenon is called last-chance tourism, and it happens all the time at vanishing destinations, like the Maldives and Galapagos Islands.

Researchers fear it could make the reef's plight even worse. 

One of the study's authors wrote in The Conversation, "There's a vicious cycle at play here: tourists travel to see a destination before it disappears, but in so doing they contribute to its demise, either directly through on-site pressures or ... through greenhouse gas emissions."

But a reef scientist told Motherboard the impacts of tourism are actually "overwhelmingly positive."

"The greater the value of Great Barrier Reef tourism, the easier it is to justify government investment in reef management," said reef scientist Peter Mumby.

And the reef might already be seeing those positive effects. A new video from early September showed at least part of the reef has almost fully recovered from coral bleaching.

1,500 Americans accidentally end up in Canada during float trip

About 1,500 Americans learned the effects of high winds the hard way during an annual event in Michigan.

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Hundreds of people got on their favorite floats with their favorite drinks on Sunday to float down the St. Clair River. The rafters planned to float from Port Huron, Michigan, to Marysville, Michigan, for the annual Port Huron Float Down.

Beginning at lighthouse beachPosted by Kathy Docherty-Denny on Sunday, August 21, 2016

Instead, they ended up across the river in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

"They were pushed over pretty quickly, and because they had no control over these dinghies and the wind was basically directing them and the current, they ended up over here," Sarnia Police Constable John Sottosanti told CTV Network.

The Canadian Coast Guard, local law enforcement officials and the Canadian Red Cross sprung into action, rescuing stranded floaters and getting medical attention for those who needed it. 

Some local oil refinery and chemical company workers pitched in to help too.

Canadian authorities transported 19 busloads of Americans to United States Customs and Border Patrol on the U.S. side before they issused an admonishment.

"The Port Huron Float Down event has no official organizer and poses significant and unusual hazards given the fast-moving current, large number of participants, lack of life jackets, and as was the case this year, very challenging weather conditions," said Carol Launderville, spokesperson for the Canadian Coast Guard on the Great Lakes in a statement.

According to local police, everyone was accounted for and there were only minor injuries.

"Everybody got home safe and sound," Sottosanti said.

The Port Huron Float Down, which has no official organizers, posted a message on its Facebook page, thanking Canadian authorities.

"You've shown us true kindness and what it means to be amazing neighbors," the post said.

We want to express our gratitude to the Canadian Authorities for their assistance and understanding with the floaters...Posted by Port Huron Float Down on Sunday, August 21, 2016

Airbnb contest allows you to sleep with sharks

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Airbnb is offering the public a special underwater experience at the Aquarium de Paris, where guests can sleep surrounded by 35 sharks.

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In what will be the company's first-ever underwater bedroom, guests can sleep 32 feet below the surface in a room defined by a cylindrical glass wall designed to give a 360-degree view of aquatic life.

Contestants can win a one-night stay in the underwater oasis by entering Airbnb’s limited-time contest. A round trip to Paris (economy class tickets), a private visit and tour of the Aquarium de Paris, a private dinner for two in the aquarium and breakfast the morning after the stay are also included in the winnings. Each winner is allowed one guest.

>>This treehouse is Airbnb's most desired rental property in the world

Interested travelers must write about a unique reason they should be afforded the opportunity to sleep with the fierce animals in 50-550 words in order to win the underwater stay for two one night between April 11 and April 13. Entries will be evaluated for "originality," "creativity" and "spirit of the submission."

The special offering was designed to teach people more about sharks, which Airbnb and Aquarium de Paris believe are the most misunderstood animals in the world.  

"Avoid seeing Jaws before your sleepover," Airbnb jokes in a section of the contest rules.

Three contest winners will be selected on April 9 and announced on social media. 

At least one media outlet has speculated that the whole thing is an elaborate April Fool's Day prank

Click here to see photos of the listing on Airbnb.

Some people swim with the sharks, now you can sleep with the sharks.Sweet dreams!Posted by Airbnb on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 

'Mermaids' swim with sharks in South Carolina Aquarium

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Most people have been to an aquarium by the time they're in middle school.

But you've probably never seen an attraction like the one that's soon to be at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston.

The World-Famous Weeki Wachee Mermaids will entertain guests at the aquarium March 28 through April 3.

>> Read more trending stories  

Hailing from Spring Hill, Florida, the mermaids swim among hundreds of animals, including fish, manatees and 8-foot-long sharks.

During each show, the mermaids delight guests with a highly technical and choreographed routine to musical numbers.

The mermaids travel nationwide, but they usually perform at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida.

At the upcoming exhibit at the South Carolina Aquarium, a limited number of guests will be able to experience a special date night event, Mermaids & Me, designed for all ages and featuring an exclusive mermaid performance in the aquarium's Great Ocean Tank. Each attendee will have the opportunity to meet and take a photo with a friendly mermaid on the land.

A mermaid kiss. #mermaniaPosted by South Carolina Aquarium on Friday, March 27, 2015

Posted by Weeki Wachee Springs on Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Repairs could force Niagara Falls portion to run dry

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Niagara Falls, a distinct collective of three waterfalls that straddle the border of the U.S. and Canada, will go dry in the next two or three years.

But it will only happen on the American side of the falls in New York.

>> Read more trending stories  

For some, this will be the second time in their lifetime that the falls have dried.

In 1969 researchers stopped the flow of water to study the effects of erosion and buildup of rock at the base of the falls. That year, people traveled from all over the world to see the landmark de-watered

According to The Buffalo News, the New York State parks system wants to halt the water on the American side of the falls to replace two 115-year-old stone arch bridges that allow pedestrians, park vehicles and utilities access to Goat Island. Officials have said the concrete bridges, built in 1901, are deteriorating. A renovation would improve safety and the overall look of the popular site.

In 2004, the concrete arch bridges were closed and temporary truss bridges were put in place for parkgoers to cross over the rapids. Ten years later, the temporary bridges, which block views of the falls and are aesthetically unappealing for visitors, are still in place. 

Officials now want to replace the two stone arch bridges, a project that could take five to nine months and would cost between $21.6 million and $37.3 million, The Buffalo News reported. 

"The biggest problem is coming up with the money to do this," said Niagara Falls historian Tom Yots. "These beautiful bridge designs go back to the beginning of the 20th century."

The park system's proposal will be presented at a public hearing Wednesday at the Niagara Falls Conference Center. 

If approved, a cofferdam would be imposed to stop water from flowing on the American side and redirect it to flow down the Canadian side. About 85 percent of the Niagara River flows over Horseshoe Falls in Ontario, and 15 percent flows over the American Falls in New York. 

Read more here. 

How not to get attacked by a shark

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Just in time for the July 4 holiday, the New York Times has released an explainer piece on just how prevalent shark attacks are (not very), and where they mostly take place (where the food is).

But just as helpful as these tidbits of knowledge is a short synopsis of what you, a swimmer in the ocean, can do to NOT be attacked by a shark.

Here they are:

1. Don’t go swimming at dusk, night or dawn, when sharks are more likely to be active and feeding.

2. Avoid murky water, where sharks are more likely to mistake you for shark food.

3. Bleeding? Don’t go swimming in the ocean.

The experts say shark attacks are no more prevalent than they usually are this time of year, and point out that this summer conveniently coincides with the 40th anniversary of the release of “Jaws,” so there might be some media hysteria at play, ahem.

However, it’s true that the seven shark attacks along the North Carolina coast are more than the state has recorded in a single year since 2000.

What should you do if you are bitten by a shark?

When you see it coming, try to exit the water slowly, facing the shark, says shark expert Andrew P. Nosal. If you can’t escape, and it attacks you, fight back by grabbing the gills or striking the eyes.

For more about sharks, click here and here.

Red eyes after a swim? Don't blame chlorine

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If you think it’s the chlorine that makes your eyes red in swimming pools, think again.

According to the annual healthy swimming report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), swimmer’s urine mixed with other chemicals causes your eyes to get red and sting in swimming pools, Today reports.  

“It’s not the chlorine itself. It’s the chlorine mixed with poop and sweat and a lot of other things we bring into the water with us,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s healthy swimming program, to Today.

Hlavsa said the nitrogen in urine “combines with the chlorine and it forms what’s known as chloramine … that causes the red eyes.” Also, beware if the pool you are swimming in has a very strong smell of chlorine. “Healthy pools don’t smell like chemicals,” Today reports.

Most people believe chlorine will help eliminate urine from swimming pools, but Hlavsa told Today the chlorine is busy cleaning E. coli and other potential germs in the water.

“People think waterborne disease is something that happens outside the United Sates. But really, we have plenty of them here,” Hlvasa said to Today.

Hlavsa recommends pool owners to get a pool tester. “You’re looking at both the chlorine level and the pH,” she said to Today.  The chlorine level should be “1 to 3 ppm” and the pH level “between 7.2 to 7.8. The pH is important because it determines how effective that chlorine is,” Hlavsa told Today.

The CDC also offers more tips such as showering before getting in the water, and trying not to swallow any pool water.

“We don’t want to scare people away from swimming,” Hlavsa said to Today. “It’s just about doing it in a healthier and safer way.”

Read more at today.com 

A look at the best sunscreen for your money

Clark Howard is a nationally syndicated consumer advice expert

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A May 2014 study from Consumer Reports has ranked sunscreens and found that you don't have to pay big bucks to protect your skin from harsh UV rays.Here's what so funny: The highest rated sunscreen that got a Best Buy recommendation turned out to be the cheapest one per ounce they tested!

Want the best sunscreen for your money? Check out these options

Equate Ultra Protection Sunscreen SPF 50, which is a Walmart storebrand lotion, clinched the Best Buy trophy with a score of 80 from Consumer Reports. It costs only 56 cents an ounce, which represents a 9-cent increase in price since last year. Active ingredients include Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (13%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (7%), and Oxybenzone (4%). The only sunblock to score higher in the lotion category was Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50. This lotion got a score of 81 and costs $1.38. The active ingredient list mirrors that of Equate Ultra Protection Sunscreen SPF 50, with the exact same concentration of active ingredients.When it comes to sprays, longtime Consumer Reports favorite UP & UP Sport SPF 50 got a 90 -- a full 10 points higher than last year's showing for this Target housebrand. Amazingly, the cost per ounces has dropped to 80 cents, down from $1.16 last year! Active ingredients include Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (10%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (4%), and Oxybenzone (5%).

>>Company claims it has developed drinkable sunscreen

>> Special Section: Your Guide to Summer FunThe historical favorite in this annual tally has been NO-AD Sport SPF 50 with Avobenzone, Aloe, and Vitamin E SPF 45. The NO-AD lotion scored a 69 this time out -- up 20 points from last year. The cost per ounce is 63 cents. Active ingredients include Avobenzone (2.0%), Homosalate (15.0%), Octisalate (5.0%), and Oxybenzone (5.0%).I was talking with a dermatologist last week and she said the real problem is too many people apply sunscreen too sparsely. You need to put gobs of it on your kids. My kids are conditioned to know that it's a five-minute ordeal while we slather them up before they can go out into the sun. It's a necessary precaution. But don't forget yourself either.If you're like me and grew up in the generation when nobody wore sunscreen, we're a ticking time bomb for skin cancer and melanoma. In many cases, early skin cancer detected is just a little aggravation that's easily treated. But undetected, it can grow into melanoma and cost you your life.Whatever sunscreen you get, be sure it says "broad spectrum" on the label for maximum protection.

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