Back in Norway, when we first met the Moken brothers, Ngui took us to one side and asked us if we would be willing to help re-introduce the children in the village to freediving.
This may sound strange, but freediving is not a taught skill in the Moken universe, its something acquired through gradual assimilation of knowledge and experience. So now that they are faced with this new ‘settled’ way of life on Surin and they no longer drift the seas on their Kabang boats, the younger generation are no longer being taught how to dive. Its also a difficult thing to do when under the watchful glare of the national parks service. Although they permit the Moken to take some fish for themselves (and some to sell back to the park at a fixed low price), they do not really want them engaging in their traditional way of life… especially in tourist season.
So on our 3rd day on Surin, with the help of the school teachers in the village, we gathered a group of about 20 kids and gave them a lesson in how we freedive.
Before leaving for Thailand I put together a VERY simple 2 page ‘how to freedive’ tutorial with illustrations and Thai translations. So using this and the input from every single person on the trip we conducted a half day freediving lesson, complete with classroom session, statics and equalisation training.
We started by handing out free swimming goggles (donated by Christina Green) to all the kids. They loved choosing between all the colours and styles, then moved to the empty village ‘library’, to conduct the dry session.
After the dry session we jumped on to the boats and went to a nearby beach which had shallow safe water to conduct the statics and the equalisation training. It was perfect for the job, waist depth water for maybe 50m then slowly getting deeper to about 10m. All of our group got involved in teaching the kids, helping them get to grips with breathe-ups and buddy protocol in small groups of 2 or 3. It was great to watch. A massive thankyou to all!
What was obvious to see was that despite their dwindling interaction with the ocean, all of the Moken children had an inherent skill in the water, they were all very comfortable and some were breath-holding for over a minute and a half without any real struggle, with a case of the giggles being the main reason for them coming up.
Equalisation was a different matter altogether. As a freediver im sure you understand that equalisation is one of the main skills that we need to master and its no different for the Moken. Being a quite technical skill, this is one of the main reasons that they have been struggling to dive (I only discovered this on arrival in Surin, so the pamphlet we made only went through the basics). They simply didnt know how to do it. In the dry session we went through how to perform a simple Valsalva equalisation, avoiding the more technical description that would surround the frenzel. They all managed to feel a pressure change in their ears, to much amusement, so we knew that this should be a good starting point when in the water. By the end of the open water session some of the group were diving nearly 8m deep with no fins and were quite content to be walking along the bottom. The speed of their progress was staggering.
I think I can speak for everyone and say this was without a doubt a deeply fulfilling and fun day for us all.
We did have some trouble with the national parks after doing this training, but ill go in to that some other time!
Thanks to Peter Barnes and his friends Cezary and Joanna for organising and doing the illustrations.