The Intern Diaries: Chloe's Week 3
After a couple weeks of settling into Kalk Bay, getting acquainted with the locals, taking quick dips at the beach, and staring longingly out at the sea while working in the Ocean Deck and Shop, I was finally able to go for my first dive in False Bay along with preparation for the first youth workshop I would get to help out with.
Friends of Peter and Hanli and local brothers in Kalk Bay, Zack, Alex, and Sebastian, have a unique relationship with some of the kids who live in the fisherman's flats of the village. Their relationship is the kind of stuff people make heartwarming documentaries out of. The story goes that through skateboarding, Zack started getting to know a few of these young boys, and slowly they would join him and his brothers to go bodyboarding on the reef nearby. By pooling money and donations from some friends, eventually Zack was able to get wetsuits and boards for the boys, all previously used, mismatched, and ill-fitting. But enough to get them in the water. Some of the boys didn’t even know how to swim before they met the Verlaque-Napper brothers, and now you see them jogging down main road in a pack, wetsuits on and boards in tow, headed for the surf. They’re an adorable modern-day version of Peter and the Lost Boys meets bodyboarding.
I Am Water’s Peter Marshall (not Peter Pan) had been talking with Zack for a long time about taking the boys on a snorkeling trip to teach them about the world beneath the waves. I was lucky enough to be around when the trip was finally set to happen. In preparation for this weekend-long event, Peter and I drove out to Miller’s Point to scope out potential locations for taking the boys snorkeling. We arrived at high tide with surging waves. Peter watched the conditions for a few minutes before deciding the dive wouldn’t be worth it that day. Slightly dejected, we packed our stuff back in the car and drove away.
The next day, determined to get in a dive, we planned to arrive at Miller’s at low tide. We geared up at the car, walked down to the beach, and found ourselves in the cold ocean at last. Having only ever snorkeled in Hawaii, the kelp forests appeared ominous and slimey-looking, potentially filled with all kinds of gnarly little creatures. Initially, I tried to swim clear of their wavering paths, timidly swimming by as their tendrils reached toward me.
But within minutes, Peter was showing me how I could use the kelp stalks to pull myself easily down under the water and linger on the bottom. Peter dove and swam under and through the kelp forest as I clumsily climbed over the tops of the kelp stalks on the surface of the water to keep up with him. It reminded me of when I first started going snorkeling with my group of friends in Hawaii, and they would encourage me to hold my breath and dive down with them, showing me all the caves to swim through. I awkwardly floundered around trying to avoid his fins as Peter found starfish and a shy shark for me to dive down to. Then, having acquainted ourselves with Miller’s Point, we were ready for the boys.
I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with them all right away, but as soon as their little troupe strolled up, their energy was infectious. The littlest one, ten-year-old Jordan, was the first to introduce himself with a huge grin and a boisterous handshake. Zack introduced Peter and I to each of the boys and their respective nicknames, and then we took them down to the shop for yoga and some breath holds.
Crowded together on the deck, they giggled and struggled through some deep stretches and then managed to relax for a few breath holds. Peter gave them a mini lesson covering everything from the history of free diving, to the current effects of global warming and some strategies for choosing which kinds of fish to eat. The boys were so good about paying attention to Peter’s presentation, even though I could tell that a few of them were squirming to get in the water.
And when at last they did get in the
water, they got in splashing and hollering. I demonstrated how to use the kelp
to pull myself all the way down to the bottom. The boys were extremely
impressed, but not convinced enough to want to try it out for themselves. They
were stoked to just snorkel with their friends and see all the sea urchins and
starfish. On the second day, more of the older boys were brave enough to try
pulling down on the kelp and equalizing their ears. A few of the younger boys
managed to actually dip their faces into the water as they clung to our
Afterwards, Peter asked the whole group to share what they were most proud of from the experience. Many of the boys said that pulling on the kelp and equalizing was a skill they’d never tried before, and all of the boys were so grateful and excited to have been able to go snorkeling with I Am Water.
Spending those two days with them also reminded me of the days I would spend with my friends snorkeling in Hawaii. Now I was the one giving encouragement and trying to tell the boys they had nothing to be afraid of, like my friends had done for me. To be able to pass on that experience of conquering fear is one aspect I Am Water’s success that I think sometimes gets overlooked. The I Am Water team is like those neighborhood kids who grew up on the beach and openly introduce all their friends to the ocean, and in so doing, allow children to find the courage to explore and love.