Wicked Good Help
Throughout the past month, Wicked Diving has provided nothing but wonderful, professional support.
Considering that most dive shops around the world operate on a precarious edge of stress, overworked staff, and the many unknowns of diving—needy customers, bad weather, transportation and equipment logistics—Wicked Diving in Khao Lak laudably adds community outreach to their workload.
Keith Angles, the Khao Lak manager, has made our program possible by his commitment to community outreach. Here’s a quintessential conversation between Keith and us:
“Well darlings, I know that this program is already an epic success, so just tell me what you need and when and I’ll get it done.”
“Really? Well, we need four Wicked people on Tuesday and Wednesday, a longtail boat five times in the next three weeks, and a Frist Aid Kit and these 45 sheets to be laminated. Oh, and 20 life jackets and dive slates and a fluent Thai speaker on all of the days mentioned above.”
“Great, consider it done. And Lena will assist with everything.”
Lena, soft-spoken and fluent in Thai, originally from Germany, met with us for hours to work out the program kinks before going live with students. And when we’d still have issues after a swim session or snorkel day, we’d meet again, constantly balancing the timing, logistics and overall goals of the program.
“Right. Is that all then? I’ve got 16 people who’ve just arrived and want me to take them diving for the next week. So I’m going to do that and you give me a call if you need anything else.”
Keith is supported with a wicked rad staff, many of whom came to help on a swim or snorkel session. Alex, the leader of all Dive Master Training provided astute recommendations after our first swim sessions (the least organized periods of the program). The batch of Dive Master Traineess (DMTs) learning from Alex and Lena this month were also diversely helpful.
Vera, from Mexico, was a joy to work with: so patient and passionate teaching the students one-on-one. Marielle from Toronto, a former college pol-vaulter, would always have at least three little girls dragging her down in the surf. Thor from Iceland recorded scores of students’ on our biggest swim session, coordinating confusing nicknames, swim numbers and Thai names so that we didn’t miss anyone. Phil, a World Food Programme consultant with a background in nutrition—who’s been practically everywhere there’s been a humanitarian food crisis in the last 10 years—took time out of his training schedule to write professional recommendations on how we could make our program safer, i.e. emergency action plans and better briefing for new volunteers. And enigmatic Marcus, a Wicked fulltime staff member, manned the snorkel station with the youngest students, inventing a shark chasing game and earning a bite mark from a wily student in the process!
And those were the volunteers just for the swim sessions. For the days on the longtails, we had more Thai staff from Wicked and boy, were we grateful.
Nack, a 19 year-old from Phuket, was a leader for the students—so cool, just having entered the diving world, but already fluent in English and passionate about the marine environment. The girls loved Nack.
Deauw and Tong told their diving stories: how they moved down south from Bangkok to become dive masters. The kids listened rampantly to Deauw’s explanation of “planting the eco-seed.”
“All it takes is one planting, and once the seed is there, it’ll grow with a kid for the rest of his or her life.”
Deauw’s commitment to conservation and caring for the environment was palpable—I can only hope that some of our students have such a strong eco-seed when they reach his age.
Inge, a fellow community outreach director with Lena, who spends 90% of her time on the Wicked liveaboard, also delighted the students and us for a snorkel day. Calm and experienced working with students—she started working with kids on the Malaysian island off Borneo called Mabul, next to world-renowned diving sites of Sipidan years ago—she befriended an exemplary student named Oil, who we hope continues to learn from Wicked in a program continuation.
Lena is committed to continuing the program for the most promising students and will oversee the Earthraging swim and snorkel sessions next November and December. Her work with the Moken in the Surin islands will continue in the meantime. She’s trained local Moken to be snorkel guides for tourists, giving Moken jobs that maintain their seafaring heritage, while sharing it with foreigners.
We couldn’t be more grateful for the level of professionalism and commitment Wicked provides Earthraging. The students are way more enamored by the “cool dive people” more than seeing their English teachers in swim trunks. Thank you, Wicked!