WARNING, THIS IS JUST AN ARTICLE, WE DO NOT PROMISE ANY ASSURANCES OF SAFETY, CLIMB AT YOUR OWN RISK! CLIMBING COCONUT PALMS HAS SERIOUS LIFE THREATENING RISKS. YOU CAN CONTACT US FOR SUPERVISED CLIMBING CLASSES.
I am the owner of Coconut Revolution 101, I found a passion for everything coconuts when I moved to Puerto Rico in 2014. While living on this beautiful tropical island, I realized the true potential of the coconut palm and I wanted to climb one. After several failed attempts, I started to do research online , I watched videos and read articles, and I taught myself how to climb a coconut tree (I became quite good at it). I also realized that the materials for climbing a coconut palm online did not have the right information. That is why I built this “how to” blog.
Why is it important to know how to climb a coconut tree?:
Coconuts are known throughout the world as the tree of life. Coconuts can provide you with water, food, shelter, and even fire. Being able to get to that precious drupe, nut, or fruit, whatever you want to call it, can mean the difference between life and death during Island survival. During hard times, such as after a hurricane, tsunami, or if you are stranded on an Island, the coconut will provide for you, if you have the strength, courage, and most importantly the know-how to get to those precious resources.
Safety first! (climb at your own risk):
Climbing Coconut Palms is a dangerous indevoure. The bark itself will be rough on your skin and can leave scratches on your feet and arms. Once you’ve made it to the top, you might encounter rats, birds, snakes, spiders, and fire ants in the crown. Palms can also fall if they are weak at the bottom, either because they are old, have fungus rot, or they have washed out roots. Also, if you do not know what you are doing you can fall from a large tree and palms can grow up to 90ft tall, which means death. Beware of falling coconuts as well! More people actually get killed by coconuts than shark attacks each year! That is why we are going to go over safety first:
The most important thing you want to do before climbing a palm is to check the crown of the tree, just look up. You want to be on the lookout for any other animal or insect that also climbs trees. The last thing you want is to successfully climb a palm and get whacked in the face by a large iguana tail when you reach the summit. Use your eyes, carefully examine what you can see in the crown of the palm before climbing.
After you look up, take a look down. Trunk and root evaluation is vital to your survival. Some people use spikes to climb trees and over time this can weaken the trunk, so make sure it is stable without huge holes and chunks of the trunk that have been beaten up over time. Next, check the roots. If the palm looks washed out or has yellow or orange fungus at the bottom where the roots are connected, it can be a sign for a diseased tree that may tip under the weight of the climber or the pressure of too much wind.
Get in shape!:
You want to be in good shape and make sure you can do a good amount of pushups and pull ups before attempting to climb. Palm climbing is tough business, and it takes strength and stamina. Make sure you have enough strength to get up and more importantly, to get down. Get in shape before attempting any coconut palm climbing.
The most important thing is that you start with short and skinny trees, the lower the fruit hangs the less risk is involved, ...leave the tall trees to the local experts!
Another crucial factor regarding safety is the strap you use. The foot strap should be strong enough to hold your weight and stand up to the friction of the surface of the palm. Native Samoans would use the bark from a hibiscus tree which can hold up to 300 hundred pounds if harvested correctly. However, we do not recommend trying this at home, but it’s good to know if you ever end up in a real survival situation. We highly recommend to use a very high quality rock climbing webbing that has high tinsel and friction strength. Even though it is not intended for palm climbing we have found it is the best and safest option. It should be doubled or tripled up and should measure to have the circumference of the tree when bundled up.
The foot strap can be put around your ankles as they do in the Philippines, but we recommend you put it underneath the arch of your foot, falling short of the heel. The strap enables you to create tension so you are able press your feet tightly around the tree. It basically is like the screw in the middle of the wrench. Your ankles and heals push out against the strap so the front of your foot and your toes can better grip the tree! We will continue with foot position later on.
Push and pull... give and take, these are the jobs of your arms. The upper body is just getting your feet in position to go up. It is the first thing that will touch the tree just like climbing a ladder, hands on first. One arm should hug the side of the tree with the hand behind the tree and the forearm pressed against the side of the palm and the elbow should be in front of the tree or slightly in front of the tree creating leverage. This arm is the pull arm.
The push arm should be with the hand on the face of the trunk, horizontal with the fingers pointing out. Pressing the palm and the heel of your palm against the tree, and your elbow should be pointed inward next to or under your ribs, almost hoisting your upper body up to give your feet a chance to jump onto the palm.
The lower body, your legs and feet are what will propel you up the tree and that is why you have to learn the proper form. If you try to use your upper body too much you will get gassed out and will not be able to get to your goal of the hanging coconuts. So when you first jump onto the palm you will have your arms pushing and pulling. Your feet should jump up with faith,,, knees out feet wrapped around the trunk. You should look like a sitting frog. Many people tend to want to use their legs or knee to hold them up. This way is next to impossible and will get you all scratched up. Your feet should be gripping the tree and your knees should be spread out away from the palm.
Climbing up the tree:
Once you have your knees out and your feet wrapped around the tree, you want to slowly stand up keeping the tension on the strap. Once you start to stand up you will feel like you are losing grip. You want to keep angling your heels out, pulling the strap tight and your toes should continue to grip the tree. After your knees are extended you have to continue pulling up with one arm and pushing the other arm to keep your body away from the tree and getting your legs and feet back up into the frog position. You will continue this until you get to the top of the tree. Once you are up there, you can grab onto the middle layer of the branches or fronds. Do not use yellow or brown branches at the bottom of the crown they are dying off and are weak and can not hold your weight. The healthy branches on the second layer of the crown are strong and you can do a pull up to position your feet in the frog position once again. This is the rest position.
Getting the Coconuts:
Once you are in the crown you can use your feet on the trunk and one hand grabbing a healthy branch to support you. The other hand will be free to pick coconuts. Choose a Coconut that is close to you, try not to go for the glory your first time around. Twist the coconut 10 times and just a heads up, it will not be as easy as you think. Make sure no one is standing under the coconut you are trying to pick. It can be fatal if a coconut falls on someone's head. Once you have the coconut freshly picked, drop them in a spinning motion so it will spiral and land on its cone and not the side, if it lands on its side it may crack open. Only go for one coconut at first, save some of your energy to get back down!
You have done it, you got your coconut. Now you need to get back down! You want to hug the tree tight, let your feet down and then bend your knees, get into the frog position, hug the tree and let your feet down again. You should look like a caterpillar, bend your knees, hug and repeat. Try to make concise movements and grip the tree tight, do not slide, you will get scratched up! After you get down, give praise you are still alive, and reap the rewards of the coconut. If you do not have a knife you can try to bang it against the tree to crack it open a bit. I will have another blog about using a machete to open a coconut coming up soon.
Start on small short and skinny trees, practice on that before you go big. Climbing a coconut tree is extremely dangerous, and you should always climb at your own risk. Here is a Video below with step by step instructions. CALL US TODAY FOR YOUR COCONUT ISLAND SURVIVAL CLASS @ 410-652-7009!
I've been teaching about coconuts for several years now, and coconuts actually jump started my interest in nutrition and my research of the health benefits of natural, raw foods. During my workshops I receive the same questions from clients over and over again: " Don't coconuts have a lot of fat which makes us gain weight? Aren't saturated fats unhealthy and cause heart disease?" A quick google search will show you the existing controversy surrounding the health benefits of coconuts. Now, there's a lot of dietary advise out there on the internet, so take everything you read with a grain of salt, and most importantly, consult a health professional before making any major changes in your diet. Through my own research, and my own personal experience, I've come to believe, that if we eat the coconut in its raw form, as nature intended, it is very beneficial for our body, mind, and spirit. Me and my wife use coconut products in our diet and skin care daily, and we've seen great improvements in our overall health. Check out the following interesting facts about the amazing coconut, which is actually a drupe, not a fruit or a nut!
I grew up with the common misbelief that fat is bad for you. For so many years people were taught to use low fat products and cut fat out of their diet as much as possible. Today that theory has been mostly disproved, and we've learned that sugar and the wrong fats are the culprits in today's health crisis of obesity and diabetes. Nonetheless, the misconception that coconuts are bad for you still exists, mostly due to the type of fats that are found in coconuts. Coconuts contain a high percentage of saturated fats, which for many years were thought to be the cause for heart disease. It is now proven though, that not all saturated fats are created equally, and that the ones in coconuts are actually very healthy. The article "Coconut Oil for weight loss does it work?" by the Mayo Clinic, explains "Unlike long-chain fatty acids, medium-chain fatty acids are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. They don't raise blood cholesterol as much as long-chain fatty acids do, and they don't appear to be stored in the body's fat tissue as readily as long-chain fatty acids are".
Many people don't know, that the fat in the coconut is very similar to the fats we find in human breast milk and it is easy for the body to turn it into energy which is why many baby formulas use coconut milk as a main ingredient. Cows milk contains long chain fats and lactose, and while healthy for calfs, it has very limited health benefits for humans. The Ceylon Medical Journal of Sri Lanka, clarifies "They (MCTs) are directly used in the body to produce energy, and widely used in infant formulas, nutritional drinks for athletes and intravenous lipid infusions. Since they are not stored in fat deposits, they are of high value to dieters. Animal and human studies have shown that the fast rate of oxidation of medium chain free fatty acids leads to greater energy expenditure." Therefore, even though the coconut is full of fats, it can help us control our weight and give us energy for the day.
Coconut oil is also a great moisturizer for your skin and can be used for your hair as well. We use it daily! It has been used for thousands of years in Polynesia as a skin softener and hair conditioner. In the Article, Ancient Polynesians Knew the secrets to Healhty Skin, Afa K. Palu, writes, "Polynesian seed oils include coconut oil, which is typically used as base oil, mixed with different varieties of flowers and other seed oils. Additional ingredients such as mohokoi (ylang ylang), tuitui (kukui) and ahi (sandalwood) can be added to the base to create a variety of scented oils. These seed oils contain many skin health benefits, which is now uncovered by science, but known to our ancestors for over thousands of years. Even today, our Polynesian seed oils are still key to maintaining healthy and beautiful brown skin. Coconut oil (Cocos Nucifera L.) has been used for over thousands of years in Polynesia with proven nutritional and cosmetic benefits." It also has the great side effect that it smells amazing. Many hair and skin products use coconut oil to sell their products but nothing works better than the pure cold pressed coconut oil itself, the same kind that we use to eat and cook with.
Dental health can benefit from coconuts as well. We find more and more, just how good coconuts are for our teeth. We can use the charcoal from the shell to make tooth paste which is hard on tartar but soft on gums and enamel. We also use coconut oil daily to do oil pulling, to remove bad bacteria from the mouth. When the South Pacific Islands where discovered, western dentists where astounded by the photos of the indigenous islanders. Having no modern dentistry on the islands most of the people had perfect teeth, because of the high coconut diet and unprocessed foods they where eating. (Photo and Link left)
Coconut water is a delicious way to hydrate your body and get vital mineral and vitamins. Coconut water has vitamin C, and Vitamins B6, which help strengthen the immune system. The water from coconuts also has great minerals like potassium, manganese, magnesium, and iron. In Medical News Today, they write "Potassium helps keep fluid and electrolyte balance in the body, especially during exercise. Because there is more potassium than sodium in coconut water, the potassium may help balance out sodium’s effect on blood pressure and possibly even help lower it. " It also explains that magnesium helps relax muscles and prevent spasms. Coconut water contains minerals that are great for muscle, heart, and more.
This is actually the main reason I started researching coconuts. When we first moved to Puerto Rico, we started to eat lots of coconuts, and we didn't just love the way they tasted, we loved the way they made us feel. So, I started asking myself, do coconuts make us happy?
There are varying opinions and findings about the benefits of coconuts for the brain. I personally believe that coconuts are healthy for the mind and help lower stress levels. Coconuts contain so many vitamins, minerals and fats, that they provide the brain with energy to combat stress, anxiety, and depression. A stress test was done on mice to study the effects coconut milk has on anxiety. The results where very interesting. In the Journal of Analytical & Pharmaceutical Research, they concluded in the article, Evaluation of Effect of Coconut Milk on Anxiety, that "Due to antioxidant property of coconut milk, it gives neuroprotective effects. The antioxidant effect of coconut milk is due to presence of vitamin C & E, selenium and zinc. Hence, due to the presence of these agents coconut milk produces relief from anxiety."
Coconuts are also a natural producer of ketones, and lauric acid. The ketogenic diet is becoming more and more popular these days not just for weight loss but for the benefits it provides for our mind. The ketongenic diet usually calls for a lot of Coconut based products, because the MCT's create ketones, an alternative fuel for the brain, which has been linked to treatments and prevention for diseases such as Alzheimers, Dementia, and Epilepsy. The brain is made up of a lot of fat so it would make sense that getting fuel from fats instead of sugar or carbs would be beneficial, however more studies need to be done to prove this. Leilani Doty from the University Florida, Department of Neurology, explains in her research article, Coconut Oil for Alzheimer’s Disease?, "Insufficient research information handicaps physician recommendations regarding emerging popular treatments such as coconut oil for patients dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, related dementias, and co-occurring chronic health conditions". I can say from reading many articles related to coconuts and health, that many studies that try to disprove the benefits of coconut oil, are using industrial processed oils, milks, and water in their research. I have a theory that, if they studied the benefit of the coconuts consumed directly from the source like we see in Samoa or even here where I live in Puerto Rico, the studies would be more positive, and promising (I understand that it is hard to get fresh coconuts at Havard). We see in coconut cultures like India, Thailand, Philippines, and Polynesia, that incidents of Dementia and Alzheimers are lower, which could be related to their coconut based diets (un-processed or hand-processed coconut products). Of course their diets in general, as well as other cultural influences need to be factored in.
From my perspective, I can tell you that when I see people eating and drinking coconuts on my workshop I can see their attitudes change over a short time period, I would love to do a study on the short term and long term mental effects of eating real coconuts straight from the palm tree. I might be bias, but I truly believe coconuts make us happy and our brains healthy.
Coconuts are amazing and there are some things that science can not explain. Coconuts are used in religious practices all over the world. In India some cultures use it for wedding ceremonies. In Polynesia they use coconut shells for Kava, or Ava tribal meetings. The Mangal Parinay websites writes;"According to traditional rituals of Gujrat, it is customary for a bride to present a coconut to the groom at the time of marriage. The coconut is preserved by the respective husband throughout his life." Even in the USA they use Palm leaves for Palm Sunday, a Christian tradition. Here in Puerto Rico they use Coconut shells to make maracas for their saints festivals and coconut masks. COPI, the Loiza cultural center explains, "The Vejigantes represent the evil and the Moors that the Apostle Santiago and the Spanish knights bombed". In our workshops we teach all about the tree of life and how the coconut provides us with everything that we need, such as water, food, shelter and fire, all the basic elements but I believe it also gives us something more and that it has an energy that empowers people and makes them feel happy and fulfilled.
There are so many benefits of the coconut, one could write a book (many have). This is just a short article with some highlights of the benefits the Cocos Nucifera offers. You really should try out our tour to see it for yourself. The tree of life awaits!
R. Brandon Talanehzar
A student of the coconut and an advocate for food sovereignty.