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!
R. Brandon Talanehzar
A student of the coconut and an advocate for food sovereignty.