Music: “3, 4, 5, Let’s Stay Alive” by the Secret Machines
And this is what it all came down to - our grand finale of all activities. In collaboration with Apnea Total, and Oceans Below, we were able to do the impossible. The vision we had since July 2020 when we jokingly said to our Here Sometimes campaign photographer, Pedro, that our next shoot was going to be underwater because we didn't quite know how to top the grandeur of that photoshoot (where we prayed for heavy rain and got it and shot our model against the rarest of plants in my late father's garden.) From that day on we went round the long way to do what we just accomplished now. First it was getting Happy Nancy almost drowned in the stormy sea for All Things Pass before I really understood that to do what I wanted, you'd have to freedive and do it skillfully. Then I got a taste of it when I did the Intro course in Surin, while getting my friend Matina to try it and she fell off the boat, and eventually getting the Moken boys to wear a few pieces for starters!
Our latest campaign for the Greatest Hits collection came together at the eleventh hour, but what this even more special was how it came to be - by chance, and out of friendship. What we hadn’t expected was actually getting to work with the professional freedivers, and by professional we mean world-class!
We started our day with the fitting...
Then headed out into the sea. And I must say that in the entire two months spent there, that day was the clearest of all. Even the day ago it was raining non-stop, but Elisabeth checked her app and said it was the day; and she was right! We couldn't have asked for a better day to do this. So now let's talk about the key ingredients that make this shoot so great.
Freediver #1: Monica Ganame
She's practically the Principal of the school who co-founded Apnea Total in 2004. Monica is originally from Argentina and has always been into the sea. She started off as a scuba diver, then moved on to Freediving. She chose to move to Koh Tao way back in 1999. Apnea Total now has branches worldwide and is recognised and accepted everywhere. It's great that she's rooted here, we are lucky to have a world-known institution's HQ based here on Koh Tao,
Thank God she was into the idea when I first politely asked her to join the photoshoot. Not only that, Monica was enthusiastic enough to rope in Nikki, and Dayna for the ride. Monica is fun, but whenever she's under the water, there's a strangely calm energy surrounding her. It's true what they say, Mommy M knows best!
Freediver #2: Nikki Lacey
Nikki is a badass champ from Ireland with an impressive list of freediving records to brag about but chooses not to. She, too, has chosen to settle down on Koh Tao with her dog Riley 😻 Nikki was also our neighbour during our stay on the island! We ended up with too many amazing photos of her it became a real headache to go through. That's because she's an experienced underwater model. But not as much as she is an awesome instructor at Apnea Total!
Freediver #3: Dayna Comstock
This is Dayna from Wisconsin, US. I first met her when she joined our class boat and came to train with her partner and she was one of the bubbliest (and nicest) people I've ever met. Watching her go down and naturally float up along the rope at the slowest speed was as amazing and as it was painfully suffocating to watch!
Listen to her story and she would tell you how she first learned to freedive and became a student at Apnea Total and went around the world and once again came back as an instructor at the HQ.
Sadly, the next time we visit Koh Tao Dayna might not be around 😿 She's returning to the States to further her college education. We’re glad that at least our paths crossed. Best of luck Dayna.
Freediver #4: Nadine Deelstra
Nadine from Holland, is currently based in Koh Tao where she works online and teaches HIIT training. She fell in love with freediving last year and is now waiting to do her Masters. She loves Muay Thai and her boxing is strong, don't mess with her.
Nadine isn't an instructor, but my snorkeling buddy. I first met her when she came to train with us, eversince I can't imagine diving without her :)
As we went around the island, making a few stops all over. We explored the clear sea, in the cave, down the artificial coral blocks; and by day's end, Monica and Dayna went 15 metres down to the famous school of fish of Hin Wong Bay. It was magic. For lunch, we stopped in Mango Bay where sea dogs swam over from the beach to meet us on the boat. It was a welcomed distraction :) Watching all four girls dressed in our Tulle Babydolls and diving together reminded me of the sea version of Powerpuff Girls. It couldn't be further from the truth, to me, they are real-life superheroes.
Wait, there's one more Freediver I have to mention!
Freediver #5: Elisabeth Lauwerys
So let's not forget the most important person of all, Elisabeth Lauwerys from Holland or Oceans Below who made sense of any of this and made it possible. Liz is also an Apnea Total instructor as well as photographer (specialised in underwater as you might have guessed from her name). She still loves freediving as long as she can bring a camera with her for fear of missing out.
Through her production company Oceans Below, Liz has created the dive industry’s first professional-level video training course; won numerous underwater video and photo competitions; worked with the BBC and other production houses; created a new look for the PADI promotional videos; trained a number of industry professionals in the art of underwater video; and is at the moment looking for a second location to set up shop.
All in all, this was a serendipitous encounter that fell into an incredible project born out of friendship. By Moumi has always been lucky in the sense that our paths may sometimes be difficult; but they eventually lead to something so satisfying on a personal level. Thank you my Powerpuff girls. Our clothes are ten times more meaningful because of you!
It's a long one. Signing out now.
Choltida, Moumi, Myogi, Kikilala